August 1, 2019 - September 6, 2019
Stennis Flag Art Exhibition: history + hope + hospitality
Story by Lori Neuenfeldt
You may be hearing or seeing more of the Stennis Flag including national headlines in the Washington Post and Cnn.com, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant’s recent approval of a specialty license plate with the flag design, trendy car decals, and now even in works of art. As part of a travelling exhibition organized by Jackson, MS artist Laurin Stennis, the Stennis Flag Art Exhibition travels to MSU.
What is the Stennis Flag? The granddaughter of the late Senator John C. Stennis, Laurin Stennis designed a flag to pay homage to the Mississippi’s past and to embrace the future. The artist Stennis describes the design as, “Nineteen stars form a circle around a larger center star, which represents Mississippi as the 20th state to join the Union in 1817. The circular shape symbolizes wholeness, unity, and continuity, and is drawn from artifacts of indigenous peoples to our region, particularly the Choctaw Nation. The centering of the blue star on the field of white is an inverted “Bonnie Blue,” a reference to the state’s secession (1861-1865). While in no way a celebration of this dark moment in our state’s past, it is an acknowledgment of an event that made way for major cultural shifts and forever altered Mississippi’s destiny. The white field on which the stars rest represents spirituality and possibility. The red bars stand in opposition to one another recognizing the passionate differences we sometimes harbor; the red color represents the blood spilled by Mississippians – both civilian and military – who have honorably given their lives in pursuit of liberty and justice for all.” For more information about the meaning of the Stennis Flag visit the official site of the Stennis Flag at declaremississippi.com.
After creating the Stennis Flag in 2014, Laurin Stennis invited Mississippi artists to interpret the flag through works of art. According to Stennis, “I’ve asked master Mississippi artists and craftsmen, including MSU’s own Alexander Bostic, to interpret the new flag design in their own medium as a way to not only brand the new design but also showcase contemporary Mississippi artists as they demonstrate what having an EVOCATIVE (rather than PROVOCATIVE) state flag would look and feel like. Art can bring this to life in a way that all the verbiage in the world could not, so I felt strongly that this would be an important element in bringing a new flag to reality. Also, these events and images are disarming; they are joyful and full of a wonderful spirit. This is what has been sorely missing from previous efforts. I am deeply committed to a bipartisan, grassroots, and positive approach.”
The current exhibit has 26 works and is making its way across the state. It has already exhibited in Jackson at the Mississippi Museum of Art. It has since traveled to Smith & Lens in Bay St. Louis, Meraki Roasting Company in Clarksdale, and the Greenville Arts Council Gallery. Select works will travel back to the Mississippi Museum of Art after their appearance at MSU. The show in the Cullis Wade Depot Art Gallery has works in a variety of mediums from painting, to sculpture, photography, and fibers. Along with Laurin Stennis, artists represented in the exhibit are Michelle Allee, Anne Scott Barrett, Alexander Bostic, Pat Brown, Anne Brunson, Tony Davenport, Monique Davis, Ron Dill, Mary Bess Gloria, Josh Hailey, Pete Halverson, Sabrina Howard, Ellen Langford, Elaine Maisel, Sky Miles, Harold Miller, Tawny Johnson Minton, Summer Nation, Rob Peeples, H.C. Porter, Jan Stevens, Cathy Talbot, Melanie Mitchell Tucker, Yolande van Heerden, and Herb Wiley.
The MSU Department of Art Galleries host a wide variety of exhibitions by contemporary artists with international, national, or local recognition. According to Gallery The Stennis Flag Art Exhibit gives our community an opportunity to see how artists living in our own state respond to current events. It’s also a chance for many of our students to see the role artists and designers play in creating the images associated with our state. For over 200 years, there have been at least four different flags flown over the land that we now call Mississippi. We are in a moment where we get to be part of a conversation that involves a better understanding of the history of symbols, how they are created, how they change, and how they can impact a people. Art can be a powerful initiator of difficult discussions.
The Cullis Wade Depot Art Gallery is located at 75 B.S. Hood Road, above the MSU Welcome Center on the second floor of the MSU Cullis Wade Depot next to Barnes and Noble Bookstore. For more information on the exhibit, please call the Department of Art at 662-325-2970 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The gallery is free and open to the public. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm, closed holidays and other campus closures.
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