By Brenda Germany
Photos by Stephen Anderson
Designed & Edited by Johnny Cole
On January 29, 2022, Southland Music Line photographer, Stephen Anderson, attended the “Music and the Crossroads” presentation at the Walter Anderson Museum of Art (WAMA) in Ocean Springs, MS. This portion of their outstanding series showcasing the many forms of art that spring from Mississippi focused on the Delta blues’ connection to the mystical “themes of death and the spirit world.”
Walter Anderson Museum previewed details of the event as:
“Scott Barretta will share his deep knowledge of well-known blues lore, such as the tale of Robert Johnson, in addition to other lesser-known connections between blues music and the dark and fatal regional history. Accompanying Barretta will be Greenville, Mississippi blues musician Robert Mortimer of Good Paper of Rev. Rob Mortimer.”
Top Photo: Scott Barretta; above photo: Poster advertising the “Music and the Crossroads” presentation at the Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs, MS (a program financially assisted by the National Endowment for the Humanities through the Mississippi Humanities Council)
During their presentation Scott Barretta and Robert Mortimer enlightened the audience with tales and music that enrich understanding of the Delta blues. Through their own unique perspectives regarding death, remembrance, and rebirth in Southern culture they highlighted the blues’ connection to these themes.
“ I think that the blues’ typical themes and pragmatic solutions to problems, such as getting rid of the ‘blues’ by singing and playing the blues, are easy for any human being to relate to.” – Scott Barretta
Scott Barretta is a professor of Sociology at the University of Mississippi, whose classes include Anthropology of Blues Culture and is a widely published music historian. He is also the host of the Southern Documentary Project for Mississippi Public Broadcasting radio show, Highway 61, a writer and researcher (along with Jim O’Neal) for the Mississippi Blues Trail, documentary producer of Smokes & Ears (2009), Shake ‘Em on Down (2017) and Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World (2017) and a recipient of the Mississippi Arts Counsel 2016 Governors Award for Excellence in the Arts.
Robert Mortimer performing at Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs, MS
Robert Mortimer is a second generation undertaker in the Mississippi Delta, a reverend, singer-songwriter, and entertainer. Many of the songs that Mortimer has written share emotional states and narrative threads of Southern history, death, power and communication between friends and lovers, both real and imagined. Robert Mortimer feels that growing up in a funeral home has allowed him to see the end as a new beginning and to enjoy the happier side of bad situations.
During their presentation, Barretta and Mortimer also highlighted the themes of the simultaneous WAMA exhibition, Bearing Witness, featuring the paintings of Walter Anderson and Jason Bouldin.
“They are a tribute, a grieving, a wonder, an effort to be attentive, an attempt to offer testimony and evidence – to bear witness.” – Jason Bouldin
“Music and the Crossroads” presentation at the Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs, MS
The accompanying photo collection by Stephen Anderson depicts the presentation held at the Ocean Springs Community Center, adjacent to the museum, in which Walter Anderson painted the extraordinarily beautiful 2,500-square-foot mural of the Native American culture, landing of French explorers in 1699, and the seasons of Ocean Springs, in 1951-52 for the fee of $1.00.
Robert Mortimer warming up prior to program at the Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs. MS
Mattie Codling, curator at Walter Anderson Museum of Art, introducing program.
Scott Barretta enlightening the audience with tales that enrich understanding of the blues. Pictured to his left is bluesman Mississippi Fred McDowell.
Robert Mortimer at Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs, MS
Robert Mortimer and Scott Barretta
Scott Barretta, a professor of Sociology at the University of Mississippi and widely published music historian, at Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs, MS
Self-portrait of Walter Anderson (located at Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs, MS)
Sculpture featuring Walter Anderson’s hat (located at Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs, MS)
Click Here For more information about Walter Anderson Museum of Art.
Click Here to view The Southland Music Line’s popular ongoing Mississippi Blues Trail Series.
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