In 1971, Lesley Silver started the Attic Gallery above a Vicksburg gift store. Many folks didn't know that above all the candles, china, and soap was a gallery distinguished by its "whole different level of funkiness," according to husband and artist Daniel Boone. (Yes, he even has a pony tail.) Today the Attic Gallery is still in the rafters above a coffee shop on Washington Street, also known as Highway 61. Thirty-something years later, the funkiness quotient has led to a quintessential, artistic celebration of Southern culture. Not the nostalgic south, the real south: "No magnolias or hoop skirts," Boone says. Blues, folk and African-American cultures are represented rather than the confederate symbols some might expect of a Vicksburg gallery.
Every couple of summers, Silver and Boone host a show inviting various artists to contribute works on a pertinent theme. This year's "Highway 61" (revisualized) opened June 20 with works from 14 artists sharing their vision of what Boone calls "that ribbon that runs through here." Sixth-generation New Orlinean and artist Pat McDonald Fowler is featured with images of blues musicians. Kennith Humphrey's series of works based on "Business 61" evokes smoky evenings in Washington Street blues clubs. Musicians arch like the music they play in his stylized paintings. "Kennith paints what he sees inside his mind. Sometimes the instruments aren't real instruments—they are very stylized to the point of impossibility," Boone says. Humphrey appeared at the Attic's present location shortly after they relocated there in 1997 to show his work to Silver; by that afternoon one of his pieces had already sold.
Other works in the show include Ellen Langford's paintings of pastoral views in rural Mississippi. Her colors and clouds seem to place the viewer on a wide screen porch with a glass of sweet tea. David Rae Morris' photographs, taken with his father, Willie Morris, as part of their joint project, the book "My Mississippi," offer a more political view of where Mississippi is right now. Lesley Silver's collages in miniscule Altoid cans and AOL tins are miniature versions of her largest work: the gallery itself. The Attic is a narrow space, impossibly packed with treasures on every surface. The building served as restaurant space for most of the 20th century, and the uppermost floor is no longer a bar but the area for shows.
The atmosphere is so inviting and easy I was tempted to take off my shoes and wait for thunderstorms to pass. Indeed, the gallery has a loyal local clientele as well as travelers on Highway 61 to scientists and engineers from all over the world working at the Waterways Experiment Station. Boone calls some customers products of the "new tourism" in the South—those looking to experience
Thanks for this great coverage of the Attic. Lesley and I were in Jackson recently at the new coffee shop at the Artery on North State. As I was waiting for my cappucino to be expertly prepared, we found the JFP (we always look for it when we are in town) and discovered your story. It was the terrific photo of the Attic sign that caught my eye. (the sign is comprised of letters from the marquee at DeVille Cinema where we saw some great movies over the years). Good job. Even though it was your first visit to the Attic, you seemed to really get it. Come back and see us.
- D Boone