By W. Derek Russell
TUPELO – The image of a snake with its tail in the mouth shows an endless cycle of everything feeding back on itself, creating a circle that connects things to one another. In Ke Francis’ case, it’s the symbol that fuels Hoopsnake Press, where paintings can inspire stories, stories can lead to images and so forth.
The Hoopsnake Press was founded in 1970 by multimedia artist Francis on Coley Road in Tupelo. At its inception, the press consisted of one etching press and facilities to print small scale etchings and woodcuts.
Over time, the space expanded, moving to research space at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, where Francis established a collaborative publishing venture, becoming the director of the press. The Tupelo facilities have since revamped, combining attributes from both locations to the original location. In his time at the University of Central Florida, Francis taught many students, but one group stood out to him.
“They were going through their BFA program at the same time,” GumTree Museum of Art executive director Belle Naugher said. “They all took Ke’s class together their final semester and he invited them personally to come and use his press and to show them the business of art and how their dollar can go further in a rural area like Tupelo instead of a place like New York.”
The students – who hail from all over the world – now have their art on display at the GumTree Museum of Art.
“It’s exciting, fresh subject matter,” Naugher said. “It’s about torment and the battles we go through as humans in our day-to-day life, but this is a different way to show it. I always say that art is therapy. We all go through things throughout our lives that are tumultuous and stressful, and this is art that shows how you can put your emotions down for others to see as a way of working through them.”
Four artists are currently on display in the “Where Identities Meet” exhibit, on display until Sept. 13, with three more of Francis’ pupils up next beginning Sept. 20 with an opening reception on Sept. 22 at 5:30 p.m. for the “State of Flux” exhibit.
“The Hoopsnake Press Associate Artists are a group of talented young artists whose artistic interests and aesthetic concerns parallel the mission of the press,” Francis said. “They are skilled professionals with unique personal visions. I am pleased the GumTree Museum has offered them the opportunity to display their artworks to the community.”
The museum is open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. For more details on the exhibit, call (662) 844-2787.