OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Museum presents “Blues @ Home,” a collection of 30 portraits of Mississippi living blues legends in their at-home settings, all painted by H.C. Porter. The paintings are paired with oral histories, collected by project manager Lauchlin Fields and heard through handheld audio devices, to give insights into the storied lives of the legends.
Porter said she was inspired to create this project while driving through the Mississippi Delta in 2010.
“My idea was to document the living, Mississippi-born (predominately) blues legends in either their home environment, or if they no longer lived in the state, some place that was significant in their career, or had a real sense of place about Mississippi,” Porter said. “Through their personal spaces and oral histories, the legacy of the blues experience in Mississippi and the influence these legends have had on the music of the world is experienced.”
The exhibit, which opens April 1 and runs through Aug. 2, is just one part of a yearlong series of events marking the museum’s 75th anniversary. The museum, which opened as the Mary Buie Museum in 1939, is celebrating its longevity with a variety of events throughout the 2014-2015 anniversary year.
Given the rich history of blues music and culture that emanates from north Mississippi, museum director Robert Saarnio felt compelled to draw the exhibit to Oxford for its debut.
“Porter’s cultural and artistic achievement in celebrating these compelling individuals is extraordinary and beautiful,” Saarnio said. “We’re particularly proud to be the opening venue for a nationally touring exhibition, which will take the stories of our state’s music legends to audiences far and wide. It is a wonderful way to launch a series of events that will mark the museum’s 75 years of exhibition and service to the community.”
“The University of Mississippi Museum has excitedly shared my vision for the ‘Blues @ Home’ exhibition,” Porter added. “The museum grasped the impact a show of this historic content, both through the paintings and recorded oral histories, can have on fellow Mississippians. They were also eager to share it with others from around the country who, they feel, can come to understand our state in a more positive way, experiencing the contribution Mississippi has made to the arts and music of the world.”
“Blues @ Home” comes on the heels of “Backyards & Beyond,” Porter’s powerful body of 81 paintings, also accompanied by the real voices of people featured in the paintings that documented recovery one year after Hurricane Katrina ripped through Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. “Blues @ Home” continues the spirit of that exhibit, sharing stories of passion, strength and talent from the state’s deep connection to the blues.
“Hosting this exhibit is an extraordinary opportunity for the museum, as we believe it has wide appeal across Mississippi and throughout our region,” Saarnio said. “It is no small production. Multiple partners were required to make this exhibition possible, and we are profoundly grateful to the museum’s many friends and supporters for making this happen.”
To produce the exhibit, Porter and crew hit the back roads of Mississippi to interview and photograph living blues legends in their personal environments. In the company of bluesmen including Alphonso Sanders, Tommie T-Bone Pruitt, L.C. Ulmer, Jimbo Mathis and many more, they learned their sorrows, secrets, love stories, family recipes and guitar names.
Porter’s original works of art are classified as mixed media, combining painting, printmaking and photography. A high-contrast black ink image from the original photograph is transferred onto paper using silkscreen, then completed when she hand-paints using acrylic paint to add color and detail. As part of the exhibit, a video featuring the making of “Blues @ Home” will be shown on a loop.
The exhibit’s opening reception is set for 7-9 p.m. April 3, with live music from Cadillac John and Bill Abel. Both Mississippi musicians are featured in “Blues @ Home.” The reception is free and open to the public. Following the reception, there will be an “afterglow” event at Lamar Lounge in Oxford with Jimbo Mathis and other blues musicians.
The University Museum is at the intersection of University Avenue and Fifth Street. Hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. General admission to this exhibition is $5, admission for seniors (62 and over) is $4 and admission for students (ages 6-17) is $3. Admission is always free for UM students, UM Museum members and children under 5. Special rates exist for tour groups wishing to visit the museum. To book a tour, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit http://museum.olemiss.edu or call 662-915-7073.