College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

‘Places We Dream Of…’ at the University Museum

“Places We Dream Of…,” a new exhibit at The University Museum, hopes to shed some light on the permanent pieces of work in both the UM Museum and the Department of Art at the University of Mississippi that demonstrate an artistic view of the places that exist in our mind’s eye.

The pieces are works on paper, a variety of artwork that does not exhibit very often.

“It’s a different type of show,” collections manager William Griffiths said. “It’s a very thoughtful exhibit.”

The pieces of artwork that were chosen for the exhibit take the viewer on a trip, either back in time or to another world.  

According to Museum Director William Andrews, the artwork, or the place itself, evokes an emotional reaction.

“Places of Nostalgia,” “Places of Ancient Splendor” and “Places We Dream Of” are the three sections of the exhibit that showcase different meanings behind the idea of place. Each section consists of series of pieces that induce a specific emotion, including nostalgia, contemplation and wonder.

The exhibit’s curator, Esther Sparks of the art department, began working with the UM Museum by borrowing some of the museum’s permanent collection to show to her art history classes. “I wanted my students to see real things, not slides,” she said.

The museum’s permanent collection houses a series of prints by Giovanni Battista Piranesi, an Italian architect, archeologist, decorator, etcher and engraver. It was his work that Sparks held the day that she was asked to create an exhibit for the museum.

“Let’s do it,” she said, and the rest is history.

The Piranesi prints are the staple of the section “Places of Ancient Splendor.”

They are an intricate collection of prints that illustrate architecture from the ancient world. According to Sparks, the pieces are big, dramatic and gorgeous. The portraits of grandeur are surrounded by artwork that evokes places of the artist’s past and imagination.

In the section “Places of Nostalgia,” Sparks primarily chose Southern artists, finding that they seemed more attached to their past.

The portraits bring to mind times of old, with pieces that depict anything from a Southern baptism in the river outside of a little, white church in the country, to a very realistic watercolor of a mother and her child walking under an overhang in a unnamed city.

Even if you were not born and raised in the South, this section of the exhibit gives you a sense of Southern culture and tradition that is unmatched.

The final section, and the exhibit’s namesake, “Places We Dream Of,” is the most broad in terms of artistic medium and style.

The pieces are places that the artist has known and recreated in his imagination, or created entirely.

It features a piece from Herbert Crowley, an artist of whom there is very little known. His fantasy landscape consists of a multitude of intricately drawn images that create a palace of sorts. The incredibly elaborate piece of art is contrasted by a piece by Oxford’s own John McCrady. “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” is a rendering of a country house as angels and chariots “swing low” to bring back the soul of a dying man. It is more realistic than the artwork of Crowley, yet still dreamlike.

“They are all places we dream of: the distant, historic past, our own past and the places we dream up,” Sparks said. She explained that each section, for the most part, created itself through the pieces that were selected.

Since the pieces are borrowed from both the permanent collections of the UM Museum and the Department of Art, the two departments were required to work closely together.

William Andrews, the UM Museum Director, and Sparks were overjoyed by the union.

“The UM Museum staff is energetic and ambitions,” Sparks said. “It is a splendid companionship.”

According to Andrews, Sparks was keen on creating a sense of place with the artwork chosen.

She, along with the help of her installer, Bob Pekala, have created an exhibit that allows the viewer to explore a place that they have never visited, simply through images on paper. The works of art featured in the exhibit transport the observer somewhere else, instilling in them a sense of wonder.

The exhibit’s grand opening is this Thursday, and it will be open until June 26.

So, take sometime out our your busy day and be transported to another world.

from DM by Katherine Westfall