Friday, October 27, 2017

Classroom Connections: Writing the Unwritten Memoirs

As a part of the University of Mississippi, we have the unique opportunity to welcome hundreds of university students into the Museum each semester. Class visits range from EDHE students learning about campus to Studio Art majors sketching in the galleries to poets seeking inspiration. In April, we featured poems by Professor Blair Hobbs's students as part of National Poetry Month, and now we have the opportunity to share written reflections to Unwritten Memoir by Randy Hayes. These students are studying under Mississippi's very own Poet Laureate, Beth Ann Fennelly. We hope you enjoy these pieces, which have been paired with their gallery inspirations.

Damaged Picture, Pictures of Damage
By Caroline Abide

Aphrodisius/Pass Christian, Randy Hayes
            In my portrait, I’m standing in front of Bayou Laporte, wearing a white smocked dress, clutching one of the roses from the garden my mother kept. The bottom edges of the picture are warped, but we never bothered to get a new portrait done. It was hung just high enough to survive the flood. Mostly, anyway.
            Of course, I didn’t see our house immediately afterward. I was ten years old then, and I could surmise for myself what it must have looked like by the odd items my father would bring each time he came back from visiting the ruins. A piece of pottery, for example, that he found miraculously intact in our backyard; some blankets that had been in the TV room upstairs, where the water hadn’t reached.
            After everything, we went through the old photographs. So many of them were stuck together, and my sisters and I spent hours trying to pull pairs apart, clipping off edges where the colors had been distorted, and sorting them into piles—before 2000, after 2000, and unsalvageable.
            Then there were new photographs. One Saturday, my mom enlisted my dad to take Christmas card-worthy photos of Abby, Victoria, and me. He got a disposable camera, and we dressed in our finest winterwear: jeans and Abercrombie sweaters.
            Our temporary home was close to the beach, but we drove around looking for the most impressive piles of debris, which took us west, toward Gulfport. It had to have been about three or four months since the storm, and in that time the debris had become a particularly ugly fixture in the backdrop of our lives. It piled at every street corner, impossible to avoid, until, gradually, it disappeared. The wreckage lined Beach Boulevard, which stretched from one end of the Mississippi Gulf Coast to the other.
            “I’m gonna pretend to balance,” I told my dad. I stood behind a fallen tree and posed, arms outstretched, one foot forward, a look of faux concentration on my face.
“Say ‘debris!’” my dad said. I put my arms around Abby and Victoria and smiled broadly. We posed in front of the scarred landscape, that heartrending reminder of all we’d lost, as if it were a massive waterfall or a rolling moutain range--some breathtaking act of God. And I suppose it was just that.
            I imagine we got the pictures developed later and showed them to my mother, who, appalled, put them directly into our old photo album. We wouldn’t have a Christmas card that year.

Long Beach
By Kejair Sparks

Ship Clock, 2017, Randy Hayes

            “Ke, go get the mail for me.”
My mom would always ask me to get the mail as a child. I gradually understood why she always told me to get it rather than letting my dad grab as he came into the house. She wanted me to see the morning aura and smell the gun smoke that hogged the air. I guess it was her idea of making me a man. My asthma was triggered. Every cough reminded me of what happened the night before. Fog filled the air, but I wonder if it was even fog. Could it be gun smoke? Maybe that’s why mom wouldn’t let me play with the other kids. She didn’t want me to know why the smelled littered the sky in the mornings. Kids talk.
I grab the mail and briskly walk inside, coughing with every step.

            “Go get on the machine.”
            Coughing a bit harder, I managed to squeeze out a “Yes ma’am.”

            As I sit there waiting for the machine to restore my breath I slip into contemplation. The breathing machine was my thinking time while my lungs struggled to comply with me. I wondered why my mom and grandmother spoke so softly in the living room. They were scared in their own home. Now, 16 years later, I understand why. Our door was flimsy complimented with chipped plastic fixtures. Our entire entrance to the home was glass and plaster. A stray bullet could easily find its way into the living room or bedroom. I can still remember the scream from my best friend’s mother when she woke up to her dead son.

            I finished my treatment and began to head toward the kitchen for breakfast. We had a clock that was perfectly positioned on the wall above the kitchen table. I could not read it all. I would often stare at it like I knew what the time was but my open mouth and glazed eyes gave away by ignorance. It had roman numerals and ticked with every second. I used the microwave instead. I was waiting for 5 minutes past 9. My dad got off at 8:30 but it usually took him about 30 minutes to get home. He came through the door usually with a big “Hey family.” Today, he had some news that would affect me, even today.

