If you haven't visited the Backyards and Beyond exhibit at the Mississippi Arts Center in downtown Jackson, you absolutely should. This isn't just an art exhibit, it is an experience. H.C. Porter of Vicksburg, MS created this exhibition after the devastation of hurricane Katrina. As part of the exhibition there are audio recordings from folks that were affected by the storm. With this exhibition Porter is doing something that most artists hope that their work will do. That is, not to just make a social statement, but to make a social impact. Here is what she says about the exhibition... "My hope is that this exhibition will move people toward continued volunteerism and humanitarianism in Mississippi or wherever it may be needed, in our own backyards or beyond. This is a story that must be told for a very long time."
Besides the paintings and the audio recordings, there are large images of floors from Gulf Coast homes laid out on the floor of the exhibition space. The floor images are of broken tiles and mud covered linoleum and holes exposing the ground beneath. It is a moving experience that helps to give you a better sense of the massive destruction. She also created a book of the exhibition, set up a website specifically for the exhibition (linked above), and created a non-profit organization to get the exhibition into more spaces nationally. It is quite an impressive accomplishment logistically.
Back to the paintings. She continues in the style that she is known for, that is painting on top of a photograph that has been turned into a high contrast black and white image. Though she has been working this way for years I think that it particularly appealing in this application. The faces of the subjects remain black and white while the world around is in vivid color. By removing skin color she is ultimately removing race, and as we know the storm was colorblind.
I believe that the exhibition is only up through the end of March so go and prepare to be moved.
Uproot & Anguish