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Two-Day Launch Events Planned for ‘American Landscapes: Meditations on Art and Literature in a Changing World’

William Dunlap (b.1944), detail of Meditations on the Landscape in Origins of Agriculture in America (1987). Wood, canvas, polymer and oil paint, steel, skakeskin, wire, flag. 48 x 96 x 24 inches. Collection of the University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses

The University Press of Mississippi in association with the University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses is celebrating the release of its latest volume in a series featuring artists and works in UMM’s collection: “American Landscapes: Meditations on Art and Literature in a Changing World.”

The publication is a result of UMM’s 2019 acquisition of William Dunlap’s seminal painting Meditations on the Landscape in Origins of Agriculture in America (1987). The acquisition was presented in an exhibition of 40 works by Southern artists curated by Dunlap and Melanie Munns Antonelli, UMM Curator of the Collections, revealing a range of interpretations of landscape.

John Alexander (b. 1945), Stars and Snakes Forever, 1980. Color pencil on paper. 36.6 x 46.5
inches (framed). Collection of John Alexander.

On the occasion of the exhibition, Friends of the University of Mississippi Museum and UMM organized a symposium featuring artists, authors, and scholars held in Oxford in March 2019 that included several of the book’s contributors.

The following contributors consider meaning in art and literature, past and present, contextualizing the nation’s history—particularly that of the American South—during a time of unprecedented change experienced since spring 2019:

  • Authors W. Ralph Eubanks, Drew Gilpin Faust, John Grisham, J. Richard Gruber, Jessica B. Harris, Lisa Howorth, Joseph M. Pierce, Julia Reed, Natasha Trethewey, and Curtis Wilkie;
  • Artists John Alexander, Jason Bouldin, Linda Burgess, William Dunlap, Ke Francis, Randy Hayes, and Carlyle Wolfe Lee;
  • Photographers Ed Croom, Huger Foote, and Sally Mann; and,
  • Museum directors Betsy Bradley, Jane Livingston, and Julian Rankin

This diverse group explores key events in American history portrayed in Dunlap’s painting, a landscape that evokes a range of narratives including the displacement and genocide of Native Americans, the enslavement of Africans, the Civil War, and William Faulkner’s fiction. Together, the contributors examine the history of landscape art and literature through the lens of the American South, connecting art with the works of major writers like Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Natasha Trethewey, and Jesmyn Ward.

Jack Spencer (b.1951), One Tree, Itta Bena, Mississippi, 2014. Archival pigment print. 25 x 36.25 inches (framed). Edition 5 of 20. Collection of Jack Spencer.

In addition to illustrated essays, transcripts from the symposium, and artworks showcased in the exhibition, 18 new essays written during the pandemic and since the events of Jan. 6, 2021, were added.

While reflecting on a time of unprecedented change and transition, the contributors underscore how key issues Dunlap addressed in his artwork remain an integral part of the national discourse today. Subjects range from the profoundly personal to the universal: the loss of a loved one to Covid-19; isolation and displacement; racial and economic justice; political division; and the power of art and literature to connect, among them.

A common theme is how meaningfully a sense of place in all its manifestations is entwined in individual and civic identity.

“Look at the art, read the writers, and know that there is something quite remarkable about the place that is home and/or known to us through art and literature,” said William Dunlap.

Publication of the book was made possible by funds from Friends of the University of Mississippi Museum.

Charlie Buckley (b.1982), Clouds over Soybeans, 2018, oil on linen, 9.75 x 9.72 x 2.25 inches
(framed). Collection of Charlie Buckley, courtesy of Southside Gallery

The Friends group is hosting a two-day launch event at the University of Mississippi on Nov. 1 and 2.

The event includes moderated discussions, gallery talks, a book signing at The Lyric Theater Oxford, and a live conversation with Gruber and Dunlap on the Thacker Mountain Radio Show.

Other participants include authors John T. Edge, W. Ralph Eubanks, Kathryn Schulz, and Curtis Wilkie; artist Ke Francis; and a conversation with journalists Casey Cep and Judy Woodruff. Honors College Dean Ethel Minor Scurlock will comment on the racial integration of the University, and Suzi Altman will exhibit her photographs of James Meredith, its first Black student.

The events are open to the public.

The fully illustrated 272-page book retails for $50.


Book Launch Events


Noon SouthTalks

Meditations on the Origins of Agriculture in America

William Dunlap and W. Ralph Eubanks

Light Lunch Provided by Friends of the Museum

University of Mississippi Museum

2:00 pm Casey Cep and Kathryn Schulz in Conversation with John T. Edge

Overby Center Auditorium

3:00 pm Reception for “I'm Still Here”: Documenting James Meredith 

Exhibition of Photographs by Suzi Altman

Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College Great Room

5:00 pm Making Art and Making Books

A Conversation with William Dunlap, Ke Francis, and J. Richard Gruber

Refreshments Provided by Friends of the Museum

Southside Gallery


9:30 am Artists of the South | 21st Century Southern Art Museums

J. Richard Gruber

An art museum director, curator, and author in conversation on issues related to Southern artists

and the role of Southern art museums in the contemporary world, including a consideration of the

significance and place of William Dunlap’s Meditations on the Origins of Agriculture in America. 

University of Mississippi Museum

1:00 pm Celebrating American Landscapes and 175th Anniversary of University of Mississippi

Lyric Theater


Julia Thornton, President, Board of Directors of Friends of the University Museum


Curtis Wilkie

America at a Crossroad

Judy Woodruff


Casey Cep and Judy Woodruff

The University of Mississippi Yesterday and Today

Ethel Young Scurlock

3:00–5:00 pm Book Signing by American Landscapes Artists and Authors

Lyric Theater

6:00 pm Thacker Mountain Radio Hour

William Dunlap, Richard Gruber and Ke Francis in conversation

The Rising Star Fife & Drum Band with Sharde Thomas

Hosts: Jim Dees and the Yalobushwhackers House Band

Lyric Theater

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