A Different Picture Of Vicksburg | Darrin Henry
In the beginning there were artists and musicians; they were given paint brushes and guitars; but then the ungifted and tone deaf started to feel left out, so someone invented the camera and said, “Okay, you can play too.”
I’m forever grateful for the camera!
Highway 61 Blues Trail
But even with my deficit of drawing or painting talent I can still appreciate the artistic ability of others, and especially the trend now-a-days for alternative art styles which makes visiting galleries and art shops an inspiring experience. Admittedly, even with an open mind, I still have my limits, like the time I saw a pile of elephant poo in a glass box at the Tate Modern. But that’s another story altogether!
Highway 61 in the USA is a famous road trip as the route of blues music, running south to north, taking in music shrines like New Orleans, Memphis and Clarksdale. Our own road trip overlapped in places with US-61 and at one of these points we happened upon a gem.
The Highway 61 Attic Art Gallery in Vicksburg, Mississippi, almost hidden away above a coffee shop, is a 44 year old Aladdin’s Cave stuffed full with a collection of artwork that really grabbed our attention.
A True Mississippi Blue
A core group of American artists exhibit at the gallery, everything from water colours and traditional oil on canvas creations, to mixed media paintings and 3D art assembled from recycled household junk.
Jean Blue is “a native Mississippian” who taught art for 12 years after graduating from college in 1965. She was on duty at the gallery when we dropped in.
The ‘Chucky doll’ aspect of some of the artists work can take you by surprise. “I’m sure we scare some people who are looking for a nice little painting!” laughs Jean. The range of styles though is what makes this place so fascinating. I found myself marvelling at one piece, laughing at another then confused at something else. Sharon and I kept calling one another as went through the exhibits, “Come look at this.”
I was introduced to the stunning mixed media creations of South African Artist, Di Webb, a few months ago, at the Tangled Webb Gallery in South Africa. In the markets of Southeast Asia we gaped in awe at the gorgeous paintings and even in London’s Camden Market we were able to appreciate yet another collection and variations of art.
The Highway 61 Attic Art Gallery in Vicksburg is unique and yet the same in many ways.
What To Do In Vicksburg, Mississippi
“Lesley Silver is the gallery owner; she started it in 1971 with an emphasis on original prints,” said Jean. The collection then evolved as the owner became interested “in outsider art.”
It’s Lesley’s ability to connect people and art which Jean attributes to the longevity of the gallery, but also an appreciation of the artists themselves. “I think that’s the unique thing perhaps about this gallery; these are people we know, we know their stories. It just adds an extra layer.”
Jean’s own work is on display. Originally a “wimpy water colour” specialist, Jean realised she needed to “pump up my colour” when she joined the gallery or her work would get “lost in the shuffle.”
It’s interesting to learn from Jean that the art scene in Mississippi is thriving. In fact the gallery often has to turn artists away because of a lack of space.
Highway 61 Attic Art Gallery in Vicksburg
The appeal of the road trip is the unplanned stops, the surprises and nuggets you find along the way. The Highway 61 Attic Art Gallery in Vicksburg is the perfect example of this, located directly above the Highway 61 Coffee Shop, on Washington Street. Whether you are blessed with talent or just someone with a camera, if Vicksburg is on your travels, do check it out. I highly recommend a visit.