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Abstract

The Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi, Mississippi, is the preeminent repository for the works of visionary Biloxi-born pottery master George E. Ohr (1857-1918). During his youth, Ohr was an apprentice to potter Joseph Fortune Meyer for approximately one year in New Orleans. It was during this time that he began to hone his artistic skills and to learn the mechanics of the pottery trade. After his apprenticeship, he traveled to potteries in sixteen states and numerous World's Fairs to learn about techniques and glazes. He came back from his travels and assisted Meyer once again in New Orleans at the New Orleans Art Pottery, which was formed to glaze and fire pottery for the Ladies Decorative Arts League and operated under the auspices of Tulane University. Through this combination of traveling and apprenticing, Ohr developed his own vanguard style and manipulation of the clay medium. His once unappreciated and unvalued ceramic art pieces were embraced by the art world during the latter part of the twentieth century and exhibited in such venues as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Ceramic Art and the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. Converse to aesthetic notions that were pervasive during the late-nineteenth century, Ohr's whimsical and abstract ceramic masterpieces are injected with a delightful sense of humor; he did, after all, proclaim himself as "The Mad Potter of Biloxi". He is widely considered to be a pioneer of the Modernist movement, and his inimitable art pieces continue to expand the boundaries of American art as a whole. While Ohr's aesthetic originality and expert craftsmanship have been embraced only since the late-twentieth century, the Ohr O'Keefe Museum of Art stands to bear witness to a host of innovative artists for years to come. In tandem with the innovative spirit of George E. Ohr, the Museum proudly presents its newest exhibition, Visions: Art Outside the Box , which encompasses the self-revelatory work of five artists with deep Mississippi and Louisiana roots: Theodore Brooks, Martin Green, Charles W. St. Julien, Dr. Charles Smith and Willie White. These artists inhabit various mediums but all exemplify the visionary artistic experience of self-reflection, inventiveness, imagination and expression. This culturally rich and exceedingly diverse collection provides insight into the artistic heritage that pervades the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

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