The Grit In The Oyster | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

The Grit In The Oyster

February's cold—it's dreary. The holidays are over, and life just gets mundane. Lesley Silver says this when explaining why the annual Attic Gallery theme show in Vicksburg is appropriately timed.

"Everything drops off," she says, adding that the Attic's theme show seeks to challenge artists into something new amidst this dreary time.

Giving an artist a theme is "like the grit in the oyster," her husband and business partner, Daniel Boone, says. "You give people a starting point, and they go in directions they never would go."

Artist Fletcher Cox agrees. He and his wife, Carol, have been showing at the Attic for the past 20 years. "They're a challenge," he admits. "I mainly work on commission, which is usually straightforward—like build a table or a chair. These themes come out of left field. They stretch my imagination to do something I otherwise wouldn't do."

Do the themes, indeed, come out of left field? Boone laughs, "We usually have a big discussion, then Lesley does whatever she wants, but this year, the theme was a suggestion of some friends'."

For Silver, watching the responses to the themes is always exciting. "Every time we come up with a theme, we hear 'Ooh, what are we going to do?' Then everyone rises to the challenge," she says, adding that some artists do literal responses, but others really push the theme.

The theme one year was watermelons, and one artist used watermelon seeds as tears in her work. This year, Elayne Goodman took the theme of windows and depicted a peeping tom. Artists have also used the idea of the eyes as the window to the soul, Silver says. Cox's piece is crafted out of an old bodack fence post. It has four windows articulately carved into the front, creating a piece completely original.

Mustard Seed is also participating in the show this year. Several of the artists from Mustard Seed made ceramics, but six artists also collaborated on painting a window, including the panes.

"We were very happy to participate. The Attic Gallery is such an interesting place," Debra Burkhalter, gift shop manager at Mustard Seed, says, adding that the gallery is a great opportunity for the artists to show. "We really fall in the outsider art and folk art category because our people really do what they feel, instead of having classical training."

More than 40 other artists are showing this year. Prices of the pieces range from $10 to $1,600, so art fans of any budget should be able to find something. Or, art fans can just visit the reception this Friday, Feb. 25, from 7-9 p.m. For Cox, visiting the other artists and the curators is one of the best parts of the show.

"I think Lesley is one of the most nurturing people in the state. Her gallery has been a refuge for all kinds of people who might be feeling somewhat marginalized in a red state," Cox says. "The gallery is an expression of her inclusiveness. All kinds of creative endeavors are welcome in great profusion."

The show will be open "until it's time to leave," Silver says, then, with more authority, adds "Well, two months."

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