            “My job gave me a promotion and wants to move me to New Orleans!”
            Mom shouts, “Thank God!”

My grandmother gave my dad a rare smile and hug. I guess good news has a way of bringing people together. I ran to hug him but not because of the news, just because I missed him. I wasn’t ready to go just yet. I had all my friends and the beach was down the street, but it would be nice to get the mail and inhale fresh air minus the fog. I went to my room while they laid out all the details. I sit down and begin to play my Play station: Crash Bandicoot. I had been playing for about 2 hours and decided to make my self more comfortable by sitting on the pillow and that’s when I saw it, a hole at the end of my pillowcase. My pillow now whistled during pillow fights with my dad. I knew then that the strays had found their way in my room. Maybe New Orleans won’t be that bad.

The Barn
By Maggie Smith

Greenfield (William Faulkner's Farm), 2017, Randy Hayes

Dad and I march through the overgrown brush that crowds the path. We are in his hometown of Louisville, MS, headed to the old barn the family now uses for storage. This is apparently the same barn his sister, my Aunt Bridget, once jumped off of with an umbrella. She was trying to fly.
            “I want to check on my car while I’m here,” Dad had said. We are visiting his second sister Susan and her husband Jim for the first time in what may be two years. With my grandmother Mumzie in a care facility closer to home, there isn’t much reason to make the trek anymore. I think it also makes my Dad uncomfortable, seeing his sister living in his mother’s house, cooking in her kitchen, sleeping in her bed. He’s quiet on the drive to the barn, just sings along to the radio. Normally, these drive are when I get to learn about Dad – that he was a disc jockey at the Louisville radio station when he was in high school, that he and Bridget and Susan used to picnic in the graveyard next to their house, that his college roommate went to rehab for drugs.
I don’t get any stories. Not on this drive.

            “Oh, I sure hope we locked the place up. It looks like kids have been here.”
            Crumpled Bud and Miller Light cans litter the pathway to the barn as it comes into view. It is faded and weatherworn, but sturdy looking. Solid. There is a chain with an unlocked padlock wrapped around the door handles. Dad unloops it and slides open the doors.
            There are school desks, road signs, tables and chairs. The barn is overflowing with bits and pieces of Dad’s childhood, and at the center of it sits a large mass covered with a dusty tarp. Dad yanks it off and the dust ripples and shines in the winter sunlight, revealing a little car Dad tells me is an MG-B convertible. It reminds me of an old sepia photograph, like the color has been sucked out of it with a hose.
“One of these days I’m going to get the time to fix this little thing up,” Dad says. One of the doors has been left wide open, revealing the interior, littered with beer cans. He cleans them quietly off the seats. I imagine teenagers rubbing up against each other, like cats in heat, kissing and rolling around in the front seat of this car my dad has held on to for so many years, and I start to tear up. I wander towards one wall of the barn, away from Dad. He wipes dust off the windows with his shirttail, runs his hand over the hood. We are both silent for a while, then Dad pulls the tarp back over the little convertible. We leave, wrapping the chain and padlock around the door handles. Dad says he’ll find the key soon.
On the way home, passing slabs of concrete foundation left over from the tornadoes a few years prior, Dad and talk about music. He likes Brandi Carlile and Joss Stone, Jason Isbell and the Avett Brothers.
“When was the last time you went to a show, Dad?”
He goes quiet for a while. “I don’t remember,” he says.

I lock myself in Dad’s old room when I get home. I cry into his pillow and listen to him and Susan making empty small talk in the living room.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Monday Museum Mystery: Who is this Artist?

Monday Museum Mysteries are back! In this biweekly feature, we unlock the vault and share hidden treasures from our collection. Try your hardest to answer the questions asked, and when you think you know, check out the bottom of the post for the correct answer! This semester, Monday Museum Mysteries is teaming up with the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies, so each post will focus in some way on women and their impact on the world! 

This week on Monday Museum Mysteries, we are staying close to Oxford. This artist spent most of her childhood in Oxford, and it remained an important place to her. She loved art so much that, in her will, she left her private collection to the city of Oxford. Do you have any idea who this artist might be? 

She was an academically trained artist. What do you think that means? It is a way to say that she learned about art and practiced her art in a school. Like other artists, she worked very hard on improving her artwork. One way that she did this was by coping what other artists painted. She copied some very famous artists and art from around the world. This actually became her job; she was a copy artist at Marshall Fields in Chicago, a prestigious and unusual job for a woman of her time. Do you know who painted these two paintings? Do you know the artworks' names? By painting artists from different time periods, she was able to practice different techniques for her art. Can you tell which one our mystery artist created and which one is the famous original? She is very good, isn't she!

