The Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi, a Frank Gehry-designed space dedicated to the work of “The Mad Potter” George Ohr, weathered design challenges, protected oak trees which had to be built around, a hurricane and an errant floating casino which smashed into it after the first stage of its construction was completed way back in 2004.
That’s just a smattering of the troubles that befell the project, which CFile Chief Editor Garth Clark politically described as “problematic” in his interview with director Kevin O’Brien back in March. It was the museum’s goal to open its doors on July 12, in time for Ohr’s 157th birthday. They hit that goal and celebrated with cupcakes decorated with mustaches made from icing, proving that not even death can save you from the reputation earned by strange facial hair.
The Sun Herald has the full story of the opening ceremonies. The pod houses five cases which show off a variety of Ohr’s pottery works. Now, work begins as the museum seeks the support of a local community who have seen the project stranded in development purgatory for years and of national scholars who have criticized the museum for focusing too-strongly on Ohr’s eccentric personality. With this in mind, we think the reporter did well to grab this quote from Ohr collector Marty Shack, who cuts cleanly through minor distractions like a riverboat casino smashing the place in 2004 and re-focuses the discussion on Ohr and his gifts.
“‘He was doing things that had never been done before or never seen before,’ (said Shack). ‘He turned clay into the most contemporary thing that the world has ever seen. Even today, it exists where nothing else like it has ever existed. Other than being different, nobody ever dreamed of putting those colors together — it’s almost like a living object.’
“‘When you look at it, it brings out emotions and everything that is art. It stirs you and becomes emotion and when you walk away you can see it even with your eyes closed. That’s what Ohr does to you.'”
Bill Rodgers is a Contributing Editor at CFile.
Featured image: Mythic mustaches from the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi, Mississippi. Photographs by Tim Isbell of the Sun Herald.
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