Walk into the dining room of City Grocery, and you might feel like you stepped into a portal. Surrounded by neat rows of familiar-looking scenes in watercolor, take a closer look and you will see Oxford through the extraordinary lens of local artist Anne Scott Barrett.
“Anne Scott Barrett is a Mississippi native born in Yazoo City and in a long-term relationship with Oxford.” This line from Anne Scott’s bio on her web page provides a perfect introduction to the vibe of her new series of paintings depicting Oxford from the past few decades. For those of us who are also in a long-term relationship with Oxford, or are perhaps born-and-raised locals, Anne’s paintings, Postcards from the Edge, will summon plenty of nostalgia for “those days.”
A combination of opportunities, from Yoknapatawpha Arts Council’s Visual Artists Series to a loaner studio on The Square from which to paint, led Anne Scott to immersing herself in a project she had long wanted to complete.
“I had been working at the University for ten years,” Anne said, “and I decided I needed to really focus on painting, because I have been saving photographs from decades of roaming around town—especially at night and being silly and drunk with everybody all the way from the ‘90s through currently. I always thought I [would] do paintings of these photographs, because they capture the feelings and the places and times that are gone now, like Parrish’s and Smitty’s and Two Stick and Longshot … places that, when you live here long enough, you recognize from habit of driving by like Three Way and the ‘Dumpster Rooster’—everybody knows that one.”
Even if you’re newer to Oxford, you will recognize the magic in Barrett’s paintings that holds Oxford true to itself—beneath the glossy exterior of a growing, gentrified community, a grittier core remains. The images are identifiable, even when they are slightly off-kilter, surreally depicting Oxford from a perspective that most residents and frequent visitors will find familiar.
The paintings capture “these nighttime, fuzzy, parts-missing sensations that the ‘90s and the 2000s in Oxford had,” Anne said. “It wasn’t all bright and shiny and pretty. It was still kinda funky and neon-lit and it wasn’t so super fancy, it was just barely on its way to being super fancy.”
Many of the paintings portray a bygone era, but a few are more contemporary scenes, such as the marquee of The Lyric in “What’s Going On” and the previously mentioned “Dumpster Rooster,” an ornery bird that terrorized the Three Way Grocery and White Oak Lane neighborhood up until a few years ago. Others, like “Doorknob Navigation,” and “Balcony Beckons,” show landmarks that remain, however in earlier stages of their existence.
“But then you have the one of City Grocery,” Anne said, of “Universe in Reverse.” “It’s pre-renovated City Grocery [bar] from the perspective that you’re looking at it from the mirror, so the painting itself is backwards, but if you … look at it in a mirror, it comes correct.”
“So that’s part of what is so neat about having everything in the dining room of City Grocery—wherever you sit you can see a reflection of all these paintings, and it becomes this time portal. They just keep going and going and reflecting and reflecting. Everything has that waking dream sensation.”
Although this is Anne Scott’s first series of paintings, whether you are new to Oxford or a longtime denizen, you are sure to have seen her work around town. Concert posters, logos, and murals make up a large body of her work, including the famous Proud Larry’s logo and murals. Tate Moore of Square Pizza has a huge collection of her concert posters hanging in his restaurant, a genre of work that includes bands like Widespread Panic, Fugazi, and of course, “the hometown heroes, Kudzu Kings.”
“It’s an ode to those years that I’ve done all that work around Oxford that’s just kind of faded into the sheetrock here,” Anne said.
The paintings will be on display in the dining room of City Grocery through the end of October. All the originals are available for sale now. You can either buy them directly at the restaurant or purchase through her website, AnneScottBarrett.com. Additionally, there will be twenty prints of each painting for sale, priced at under $200 each, also available on her website beginning October 1.