Her family was also very important to the creation of the University Museum. When our mystery artist donated her artworks to the museum, it was actually her sister Kate that saw the museum built. Our artist's family helped provide the funding for the Museum. Who is our artist?

After you have thought long and hard about who our mystery artist is, then scroll down to the end of the post to reveal the answer!

Our artist is Mary Skipwith Buie. She was a very talented artist, and the two works shown here are Thomas Gainsborough's The Blue Boy, which was painted in 1770, and Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, which was created in 1503. Mary Buie created the Blue Boy and Mona Lisa on the left of each picture.

Did you guess the answer correctly? Be sure to check out our next Monday Museum Mystery for more exclusive looks into the University Museum's behind-the-scenes collection!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Museum Happenings: October

Check out all of the different museum happenings this October!

October 2, 9, 16, 23, 30- 8:30 a.m. Free RebelWell Yoga in the Galleries 

October 2, 4:30-5:30 p.m. Milkshake Mash-Up for Grades 6-12-  Older students are invited to participate in a fun art project where we mash up two artists in one project and sip on delicious milkshake (free). 

October 6, 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. Drop in for Free Sketch Friday and sketch in the galleries! 

October 6, 10:30 a.m. Public Library Story Time- Find us at the Lafayette Oxford Public Library for Story Time.

October 7, 9-11 a.m Buie Babies- Families with children ages 0-2, join us for stroller tours and special visit from Jeanne Lippincott of Kindermusik! 

October 12, 3:45-4:30 p.m.- Mini Masters (Art for Ages 2-5) at the Powerhouse

October 26, 3:45-4:30 p.m.- Mini Masters (Art for Ages 2-5at the Museum

We will also welcome a number of University classes, weekly visits from Discovery Day School, Scott Center, NMRC, and visit homeschool groups, Leap Frog, Ingomar Attendance Center, Lafayette and Oxford Schools, and more! 

If you have any questions or would like to book a visit or traveling trunk, please contact Emily McCauley at We hope to see you at the Museum soon! 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Monday Museum Mystery: Who is this Artist and Botanist?

Monday Museum Mysteries are back! In this biweekly feature, we unlock the vault and share hidden treasures from our collection. Try your hardest to answer the questions asked, and when you think you know, check out the bottom of the post for the correct answer! This semester, Monday Museum Mysteries is teaming up with the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies, so each post will focus in some way on women and their impact on the world!

Today on Monday Museum Mysteries, we are looking at art that connects to science. Our artist was extremely interested in botany. Do you know what botany is? Botany is the study of plants, and this female artist made hundreds of different plant drawings.

The Museum has many of her botanical drawings. She first sketched her work with pencil, and then she created the accurate, bright colors of her drawings with pastels. Who do you think our mystery botanist is?

In the detail of this flower, you can see the pencil marks she
made before she began to add color to her drawings.

Our mystery artist did not only draw flowers, but she also created sketches of fungi.

When she came across a new plant, she would record whether or not it had any purpose. Some plants can be eaten, used for medicine, or other helpful things. Our artist recorded this drawing of a money plant and made note of its special use on the back of the drawing. What do you think this plant is good for?

Perhaps the most interesting thing about our mystery artist is that she traveled to South Korea and recorded many plants that she found in the Asian country. Many of the plants that she drew can also be found in America. On each of her drawings, she provided the common names, the scientific names, the area where she found the plant, and the date when she recorded it. What specific information can you learn about the plants below based off of her notes? These details are part of what make her drawings so interesting and applicable to science!

You can see how she copied and pasted smaller
sketches and details onto the main drawing.
After her travels to Korea, our mystery artist published a book full of the drawings that she completed. Flowers and Folk-lore From Far Korea is the title of this famous book.

Who is this artist? After you have thought long and hard about who she is, then scroll down to the end of the post to reveal the answer!

This artist is Florence Hedleston Crane. She was born in Oxford, Mississippi in 1888 and traveled to Korea as a missionary. The Korean government actually requested that she write her book! The money plant that Florence drew had edible roots, and on the back of its drawing she wrote "roots eaten in salads."

Off of the notes on the one drawing, we learn that she was in Soonchun (or Suncheon), South Korea at Crescent Beach. She recorded these plants in August of 1919. The small purple plant is Pharbitis Nil Choisy, or more commonly known as a morning glory. There is another scientific name for the morning glory. The scientific names of water sage and blue bells are also included on the notes.

Did you guess the answer correctly? Be sure to check out our next Monday Museum Mystery for more exclusive looks into the University Museum's behind-the-scenes collection!