The Mississippi Museum of Art (MMA) today announced the acquisition of works by Kristen Dorsey, Ruth Miller, and Charles Edward Williams. The three artworks individually and collectively affirm Mississippi’s position as a contemporary wellspring of creativity, originality, and resilience—each artist making compelling connections across time and place.
MMA Executive Director Betsy Bradley said, “The acquisition of these three important works represents a kind of homecoming for the artists. Ruth Miller participated in the Museum’s annual Invitational exhibition in 2014 and her work is featured in our permanent exhibition New Symphony of Time. Kristen Dorsey is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation with historic homelands in the southeast to which aspects of her practice pay tribute. Charles Williams was our Center for Art and Public Exchange (CAPE) artist in residence last year during which he developed an audio project with residents of McComb. The city and region in southeastern Mississippi were settings for violence against African Americans leading up to and during the Civil Rights movement in the early 1960s. These singular works support a central pillar of our collection strategy—to broaden narratives about the state in honest dialogue with the past, present, each other, and ourselves.”
The Dorsey and Miller purchases were made possible through funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Williams gifted Forward, the outcome of his residency, to the Museum.
Kristen Dorsey’s Blood Bling (2009) is an intricate necklace featuring an etched representation of a Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB) card issued by the U.S. government’s Bureau of Indian Affairs. The card certifies an individual has a specific degree of Native American blood of a federally recognized Indian tribe, band, nation, pueblo, village, or community. The certificate is set in a hand-carved bronze frame decorated with red, white, and blue cubic zirconia.
The artist has described Blood Bling as her commentary on the weight given to the concept of blood quantum—an artificial and dehumanizing concept used as a tool of colonization and oppression. Whereas no other ethnic or cultural group in the country is required to prove their identities, Indigenous peoples must apply for their CDIB cards to identify as authentic members. Retired now from jewelry-making, Dorsey remains a committed advocate for redefining representation of Indigenous works in museums and the importance of art in local communities.
Blood Bling will be on display at the Museum in the fall of 2022.
Ruth Miller learned needle arts from her Mississippi-born mother and aunt. She is inspired by the ancient Bakuba motifs created by artisans in what is now the Republic of Congo. After completing her first tapestry portrait in 2003, actress and former gallerist CCH Pounder offered Miller a solo exhibition if she could create ten portraits. Knowing this would require at least a decade, Miller moved to a rural Mississippi town in 2009 to complete the project. In 2019, she received the Mississippi Governor’s Award for Excellence in Visual Art.
The Evocation and Capture of Aphrodite (2014) is a hand-stitched embroidered tapestry. In this tapestry, a young woman (the artist’s granddaughter) poses pensively in front of a mirror holding a camera. Her presentation evokes the charm and power of the goddess Aphrodite. The space is sunlit, and foliage suggests the sacred groves in which the ancient Greek goddess was first worshipped. The transparency of the leaves and geometric patterns indicate that the environment of the mirror is imaginary.
Aphrodite is currently on view in the Museum’s New Symphony of Time exhibition that offers free admission.
Using a variety of mediums—oils, video/film, and sound installations—Charles Edward Williams’ work investigates current and historical-cultural events related to racism and suggestive stereotypes formed within individuals. Through his practice, he aims to encourage audiences to engage in self-examination, question false boundaries that separate us, and view the inner connectedness of our common existence. The result of Williams’ CAPE residency is Forward (2020-21), an interactive community engagement project that took place in McComb in 2020. The artist considered race relations in the region from historical and current perspectives. He was inspired by the 1961 protest anthem We’ll Never Turn Back by Bertha Gober which evolved into a film developed by the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1963 to support protests for Civil Rights in the South. The phrase begs the question: if you refuse to go back then where do you go? Forward became the artist’s answer.
McComb’s community leaders, residents, and students met with Williams on video calls to discuss their experiences and aspirations. The process included recording the interviews, ambient sounds, and music to allow listeners to imagine themselves in McComb over the course of a day. Williams worked with Vigor Music, a recording studio in McComb, to collaborate virtually with musicians to layer the sounds and audio material for the seven-track album.
MMA will soon announce the date when the complete album will be available on its website and online through the Pike-Amite-Walthall Library System.
About the Mississippi Museum of Art
Established in 1911, the Mississippi Museum of Art is dedicated to connecting Mississippi to the world and the power of art to the power of community. The Museum’s permanent collection includes paintings, photography, multimedia works, and sculpture by Mississippi, American, and international artists. The largest art museum in the state, the Mississippi Museum of Art offers a vibrant roster of exhibitions, public programs, artistic and community partnerships, educational initiatives, and opportunities for exchange year-round. Programming is developed inclusively with community involvement to ensure a diversity of voices and perspectives are represented. Located at 380 South Lamar Street in downtown Jackson, the Museum is committed to honesty, equity, and inclusion. The Mississippi Museum of Art and its programs are sponsored in part by the City of Jackson and Visit Jackson. Support is also provided in part by funding from the Mississippi Arts Commission, a state agency, and in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. For more information, visit msmuseumart.org.