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.