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Monday, January 25, 2010

Jackson, MS, Art Central

This past Saturday, a group of friends and I hit the Mississippi Museum of Art in full force. They went to see the museum's newest exhibit, Jim Henson's Fantastic World, which they raved about the rest of the afternoon. (Be sure to check it out! It's open through March 14, 2010.) Being the budget-conscious librarian that I am, I decided to save the Jim Henson exhibit until next month and saw the (free) exhibition, The Mississippi Story.  I am always surprised by how large the museum actually is. It took me several hours to view just that collection!

My favorite Mississippi artist that I "discovered" was William Hollingsworth. He created hundreds of beautiful oil and watercolor paintings, in addition to drawings and sketches, in his short lifetime. I was struck by his biographical card, which stated that he died when he was only 34. When I got back to MLC, I quickly skimmed whatever I could find about this fascinating Mississippian, looking for clues. This is what I found.
  • Hollingsworth was born in Jackson, MS and spent the majority of his life here (Mississippi History Now). I find it noteworthy and laudable that he practiced his vocation here in his home state.
  • Hollingsworth's mother died when he was an infant and he was raised by his father and sister. He was extremely close to his father and was devastated by his death in June of 1943 (Mississippi History Now). Writing in his diary in 1944, Hollingsworth referred to him as "the one friend in all, the father-mother in one" (Hollingsworth 142.) What a beautiful sentiment to have about one's father!
  • Hollingsworth enlisted in the US Navy in 1942 but was discharged two weeks later due to "poor eyesight" (Welty 27).
  • Before each of his diary entries he recorded the daily headlines of World War II (Welty 27). I find this fascinating and yet slightly macabre.
  • Hollingsworth suffered from "profound depression" which was "worsened by drinking" (Welty 27).
  • Hollingsworth founded the Art Department at Millsaps College in 1942. He also taught there for several years. (AskArt)
  • According to Ask Art, a painting of his fetched $31,725 just last year.
  • His wife, Jane, opened a dressmaking business in their home in order that Hollingsworth would not have to take another 9-5 job and instead could work on his art (Mississippi History Now.)
  • He committed suicide August 1, 1944, (Hollingsworth 142). Possessing the ghoulish personality that I do, I attempted to discover his method, but to no avail.
I leave you with this remark about Hollingsworth from fellow artist and contemporary Karl Wolfe:
He seemed, unlike me, very calm and methodical while painting. So once while we were out in the field together I asked him if he was not excited by his subject matter. He replied, "Excited? I am so excited that I think my insides are going to shake out." Then I noticed as he painted how his bottom lip was trembling" (Welty 29).
I admire and enjoy that he loved his painting so much that it visibly moved him. If only he could have created even more extraordinary art.

Hollingsworth, Jane, ed. Hollingsworth: The Man, the Artist, and His Work. University Press of Mississippi, 1981.
Welty, Eudora. On William Hollingsworth, Jr. University Press of Mississippi, 2002.

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