Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Jezebella on Tour: Vicksburg

Last Friday I hied forth, northward, to Vicksburg, Mississippi, to visit Margaret's Grocery, a folk art environment/church/installation art/yard show created by one Revered H.D. Dennis and his late wife Margaret. Reverend Dennis has now moved into some sort of "convalescent home", which I suspect means "institution for the warehousing of poor old people". The deacon from his church brought him over to visit with us and unlock the grocery and the bus/church for us to visit.

The whole thing was designed by the preacher to attract attention on Business Highway 61, so they would stop, and he could preach to them. I am personally not a giant fan of folk art/yard shows/whatever you want to call them, because they exist on the razor's edge right next to hoarding, and hoarding gives me the willies. I watch those hoarding tv shows like other people watch horror movies. I only made it to the front room of Margaret's Grocery, which was the only part he decorated anyway. The living quarters were dark, freezing cold, crumbling, crowded, and floors felt like they would fall in. I walked into the second room and turned right back around. No sir, Jezebella does not enjoy such environments.

The front room and the bus - the rooms decorated with all manner of ephemera, from Mardi Gras beads to foam food trays with plastic balls glued to them, xeroxes of articles about the preacher, photos, letters, and whatnot - they were a sight to behold. I'm torn about the preservation issue: the whole place is like a man-made garden, as it was constantly in process when the preacher and Margaret lived there. Now that they're gone, it's declining, and if someone else were to start "preserving" it, what would happen? Would it still be the same garden if a new gardener took over? Without the person living in the environment, the experience is more elegiac than abundant.

I think the ideal solution would be to remove the bus to a folk art museum, remove the front room's furnishings and re-install them elsewhere, document everything thoroughly, and let it go. Some things are ephemeral, and meant to be that way. Without the preacher, the place is an empty nest.

After a cold, windy morning with the preacher, we drove into downtown Vicksburg to visit the Attic Gallery. Again, not a huge fan of the folk art, but I did find a few things to buy. In fact, most of the people with me bought something. Then we at at Rusty's, a seafood joint, with outstanding no-nonsense service and friggin delicious banana cream pie.

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