AUG 21, 2021 - FEB 14, 2021
Bearing Witness explores themes of death, remembrance, and rebirth through the lenses of art and the Southern land. The exhibition features more than 60 works, primarily by Mississippi artists Walter Inglis Anderson (1903-1965) and Jason Bouldin (b. 1965). These artists, one passed, one living, have been inspired by the artistic tradition of nature morte, or “dead nature.” Selected works by Anderson made in the mid-twentieth century are positioned in dialogue with Bouldin’s contemporary meditations, which include still lifes of decayed arrangements and intimate portraits of dead birds, a mouse, a rabbit, and other creatures.
Anderson and Bouldin have encountered mortality in their art in much the same way as they have in life; through animals and plants, the deaths of which have intersected with the artists’ paths and shattered the boundaries between vitality and decay. For them, art making is a testament to something deeply felt and truly seen. Through painting, the dead live on.
Contextualizing paintings by Bouldin and Anderson are a collection of works by other artists and craftspeople who have also sought to understand loss. These objects, from the collection of the University of Mississippi Museum, including a 1930s photograph of a child’s grave by Walker Evans, a carved wood coffin and figure by self-taught artist Sulton Rogers, visions of the world beyond by painter Theora Hamblett, and items of material culture such as a mourning fan and bonnet.
In his Horn Island Logs, Anderson writes, “I walked as far as the black post and on the way home stopped to do a watercolor of a very dead gallinule – poor Harlequin had danced his last dance and I stopped to do honor to his remains.”
ABOUT JASON BOULDIN
Jason Bouldin is the only living artist in this exhibition. His late father, the esteemed Mississippi portrait painter Marshall Bouldin, shared his knowledge with his sons and encouraged them to spend time in his studio as children. Jason began his professional career as a painter in 1991 after a two year apprenticeship with his father. Bouldin’s commissioned portraits hang in such varied locations as the United States Department of Agriculture, Harvard University, Tulane University Law School, the Mississippi State Capitol, and more than a dozen federal courthouses; including portraits of former governor William Winter for the lobby of the William F. Winter Archives and History Building, and Medgar Evers and Myrlie Evers-Williams for the Mississippi Museum of Art. While he is most widely known for his portraiture, Jason’s personal work explores the artist’s relationship to nature.
“Deceased game and fowl have often been used as subjects by artists either for opportunities to improve on technique or to display their abilities of convincingly mimicking various surfaces and textures. The memento mori or vanitas still life has been used as a didactic metaphor about the fleeting nature of life. I hope these works may not be viewed simply as studies, nor as any moral lesson; but rather as invitations to consider, to look with patience, to honor, to pay homage. These paintings were created without an audience in mind. They were made as very personal responses to the discarded objects and forgotten creatures which happened to come across my path – they are a tribute, a grieving, a wonder, an effort to be attentive, an attempt to offer testimony and evidence – to bear witness.”
– Jason Bouldin
Exhibition schedule presented by
Bearing Witness was developed in partnership with the University of Mississippi Museum with support from the O’Keefe Family Endowment for the Walter Anderson Museum of Art
This exhibition is financially assisted by the National Endowment for the Humanities through the Mississippi Humanities Council.