SHARED EARTH: THE ANCIENT MOUNDS PROJECT
Shared Earth: The Ancient Mounds Project
This exhibition features photographs by Jenny Ellerbe. It deals with the landscape of Northeast Louisiana as a cultural object whose layers heap one on top of another. Some are forgotten, others not. Specifically, Ellerbe’s subject matter is the ancient mounds scattered throughout Northeast Louisiana. Some of the mounds were constructed as early as 5000 BCE, but the largest and most complex mounds, located in the Poverty Point State Historic Site, were constructed from 1700 to 1100 BCE. Built by hunter-fisher-gatherers, the Poverty Point design has not been duplicated anywhere in the world. The site includes a variety of earthen constructions including five mounds ranging between two and twenty-two meters tall and six low lying concentric rings, the longest of which is over one kilometer long. One factor that likely contributed to the mounds’ successful construction was a highly developed trading network that accounted for great deposits of non-local building and tool materials found there. These materials include quartz crystals, steatite, copper, galena, and iron oxide: materials that are found as far afield as Iowa, the Ozark and Appalachian Mountains, and western Georgia. The mounds at Poverty Point are also unique in North America for their age, the proliferation of new styles of tools and cultural objects, their size, and the fact these infrastructure intense projects were completed by hunter-fisher-gatherers. The civilization that occupied Poverty Point from 1700 to 1100 BCE marked a high water point for cultural achievement that was not surpassed for several hundred years. This degree of achievement makes Poverty Point truly noteworthy in the history of humankind. The Poverty Point mounds were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List* earlier this year. The mound building tradition continued in Louisiana and throughout the Southeast at varying scales until contact with European cultures disrupted it.
The manner in which Ellerbe photographs the mounds positions them as monuments to humans’ fleeting existence and a testament to the power of a nearly forgotten culture’s achievements. She often uses long dramatic shadows to indicate the passage of time and portrays contemporary human objects as though they are detritus. From image to image the mounds may be depicted as monumental or as hidden, virtually forgotten things. This contrast parallels inconsistent general awareness of the mound tradition in Northeast Louisiana. Ellerbe uses dramatic Louisiana cloud formations as a critical foil to this issue. Their regular appearance points, as it does in many art historical traditions, to the importance, majesty, and timeless nature of a thing. The Shared Earth exhibition will pair photographs with a selection of archaeological artifacts from Poverty Point. This element of the exhibition is intended to contextualize the historic nature and importance of the developments at mound sites in Northeast Louisiana within the overall story of human civilization. The artifacts speak to what we know of a moment in time as well as the human condition itself by illustrating how all human endeavors, artistic and otherwise, drive and shape our environment, ensuring our survival and giving our lives’ meaning. This is the unavoidable nature of the human condition.
Shared Earth: The Ancient Mounds Project exhibition is a collaboration between the Poverty Point Station Archaeology Program and the Masur Museum of Art. It will feature fine art photography and archaeological artifacts. Free lectures and educational activities will take place at the Masur and Poverty Point State Historic Site during the exhibition. Call the Masur at 318.329.2237 or like us on Facebook for more information. This exhibition is supported by a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council as administered by the Northeast Louisiana Arts Council.
*To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria. Please visit http://whc.unesco.org/en/criteria/ for more information.
October 29, 2014 - February 14, 2015
The Masur Museum of Art is proud to exhibit renowned photographer Birney Imes’ series Whispering Pines. The series documents the life and times of Blume Triplett, the late proprietor of Whispering Pines, a roadside bar and restaurant in Crawford, Mississippi. Two women played integral roles in his life: his wife Eppie and Rosie Stevenson, his cook and business manager. Eppie was the love of Blume’s life and when she died in 1973 Whispering Pines became a shrine to her. The restaurant was slowly overrun with ephemera that documented the trajectory of the Triplett’s lives and the American South. While the newspaper clippings and knick-knacks scattered throughout the restaurant provide the chronological and geographical context for audiences of Imes’ photographs, it is the comings and goings of the Pines’ regulars that are most important when thinking about the South in the twentieth century.
By the time Imes began photographing Blume Triplett, the abovementioned ephemera became such a presence in Whispering Pines it overwhelmed the whites only side of the restaurant. Even though integration was the law of the land well before Eppie’s death, segregation was still informally enforced in many places like the Pines. It was out of necessity that integration became a part of Blume’s life. When he began having health problems Rosie Stevenson, his African American cook, became his caretaker and took on expanded duties at the Pines. She became like family to him. This coming of age story of integration took a natural, glacial course. Rosie eventually inherited the Pines when Blume died in 1991. Imes’ images of this story possess genuine warmth and a hardscrabble honesty that parallels the South’s political, cultural, and business ascendancy in the twentieth century. For better or worse, it also illustrates how many Americans continue to deal with issues of race by slowly building relationships that change the nature of our society.
Imes has exhibited his work at The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois; the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona; the Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, Georgia; the Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York; the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, Louisiana; the Polk Museum of Art, Lakeland, Florida; the Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, North Carolina; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York. His work has also been collected by several of these venues including The Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Modern Art as well as many others too numerous to list. Imes is also broadly known for his three books of photography Juke Joint (Jackson, Mississippi, University Press of Mississippi, 1990); Whispering Pines (Jackson, Mississippi, University Press of Mississippi, 1994); and Partial to Home (Smithsonian Press, 1994). Whispering Pines will include audio recordings of Blume Triplett and other Pines regulars. There will also be a project gallery featuring mixed media art by Elayne Goodman created using Imes’ prints and objects from Whispering Pines itself.
Tuesday - Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission is free
Masur Museum of Art