Ghosts of the Old Mississippi
Talley Dunn Gallery
May 28 – July 11, 2015
Ghosts of the Old Mississippi features eleven new paintings on paper created with a skilled layering of watercolor, gouache, graphite and collage elements. These pieces range in size from small memory studies to large scroll maps that celebrate the important history of the Mississippi River. Inspired by geological maps of the Mississippi and by the George Caleb Bingham exhibition at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art last fall, Ward’s recent paintings embody a rich layering of meaning within them, both cultural and personal. Paintings such as Ghosts of the Old Mississippi: Beef Island to Memphis trace the changing course of the river over thousands of years, each path represented with subtle lines of different colors showing the route from one city to another along its winding path. As the artist explains:
Rivers are the great metaphors for time, and the maps of the Mississippi’s ancient courses suggested memory to me, both the river’s memory and my own. The project evolved into an exploration of my ancestral roots in New Orleans, where my great-grandfather was a steamboat captain on the Mississippi. I overcame my initial reluctance, and allowed personal memories and artifacts, such as my mother’s recipe cards and the toile patterns of my New Orleans grandmother’s and great aunt’s curtains, to enter into the work…This body of work that began with the ghostly traces of an ancient river has grown to encompass my own ghosts and the ghosts of many others whose lives have been touched and transformed by the great Mississippi.