Fielder’s work represents Mississippi

By M. SCOTT MORRIS / NEMS Daily Journal

BILOXI – When the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art officially opens on Saturday, it’ll feature seven distinct pieces of pottery by Marietta’s Helene Fielder.
Most of the exhibit space at the new museum, named in part after famed Mississippi potter George Ohr, is dedicated to artists with national reputations.
But a portion has been reserved to highlight work by Mississippians, and Fielder is the first.
“She’s in love with texture and color, and uses the clay as a canvas, if you will, but the pieces stand as sculptures,” said Denny Mecham, executive director of the Biloxi museum. “Her pieces are very dynamic, intensive work and very sophisticated.”
Mecham served as juror of the 2009 GumTree Festival in Tupelo, where Fielder earned Best in Show honors.
“She called me and asked if I wanted to be the first exhibitor,” Fielder said. “I didn’t realize that I was going to be showing with such big names.”
Of course, the museum includes work by its namesake, Ohr, who went beyond traditional pottery in ways that were off-putting to some during his lifetime.
“He didn’t become famous until after he died,” Fielder said. “His work was so different. He opened the doors for other potters after him to say, ‘Hey, we don’t have to make pottery that people expect.’”
The museum also features selected prints by Andy Warhol, sculptures by Richmond Barthé and ceramic work by Jun Kaneko.
“We really like the idea of having an eclectic, interesting and challenging mix,” Mecham said.
Fielder’s work is in the Welcome Center, which is free to visitors. Some of her smaller pieces will be for sale in the gift shop.
Her set of seven sculptures will be on display until June 12, when work by another Mississippi potter, Brian Nettles of Pass Christian, will take over the space.
“This is an opportunity for visitors to see Mississippi work at its best,” Mecham said. “Helene’s work is a great way to start. I think people will be excited by the quality that’s on display.”

Contact M. Scott Morris at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@djournal.com.