Walter Anderson’s Murals Sing Out

Across time—and art forms—Mississippi roots musician Luther Dickinson brings the artist’s famed Ocean Springs murals to life

The first time Luther Dickinson stepped onto the aged plank floor of the Ocean Springs Community Center in coastal Mississippi, he knew. As he walked amid the mural-covered walls, a maelstrom of colors towering twelve feet from floor to ceiling in all directions, the renowned artist Walter Anderson’s seventy-year-old masterpiece, Seven Climates of Ocean Springs, came alive to the rhythm of his own footsteps.

Known for his work leading Hill Country blues preservationists the North Mississippi Allstars and his lead-guitar tenure with the Black Crowes, Dickinson heard Anderson’s trees as strong major chords. Diminished and augmented variations sprouted as hardy limbs. Melodies twinkled on fluttering leaves and rose into the spiral motifs that repeat again and again on the walls. “It was the first time I looked at art and heard music,” he whispers as he takes in the murals again, a few hours before he and a group of fellow musicians give a performance inspired by these works. Retracing his steps, Dickinson snaps his fingers in rhythm, pointing out the nuances of Anderson’s creation. “I looked at the art and saw the stage and said, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got to play music here.’” 

Since 2016, Dickinson has done just that, performing at the center annually except for a pause in 2020. On May 15, he will resume the series outside the Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs (which will also celebrate its thirtieth anniversary that day), using digital projection to re-create the murals in an immersive, open-air experience.

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Published by Garden & Gun, April/May 2021