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Mississippi Museum of Art to Debut New Work by Jeffrey Gibson

The Mississippi Museum of Art’s Center for Art & Public Exchange (CAPE) is pleased to debut the results of a summer 2018 residency with New York-based contemporary artist Jeffrey Gibson, who is currently featured in the Museum’s exhibition Jeffrey Gibson: Like a Hammer. An in-process edit of Gibson’s new video artwork, titled WonderLust, will be screened at the Museum in Jackson during a half-day program on Saturday, November 3 from 3-7 PM called “WonderLust: Materiality and Movement in Mississippi.” The approximately 15-minute long nonlinear video artwork features a diverse group of Mississippians from the LGBTQ community who articulate, through voice and movement, the scars and strengths that allow them to survive and thrive in the contemporary South.

“Jeffrey Gibson and the Museum share a vision for a dynamic future empowered by an honest reckoning with fractured pasts,” said Betsy Bradley, Director of the Mississippi Museum of Art. “During his residency, the artist provided a transformative experience for participants, and he is creating an important artwork that reinforces the centrality of Southern voices to American identity.”

The program on November 3 includes a keynote conversation with the artist; breakout sessions in the galleries where Jeffrey Gibson: Like A Hammer is installed; roundtable discussion with project participants and the public; and the premiere of WonderLust. Over the course of the three weeks in July and August 2018, Gibson and his team led participants through a series of workshops encouraging self-care and self-expression in the LGBTQ+ community. The workshops included meditation, yoga, voice lessons, movement, dance, creative writing, and storytelling. Each participant developed a character for themselves (based in fact and/or fiction), crafted a monologue, choreographed accompanying movements, and performed in a cabaret-style show for multiple cameras at the local LGBTQ club and bar, Wonderlust.

Gibson, a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians whose father’s family is from the state, considers Mississippi one of his homes. He also recognizes the challenges of visiting the state in his younger years as an openly gay man, when he felt he had to edit his expansive identity.

“The people who I have had the opportunity to work with have a strength of existing as themselves here in this environment that I don’t possess,” said Gibson of the project participants. “And so, it’s a strange kind of accessing strength from people who are doing things that I’m not sure that I can do. And somehow that has led into me being able to tell my own personal story.”

Gibson’s material art practice, showcased in the exhibition Jeffrey Gibson: Like A Hammer, features diverse media including beads, punching bags, paint, rawhide, ceramics, and metal jingles used in dance regalia in the powwow circuit. His subject matter ranges from geometric abstractions and patterned beadwork, a contemporary recasting traditional indigenous aesthetics; to sculptural figures that serve as ancestral spiritual guides; to song lyrics, quotes, and forms paying homage to cultural movers like Public Enemy, Stevie Wonder, Grace Jones, and James Baldwin. Similarly, the video artwork WonderLust implicitly engages a multiplicity of conversations across time, such as the real and imagined hierarchies forged during Indian removal, slavery, and Jim Crow; the invisibility of trans individuals; the stigmatization of HIV; trauma and abuse; and the freedom and empowerment of the club scene. Connecting these threads is the artist’s fascination with the concept of movement, both physical and symbolic.

“I wanted to see the differences between people,” said the artist. “How are we moving differently? How do we move the same? How does trauma impact how we move? How does confidence impact how we move? … Hopefully to tell the story of movement in this local place.”

Project participants were Mississippians Daniel Ball, Andrew Breland, Ivory Cancer, Triana Davis, Wesley Guthrie, Jensen Matar, Jake Thrasher, and Cody Walker. Gibson’s team of instructors, choreographers, and production assistants included Elizabeta Betinski, Kyralesa Wiley, Wendell Cooper, Sancia Nash, Kirby Crone, Kate Minford, and Neha Sharma. Community partners were The Greater Jackson Arts Council, New Horizon Church, and WonderLust (where the video was primarily filmed).

“This CAPE residency with Jeffrey Gibson embodied the importance of process: the process of making art, of discovering oneself, and of understanding the way others see the world,” said Julian Rankin, founding Director of CAPE. “We hope that the final artwork from this process will illustrate that complicated narratives and multifaceted identities can coexist in collaboration and include all people.”

The Center for Art & Public Exchange (CAPE) is an initiative of the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson, supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. CAPE’s purpose is to use original artworks, exhibitions, programs, and engagements with artists to increase understanding and inspire new narratives in contemporary Mississippi.

Once a year, from 2018-2020, CAPE and the Mississippi Museum of Art will invite a nationally-recognized artist to travel to Mississippi to engage deeply with communities in Metro Jackson,

Mississippi. These residencies will explore legacies and issues that resonate both locally and nationally, and use art as opportunity to inspire dialogue, empower personal experiences, and connect people across geographic boundaries. The resulting art installations, performances, and programs will be the products of collaboration between artists, makers, participants, and organizational partners. CAPE and this series of residencies are funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Jeffrey Gibson (b. 1972) grew up in major urban centers in the United States, Germany, Korea, England, and elsewhere. He is a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and half Cherokee. This unique combination of global cultural influences converge in his multi-disciplinary practice of more than a decade, since the completion of his Master of Arts degree in painting at The Royal College of Art, London, in 1998, and his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, in 1995.

In addition to the Mississippi Museum of Art, Gibson’s artworks are in the permanent collections of many major art museums, including the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art; Denver Art Museum; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Nasher Museum of Art; National Gallery of Canada; Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art; and Smithsonian Institution. Recent solo exhibitions include Cornell Fine Arts Museum; Denver Art Museum; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; National Academy Museum, New York; and SCAD Museum of Art (Savannah and Atlanta). He participated in MoMA PS1’s exhibition Greater New York (October 11, 2015–March 7, 2016); Prospect New Orleans (2015), the Everson Museum of Art Biennale, (2016) and SITE Santa Fe (2016). Gibson is a member of the faculty at Bard College, a Joan Mitchell Foundation grant recipient, and a past participant in the TED Fellows Program.

The Mississippi Museum of Art, in Jackson, is the largest art museum in the state. The Mississippi Art Association, established in 1911, was the precursor to the current Museum, founded in 1978 as a community-supported institution. The Museum’s permanent collection includes paintings, photography, multimedia works, and sculpture by Mississippi, American, and international artists. The Museum offers year-round educational programs for both children and adults. The Museum has 31 affiliate museums across the state that benefit from the loan of artworks and traveling exhibitions organized by the Museum, ensuring that those who cannot visit Jackson can still enjoy the state’s rich cultural history. 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. The Museum is located at 380 South Lamar Street in Jackson. Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday, noon to 5 pm. The Museum is closed Monday.


Still from WonderLust (Wesley Guthrie). © Jeffrey Gibson 2018.