Picturing Mississippi, 1817–2017: Land of Plenty, Pain, and Promise, the landmark exhibition exploring Mississippi identity, commemorates the 200th anniversary of Mississippi’s statehood. Illuminating the perception and depiction of Mississippi over more than 200 years, the exhibition showcases 175 works by 100 artists who either resided in the state, visited, or lived elsewhere and were compelled to respond to a multiplicity of subjects. From Choctaw objects and sweeping landscapes to portraiture and contemporary work, the exhibition reveals that Mississippi has continuously resonated with artists in powerful ways as lived experience, memory, and imagination.

On view from December 9, 2017‒July 8, 2018, Picturing Mississippi is the sixteenth presentation in The Annie Laurie Swaim Hearin Memorial Exhibition Series at the Mississippi Museum of Art.

The exhibition features individual masterpieces by artists seldom exhibited in the state, including James Audubon, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Thomas Hart Benton, George Caleb Bingham, John Steuart Curry, Robert Indiana, and Andy Warhol, alongside works by indigenous peoples, as well as by native Mississippians such as William Dunlap, Sam Gilliam, George Ohr, and Eudora Welty. Other prominent artists with works on view include Henri Cartier-Bresson, Melvin Edwards, William Eggleston, Walker Evans, Ben Shahn, and Kara Walker.

The works are on loan from private and prestigious national institutions—including Amon Carter Museum of American Art (Fort Worth, TX); Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (Bentonville, AK); High Museum of Art (Atlanta, GA); Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (Washington, DC); Minneapolis Institute of Art (Minneapolis, MN); Museum of Fine Arts (Houston, TX); National Gallery of Art (Washington, DC); National Portrait Gallery (Washington, DC); Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University (Cambridge, MA); and, Smithsonian Institution, (Washington, DC)—and drawn from the Museum’s own collection.

George Caleb Bingham(1811-1879). The Jolly Flatboatmen

“An unprecedented event for our state, Picturing Mississippi provides the unique opportunity to look at our history through the creative lenses of artists working across time, place, and media,” said Betsy Bradley, Director of the Mississippi Museum of Art. “We are excited to share a diversity of impressions of Mississippi’s people, places, and histories. The exhibition and related programming reaffirm the seminal quote, attributed to native son William Faulkner, ‘To understand the world, you must first understand a place like Mississippi.’ We hope the exhibition will inspire honest and wide- ranging conversation about where we’ve been, where we are, and where we hope to be.” 

Organized thematically and chronologically into eight chapters, the exhibition enables visitors to consider artworks not just as objects but resonating within the context of their times as testimonials and as potential agents for change. Vignettes throughout the galleries heighten the inherent paradox of Mississippi, where art traditions, movements, content, and aesthetics collide.