Sometimes, when I'm having a really hectic week, I'll try and visit the Mississippi Museum of Art during my lunch break. It doesn't always work out, but when it does, I'm very glad I went.
After rushing by the bank one afternoon last week, I thought to myself, "I'll pass the museum on my walk back. Why don't I duck in for a few minutes?" I was rewarded with a great exhibit, plus the gorgeous Bethlehem Tree!
There are two parts to the museum's current exhibit - 1.) Oraien Catledge : Photographs of Cabbagetown and 2.) River and Reverie: Paintings of the Mississippi by Rolland Golden.
The photography exhibit showcases black and white images of poverty, shot over two decades in an Atlanta neighborhood. You will recognize these faces - flattered but shy because they are not used to being photographed. Collections of dirty children, wearing only their diapers, as they gather on rickety porches. The whole town coming out to play in a busted fire hydrant. There are some similarities that stretch across the poor, no matter where they live. The pose of bravado that covers the naked need. I found these images extremely moving.
River and Reverie was more soothing, showing the many incarnations of the Mississippi river. Different seasons, different times of day. I love the sunsets, as they provide the kind of window view I think everyone wishes they had. Interestingly, some of these pieces had a pointilistic quality, and I found others to be very fluid. Colors ran the gamut, with some paintings offering multiple shades of brown (the muddy Mississippi) and others showing off all the blues, purples, yellows, and reds in God's paintbox. I loved so many of these: Pastel River I and II, Sultry Evening (with its reds and blacks), Eternal Passing (which showcased a sunset through headstones), Westerly Turn, Rainbow Sunset - just beautiful, beautiful to look at.
Golden notes in the exhibit literature that he'd spent several years working on Katrina-related art. When he couldn't keep doing that because of its emotional weight, he turned to the river for inspiration. How true that nature often seems to calm our souls. I found the resulting work to be like a cool hand on a fevered face. I wonder if he felt that way as he painted it.
In addition to these wonderful offerings, the museum also has its permanent collection on display and the Bethlehem Tree, both of which are free! The Bethlehem Tree is particularly notable, featuring more than 150 authentic eighteenth-century figures. You'll notice Mary, Joseph, and the Christ child at center, huddled at the base of an evergreen. In the branches of the tree, brightly colored angels hover, celebrating Jesus' birth. Scattered all around the holy family are the Three Magi, a host of townspeople, and various travelers. You'll notice that the angels are so bright and clean that they almost seem to glow, and that the townspeople are rendered in more earth tones. They are also pictured with fruit, vegetables, animals, and other things that tie them to Earth, as the angels twirl gloriously above. There's a lot to see and notice here. Definitely worth checking out.
A note: Even if you don't visit for the paid exhibits, you could enjoy the tree, the permanent collection, and grab lunch in the museum cafe. It would make for a wonderful morning, and you'd only have to pay for lunch! What a deal!