Mississippi Museum of Art exhibit to feature Noah Saterstrom, former Natchez resident

Published 12:37 pm Tuesday, February 13, 2024

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The Mississippi Museum of Art announced its upcoming presentation of What Became of Dr. Smith, a large-scale, panoramic narrative painting by contemporary artist Noah Saterstrom.

The exhibition delves into the life of Saterstrom’s great-grandfather, a traveling optometrist whose struggle with and treatment for mental illness led to his erasure from family history. The exhibition is curated by Megan Hines, Ph.D., and will be on view from April 20 to Sept. 22, 2024.

In 2017, Saterstrom embarked on a years-long search in state, local and private archives for information about Dr. D.L. Smith.

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The artist eventually discovered that his great-grandfather spent the final four decades of his life at the Mississippi State Insane Hospital, also known as the Old Asylum, in Jackson, and later in nearby Whitfield. What Became of Dr. Smith expands on Saterstrom’s recent exploration of his Mississippi ancestry and suppressed Southern histories.

The exhibition comprises three sections: Saterstrom’s monumental painting composed of 183 canvases spanning 122 feet; historical artifacts from Dr. Smith’s life, including letters, newspaper clippings and photographs; and an area dedicated to The Asylum Hill Project, a research consortium committed to uncovering the history of the Old Asylum and memorializing the approximately 7,000 individuals whose remains were recently discovered there.

Raised in Natchez and now based in Nashville, Saterstrom received a BFA from the University of Mississippi and an MFA from Glasgow School of Art, Scotland.
His paintings and drawings are in public and private collections worldwide.
They have recently been exhibited at Carol Robinson Gallery in New Orleans, La.; Fischer Galleries in Ridgeland, Ms and Julia Martin Gallery in Nashville, Tn., among other venues in North Carolina, New York, Washington, and Arizona.
Saterstrom has held residencies at HRH Prince Charles’s Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, Scotland; Morris and Spottiswood in Glasgow, Scotland; Virginia Center for Creative Arts in Amherst, Va.; and Exploded View Microcinema in Tucson, Az. Saterstrom was formerly a regular contributor to Nashville Arts Magazine.
His painting Maeve (2019) is the cover art of Ann Patchett’s book The Dutch House (Harper Collins, 2019).
Another work, Road to Shubuta (2016) was included in Mississippi Museum of Art’s 2017 exhibition Picturing Mississippi (1817–2017): Land of Plenty, Pain and Promise and later acquired by the Museum.
Throughout the pandemic, Saterstrom participated in the Artist Support Pledge on Instagram, generating funds for fellow artists while developing a global following of collectors and fans of his work.

In addition to the exhibition, MMA proudly announces its partnership with the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) in Jackson.

This collaboration builds on existing art therapy programs at UMMC and MMA to illuminate art’s transformative power to address mental health issues and intergenerational trauma.

To kick off this special exhibition, MMA will host What Became of Dr. Smith Opening Programs on April 20 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

It will be a full day of engaging talks and presentations that explore the captivating stories behind Saterstrom’s monumental work.

Betsy Bradley, Laurie Hearin McRee Director of MMA, said, “We first featured Noah’s work during our Picturing Mississippi exhibition in 2017. When I heard him speak about his story during a panel discussion related to the exhibition, I was immediately captivated. Noah’s story is both complex and courageous, and I knew MMA was the ideal venue to showcase this exhibition. I’m also immensely grateful to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History which has been a pivotal resource for Noah’s research efforts.”

“Noah’s exhibition is an excellent example of the arts informing the sciences – especially the bio-medical sciences,” said Ralph Didlake, MD, a former surgeon and UMMC leader who directs the Asylum Hill Project. “The sick and injured come to us in social, cultural, and circumstantial contexts that impact their treatment and their outcome. The better we understand these contexts, the better we can care for our patients. It is through the arts that we can gain this understanding.”

For more information, please visit www.msmuseumart.org.

This exhibition is made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (#MA-251867-OMS-22) and the Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.