OXFORD, Miss. – The 50th anniversary of James Meredith’s enrollment as the first black student at the University of Mississippi is still months away, but the event is commemorated in a special exhibit on display at Gallery 130 in Meek Hall through Feb. 29.
“Not Everyone (can carry the weight of the world)” is a sound installation by artists Les Christensen and John Salvest. Created as “a celebration of one man’s courage, determination and perseverance against incredible odds,” the work – like many sound installations – has visual elements that accompany the sound, but the focus is not what you see but what you hear.
The exhibit concludes Feb. 29 with a 2:30 p.m. lecture by both Salvest and Christensen in the gallery, followed by a reception. Both are free and open to the public. Gallery hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays.
The piece concentrates on Meredith’s bravery as a human being said Christensen, a sculptor and director of the Bradbury Gallery at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.
“We focused on his stoicism, his unbelievable ability to stand firm,” she said. “He never complained. He put a smile on his face and went forward.”
The artists wanted to create something that is more than just a work of art. They hope the work honors Meredith, the anniversary of the university’s integration and Black History Month, Christensen said.
“What he did enriched all of our lives in so many ways, and for that he is a hero,” she said.
Christensen’s work has been recognized with a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship Award in Sculpture and exhibitions at the National Museum for Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.; Galerie Quartair, in The Hague, Netherlands; New Orleans Museum of Art; Memphis Brooks Museum of Art; and Biennale of Contemporary Art in Florence, Italy.
Salvest, professor of art at Arkansas State University, has won numerous awards and grants, including National Endowment for the Arts fellowships. He has completed public art projects for the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts in Memphis and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, among others. The Cannon Center project was cited as one of the country’s best public art projects by Americans for the Arts. His work has been reviewed and featured in Art in America, The New York Times, The Village Voice, Sculpture, Art Papers, The New Art Examiner, NUMBER and ArtLies.
For more information on exhibits at Gallery 130, go to https://www.olemiss.edu/depts/art/facilities_gallery130.html.