Local art can sometimes be the perfect gift.
When a friend from college called to tell me that he and his boyfriend were getting married, I was thrilled at the news and overwhelmingly happy for them.
Then a wave of anxiety hit. Because I'd want to send them a gift—a gift for one of my dearest friends and his beloved, a gentleman who recently left his position as creative director of Martha Stewart Living to freelance for clients like Williams-Sonoma. I repeat, he worked for Martha freaking Stewart. Hello, wedding present pressure! Could I find a present that Martha would deem a good thing?
My friend is originally from Jackson, and he and his now-husband collect art, so I decided that a piece by a Jackson artist might be just the ticket for something unique and special. Artist Ginger Williams-Cook is someone whose work I've followed for a number of years. She does a lot of drawings, but also paintings and unique pieces, such as her clever nesting dolls of pop-culture characters ranging from the "Golden Girls" to KISS. Williams-Cook also paints a lot of portraits, and her style is one I enjoy; it often reminds me a little bit of Mary Cassatt's Impressionism. I knew that Williams-Cook often paints portraits on commission, and I had seen several pieces she'd done recently of brides and grooms, and even a her baby's birth announcement.
When my friend texted a picture of him and his hubs with their adorable dog in front of their New York City apartment on the way to City Hall to get hitched, I knew I had the perfect source material for a commissioned work. After chatting with Williams-Cook about the couple to determine what to put in the background (we settled on a city skyline) and sending her the photo, I eagerly awaited the finished product. She sent me a photo of the painting's progress along the way, and when I picked it up, I knew it was perfect.
The couple loved the piece, and I'm happy to have been able to get them something creative, unique and that reflected them. I'm also happy to have been able to support a local artist.
Speaking of which, some weeks later, I learned that the second in a new series of after-hours pop-up gallery exhibits at the Mississippi Museum of Art would feature work by Williams-Cook and Jason "Twiggy" Lot. The pop-up galleries are for once a month from 5:30-7:30 p.m., and they give exposure to local artists and musicians. Being a fan of Williams-Cook and also owning a painting from a series on which William Goodman and Twiggy collaborated, I immediately planned to attend.
The night of the event, I checked with a friend who lives downtown to see about meeting up there, and I headed over after work. Upon arrival, I ran into several friends I hadn't seen in a while and had a great time catching up. The crowd represented a small but diverse crowd of artists, families, young professionals and established art patrons, who mingled and took in the three walls of space on which Williams-Cook and Lott installed their paintings, mixed-media works and custom furniture.
In addition to the pop-up exhibit, visitors could browse the gift shop (that night, one of my friends purchased an adorable pair of felt baby booties shaped like giraffes to give a mother-to-be), as well as the permanent gallery and a Norman Rockwell exhibit, so it was a great opportunity to take in a lot of art in a laid-back, social setting.
It's great to see the museum committing to not only showing large-scale exhibits of established artists, but also to encouraging and offering space to local working artists. I'm told the pop-up series will continue throughout the fall, with the next one scheduled for Sept. 18. It will feature Figment Jackson artists.
Having thoroughly enjoyed the art and the company I found at the August installment, I know I'll plan on going back for the next one. Hopefully, I'll see you there, too.
The next Museum After Hours Pop up is at the Mississippi Museum of Art (380 S. Lamar St., 601-960-1515) Sept. 18. The event is free. For more information on Ginger Williams-Cook and her art on Facebook or Etsy. For more information about the pop-up galleries, visit msmuseumart.com.