Bringing Forward the Past: Art, Identity, and the American South

This event is no longer on sale.

Friday February 16

5:30 PM

Bringing Forward the Past: Art, Identity, and the American South February 16 and 17, 2018  


On February 16 & 17, 2018, the Mississippi Museum of Art will present: “Bringing Forward the Past: Art, Identity, and the American South,” an interdisciplinary symposium bringing together artists, curators, scholars, and the public to explore issues related to identity, race, trauma, and memory. Using the bicentennial show Picturing Mississippi: Land of Plenty, Pain, and Promise as a lens through which to consider historical conceptions of Mississippi, as well as the larger South, this symposium engages artists and scholars who are translating this history into new, multi-dimensional narratives and who are helping to chart a new path forward.   





Friday, February 16 5:30-8:00 p.m.  


Keynote address: “Vision and Justice: Art and Activism in a Contested Democracy” 


Dr. Sarah Lewis, Harvard University 5:30 p.m. followed by reception  What is the relationship between art, justice, and the contestation for citizenship in a radicalized America, from the Civil War to the Black Lives Matter movement, from World War I to the Muslim Ban? This talk will address this urgent question through a framework inspired by Frederick Douglass’s ideas about the role of images for American progress. Today, protests, state violence, natural disasters, grief and loss are all played out in photos and videos in real time unlike anything we thought possible just a few decades ago. This talk makes a case for why images are playing an increasingly crucial role in justice in contemporary life. 


Saturday, February 17 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.   


Panel 1: Place in Contemporary Practice  9:00-10:15 a.m.

This panel explores the ways that personal histories have shaped the artistic practices of two Mississippi-born artists. Using the Mississippi landscape and its literary precedents as the backdrop of the conversation, this panel looks at how drawing on memories of a place expand upon contemporary readings of identity, memory, history, and even myth. Moderated by Curator Elizabeth Abston, panelists include McArthur Binion and Noah Saterstrom.  


BREAK 10:15 - 10:30 a.m.  


Panel 2: Trauma and Memory  10:30-11:45 a.m.

From the institution of slavery to the racial terror of the Jim Crow era to the present, pain has marked the history of Mississippi, the larger South, and the nation at large. This panel considers the role that visual art, particularly monuments and memorials, plays in constructions of history, heritage, and collective memory. Moderated by art historian La Tanya Autry, panelists include artist Nona Faustine and scholars Dell Upton (UCLA) and Robert Luckett (JSU).   


Lunch  Noon – 1:00 p.m.   

Art + Conversation in the Galleries 1:00-2:00 p.m.   

Visitors will spend time together looking at works of art, guided by Museum staff and artists, and reflect on the content of the symposium panels. 


BREAK 2:00 -2:15 p.m.   


Panel 3: Race, Space, and Abstraction in the American South 2:15- 3:30 p.m.


This panel investigates race, space, and abstraction as it relates to the legacy of civil rights.  The panelists are artists whose work brings these issues to the surface: imagined space, space regulated and sectioned by laws (the black body in space), and forms of visionary representation which respond to the world and imagine it differently: the convergence of poetics and politics.  Their work also leads into a broader question: what does it mean to make art at this heated moment and in the wake of segregation's legacy? Moderated by LeRonn Brooks, panelists include artists Torkwase Dyson, Felandus Thames, and Sheila Pree Bright. 


Concluding Conversation and Reception 3:30-4:30 p.m.  

Moderated by Director Betsy Bradley  


Performance 7:00 p.m.  Rhiannon Giddens  

SOLD OUT. If you would like to be put on a wait list, email McKenzie Drake at We will email you if extra tickets are available 24 hours before the show.


Space is limited, so please register for all events you wish to attend. 


If you are interested in achieving CEU credit, please email We are offering .7 credits for the entire event, or .6 credits for attending all 3 panel discussions on Saturday.