Friday, June 4, 2010

Give My Poor Heart Ease

James "Son Ford" Thomas and Clay Skull, Leland, 1971
Collection of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art

In the 1960s and 1970s William Ferris documented the art and music of his native soil, the Mississippi Delta. Raised on a farm in America’s Black Belt, Ferris developed a special affinity for the distinctive culture of the region. Give My Poor Heart Ease brings together black-and-white photographs, field recordings and film of the waning generation of Delta Blues players and the younger generation that would take their place. Alongside these photographs, Folk Art from the William Ferris Collection brings together quilts, paintings and sculpture collected by Ferris during that time, all of which are grounded in the same confluence of cultures, black and white, sacred and profane.

Photo by William Ferris

Following his fundamental research into the culture of the Delta, Ferris went on to found the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, and from 1997 to 2001 was the chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). He is currently the Joel R. Williamson Eminent Professor of History and senior associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Scott Dunbar, Lake Mary, 1968

“When I, a white Mississippian, worked as a folklorist in my home state in the sixties and seventies, I set out to study African American music, but the people I met opened my eyes to much more than music. Each of the musicians I was privileged to record – through interviews, sound recordings, still photography and film – revealed the fabric of life in their families and communities in powerful ways … By trying to capture the faces and surroundings of these musicians through photographs and films that complement and deepen their recorded voices in important ways, I hope to make portraits of the speakers that respect their entire lives and their culture.”
From Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues
William Ferris, 2009

Three quilts by Minnie Watson, Collection of University of Mississippi Museum

“The Southern folk artist has particularly deep ties to place. In their more isolated region with its long, vivid history, folk art is an intensely personal expression. It is not conceived with the museum in mind. Its images appear as dreams and visions to artists who release them on canvas, cloth, and in sculpture … The artists in this collection represent a particularly valuable Southern perspective. They witnessed the change from pre-industrial to space age experience, and each remembers dirt roads where horses, mules and wagons were the only transportation. Each remembers when the automobile, television and airplane first touched his or her life. Each saw family and community evolve as social and technological change reshaped the South. Theirs is the final generation to remember what Pecolia Warner describes as “way back times … An older order is clearly present in their lives and work.”
From Local Color: A Sense of Place in Folk Art
William Ferris, 1982
Drinking Dog and Haint House by Sulton Rogers
Collection of University of Mississippi Museum
Both exhibitions will run through July 25, 2010 on the fifth floor of the Ogden Museum. Special thanks to the staff of the University of Mississippi Museum in Oxford, for facilitating the loan of William Ferris' Folk Art Collection.
Detail of Turkey Tail Quilt by Sadie Mae Blackburn
Collection of the University of Mississippi Museum

No comments: