Mississippi History

maze painting

#131 (Mississippi History), 30″ W X 36″ H,graphite & acrylic on canvas

I’m the pleased owner of this incredible painting by my friend Ken Weathersby. Ken has produced a series of maze paintings for the last several years. This one had the unique feature of the Confederate Flag in the center of it, an unstable symbol in this vibrant optical field. There are so many things to say about this painting I hardly know where to start.

These are just first impressions, not ordered in any particular way, just scrawled as I thunk em:

  • confed flag composed of X or intersection
  • this rests at an intersection in the maze
  • flag is usually depicted in bright red, white, blue colors, but those are absent here; faded grey instead
  • grey was color of confed uniforms
  • faded grey colors can mean faded glory, or no glory, shame even
  • artist is from Mississippi (as is this notetaker)
  • the maze consists of interplay of black and white, each seeking its own way, neither extricating itself from the other – a metaphor for or analogy of race relations or character of southern experience
  • many of the lines form crosses resonating with crosses representing faith, graves, death, and pervasiveness of christian imagery in south
  • many seem like swastikas, evoking resonance w between confed south and naziism/fascism
  • swastika of course also bearing symbolic meaning of fire, infinity, creation in many eastern religious traditions
  • Cross and swastika symbols are present, but the whole painting is like a yin/yang symbol, and also reminds me of Islamic/Moorish motifs
  • painting has a vibrant optical effect – as brain struggles to stabilize, peripheral forms seem to cluster above the painting surface; brain tries to account for this, causing previous patterms to disintegrate or dissolve. Eye wanders seeking to stabilize, causing further illusion and distintegration
  • this optical effect could be taken to represent feelings relating to the south – complicated and unstable.
  • Painting is lovingly and meticulously crafted, which suggests attachment or desire to reconnect or reinterpret
  • Painting was made prior to Katrina, but can easily be allowed to resonate with this event – how Mississippi was distintegrated by the hurricane, but all its elements still there, for better or worse, while it will never be the same, for better or worse, “reconstruction” or reintegration or reinterpretation creates new possibilities to reclaim a heritage or recreate one (or find the way thru)
  • The painting is like a narrative – the way thru amid the obstacles could be read like a person’s life, a person in an environment; the way thru is possibility, resolution. Lots of backtracking but ultimate success

I should confess I have not yet found the way through. I assume that besides the ordinary feeling of gratification one feels when one completes a maze, additional actual meaning will emerge in the struggle and accomplishment of finding the way through this particular painting.


One Comment

  • Rick Morey wrote:

    Ken’s Mississippi History is a rich, revealing and provocative piece. I have never visited Mississippi but heard much about it in my grade school days of the early 1960′s. And also from Ken himself, my teaching colleague in New Jersey, as he came to speak to my U.S. History classes this spring about the state and its legacy, then and now. He is in many respects my most recent mentor on Mississippi,following in the spirit of the late Eudora Welty.

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