‘Big’ Joe Shelton more than bluesman

Bluesman "Big" Joe Shelton is bringing "Cryptic Intent" to the Louise Campbell Center for the Arts. (Submitted photo)
Staff Writer

Known internationally in the Blues world for his vocals and harmonica, as well as songwriting skills, "Big" Joe Shelton is just as talented in the art world. He applies his education, experiences and natural talent to produce his own version of the world around him.

Opening Sunday, Jan. 12 in the Louise Campbell Center for the Arts is a new exhibit “Cryptic Intent” featuring the photo digital collages of Shelton. The opening reception is from 2-3:30 p.m.

A gallery talk by Shelton during the opening will give viewers insight into his methods and motivations.

A resident of Columbus, Shelton is a visual and musical artist whose award-winning work has been featured in shows and galleries throughout the United States.

“These manipulated photo digital collages were created using Photoshop computer software to create an illusion of seamlessly blended reality,” Shelton said. “The Mannequin Series are manipulated photo digital collages depicting a surreal, fantasy world inspired by an antique mannequin discovered at a yard sale.”

The exhibit is free and open to the public.

“Some of the figures are juxtaposed within an environment reminiscent of the classical paintings of Renaissance masters," Shelton said. "While the African masks pay homage to Picasso's fascination with them in many of his works.”

Shelton began to study art while a student at East Mississippi Community College, where he was encouraged to use his creativity by his mentor Jon Whittington. Shelton continued his studies in studio art at Mississippi State University, where he was awarded the Undergraduate Painting Award at the 1975 Mississippi Collegiate Competition, and as a graduate student in printmaking at Northern Illinois University, where he held a graduate teaching assistant position.

Shelton is a two-time Mississippi Arts Commission’s Artist Fellowship recipient, a member of the Mississippi Arts Commission’s Artist's Roster and a member of the Mississippi Arts Commission’s Folk Life/Folk Art Directory. For 30 years, his glass studio, Mid-South Stained Glass, has created stained, beveled, etched, and leaded glass panels for churches, businesses and homes throughout the region.

The harmonica player has done several “Blues in the Schools” programs in Mississippi with King and drummer “Wild” Bill Williams. Shelton is included on the Columbus/Catfish Alley Mississippi Blues Trail Marker, and the title track of his 2012 release, "The Older I Get The Better I Was," garnered a nomination for song of the year at the 33rd Blues Music Awards Ceremony presented by the Blues Foundation of Memphis, Tennessee.

"The music-themed photographs were shot during years of my ramblings as a blues musician,” Shelton said.

Shelton's music has been at the top of numerous worldwide radio charts and has received rave reviews in national and international blues publications. The Columbus native has performed at festivals and clubs throughout the United States, including West Point’s Prairie Arts and the Black Prairie Blues Festival. He also has toured England, France, Belgium, Bulgaria, and the Netherlands.

The exhibit is sponsored by the West Point/Clay County Arts Council, and will hang through Feb. 28.

The LCCA will be staffed on some Wednesdays 1-4 p.m. for visitors to see the show.

For more information or to schedule a tour of the exhibit at another day or time, contact Kathy Dyess at 662-494-5678 or Julie Gray at 662-295-0461.