special to The Star
The Meridian Star
Iris Easterling, retired assistant professor of language and literature and curator of the Sarah Gillespie Art Museum at William Carey University, has published an extensive collection handbook for the museum. Easterling and Dr. Tommy King, president of WCU, presented the first copy to local artist Tommie Hollingsworth-Williams on Aug. 7.
The cover of the book is a watercolor painting titled “Magnolia Macrophylla” by Hollingsworth-Williams. The Sarah Gillespie Museum houses some of Hollingsworth-Williams’ pieces, and Easterling said that she felt this piece best represented the collection, made up primarily of works by Mississippi artists. Also, the magnolia is the state flower. Hollingsworth-Williams began her career as a watercolor artist in 1993 and her work has won numerous awards and been published in several magazines and books.
“The Sarah Ellen Gillespie Museum Handbook of the Collection,” a compilation of more than 600 photos of artwork from the collection, descriptions of the work, and biographical information about the artists also includes an appendix entitled, ‘Sarah Remembered’ which includes information about Gillespie.
Easterling managed Sarah Gillespie’s collection, which under her guidance became the Sarah Ellen Gillespie Museum of Art in April 2009. “To my knowledge there is not another collection like it,” said Easterling. “There is art in the collection from every decade of the twentieth century. There is art by nationally known artists, as well as those artists who were just known in their neighborhoods and have since faded into obscurity. But all contribute to helping us understand what life was like in Mississippi.”
The museum is housed on the Hattiesburg campus after having been moved from the coast campus following the destruction of the beachfront property by Hurricane Katrina. Easterling worked with countless individuals, foundations, and the university to restore the damaged collection. Considered the most complete collection of art of its kind, it is also a “closed collection” under the specifications of Miss Gillespie, thus making the handbook, a definitive record of the complete collection.
“The Sarah Ellen Gillespie Museum Handbook of the Collection” is available at Main Street Books in downtown Hattiesburg and through the Sarah Gillespie Museum of Art on the William Carey University campus.