November 25, 2007

The Mad Potter Of Biloxi

On our return from Thanksgiving in NOLA, we decided it was time to cruise Hwy 90 along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. We dropped down at Gulfport and headed east through Biloxi and on to Ocean Springs before returning to I-10. We'd not wanted to 'sightsee' the effects of Katrina but now, after two years, we felt we could venture back to that beautiful stretch of beach and appreciate the efforts to reclaim the essence that we've long known.

Biloxi was our first home following our 1959 wedding. J was stationed at Keesler, AFB, and we found a 8'x42' repossessed house trailer and a park for it just across the highway from the beach. Bonfires and shrimp boils at water's edge with our many new military friends... a year long honeymoon. Much later the arrival of casinos trashed up the area but they've now been relocated (for the most part) and the miles of clean, unobstructed beaches are back... cheers! It's a beautiful drive seldom found along the Gulf in residential, much less commercial areas.

The Gulf Coast has an art museum named for the self proclaimed Mad Potter of Biloxi, George E. Ohr (1857-1915.) Recognized as one of the first American fine art potters and creatively ahead of his time, he flamboyantly attracted attention to himself to get his work recognized (sound familiar?) It seems most fitting that the new museum being built is designed by Frank Gehry whose work could also be called flamboyant... among other descriptives.

I especially wanted to check on the progress of the building(s) as the complex promises to be spectacular. It is said: "Gehry’s design included six twisting, metal-clad pavilions arranged around 26 ancient live oaks on a four-acre site. The gallery "pods” are like curved silos, and the rest are boxy pavilions with overlapping curved-metal roofs. Gehry used elements found in local architecture, such as porches and open-air belvederes, on each pavilion."

Katrina lifted and rammed a casino barge into the buildings, doing considerable damage at mid-construction. It still has a way to go with no opening date as yet but workers were active on the Saturday we were there so there is promise.

Looking toward the gulf with the four pods in center. This will house the Ohr potter collection.

The view from the highway. The building on left was most severely damaged by a casino barge lifted by a Katrina surge. The pods show lesser damage which may have already been repaired though there are still plenty of dents. The oaks seem to have lost a lot of branches but will be fine... so important to the essence of the whole.

A few more photos:
The beach beyond...


Gizmo said...

Hi, Karen--go to our website, museum, and you'll see that we have a huge community open house this Sat Dec. 1 at 10 am. Come on down!
Marjie Gowdy

KJ said...

The Ohr site tells the story much better than I... especially the photos on the bricks page at ... and yes, we've signed on for a brick! Thanks for the invite, Marjie, and glad you stopped by (she's the head honcho at the museum, folks, y'all be nice!)

Nikole said...

Not having seen the Gehry building (not even built)I guess I have a nerve objecting, but does the pottery really need such a wild expression? Sure Ohr was a flamboyant character and might even have gloried in the wildness, but is this a setting for pottery? I say this, having seen the great movie about Gehry -- he's designing the art gallery here in Toronto too -- he's a Canadian. I feel kind of snarky having looked all over the web for George Ohr's pottery and finding little, even at the museum site. Well, I guess this building will draw many people to Biloxi to look at the pottery and the exhibitions.
I can see that this destructive/constructive kind of architecture may express our times.

KJ said...

Time will tell how well Gehry's work will last. I find it exciting, especially since it is site specific in this case at least. I also suspect that Ohr, the potter, would delight in having his work associated with such an edifice... I can't imagine a better choice. Having said that, I admit to a questioning relationship with Gehry's buildings. I've seen the Weisman Museum in Minneapolis, would love to see the big G in Bilbao, Spain!