a collage of Grady Byrd's iconic works

Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Jackson County Campus Fine Arts Gallery is proud to present the exhibit “Retrospective,” featuring the artwork of Grady Byrd. The show will run until October 29.

Byrd of Ocean Springs has been one of the most prominent artists of the Gulf Coast since 1970. In high school, he was awarded a first-place medal from the Mississippi Art Association’s statewide competition and a Mississippi College art scholarship. As a U.S. Marine, Byrd was a staff artist for Leatherneck magazine, and later a combat artist for the Camp Lejeune Globe.

Moving back home to Ocean Springs after his service, Byrd gained prominence by being a consistent winner in the Edgewater Plaza Annual Tri-State Art Exhibit. His oil painting “Lill Cruso” won three awards in one show in this exhibit and was later chosen to be cast in bronze on the Biloxi Bay Bridge.  His water-black painting “Sea Harvest” won most outstanding seascape in any media and was selected for the permanent collection of the Edgewater Plaza Merchant’s Association. He received the Judge’s Award of Excellence for his pencil rendering of “Bogue Chitto Blues” in the 2000 Singing River Fine Art Association Show.

A 1984 vision of Mother Teresa in his mother’s hospital room inspired Byrd to create her portrait, and with her blessing, make prints for contributions to her relief fund handled by the Biloxi Knights of Columbus. The Archbishop of New Orleans was so impressed he used the image for the cover of Mother Teresa’s Prayer Service for the Poor brochure in 1984. Additional prints were requested to be given as gifts to the volunteers during the visit. Prints were also delivered by the artist to Mother Teresa’s National Convention in Peoria, Illinois, for distribution to her 34 missions in the U.S. and Canada. Upon request, the artist provided a giclée artist proof of the portrait for her center in San Ysidro, Mexico.

His act of charity and faith was rewarded two years later with the discovery of one of the prints by Marken Graphics of New Orleans, during a search for an appropriate artistic style for a commemorative poster of Pope John Paul II for his second pastoral visit to the U.S. in September 1987. When Byrd’s art was viewed by Archbishop Hannan of New Orleans, he was so impressed that he sent unsolicited letters of recommendation for the posters to all the archdioceses on the visit. The mixed media painting is hanging in the New Orleans Archdioceses’ foyer and was well received by the Holy Father.

Further international exposure resulted in one of his water-black originals, “Last Few Minutes,” (of his mother and young daughter on her lap) being chosen for the U.S. State Department’s Art in Embassy Program to be exhibited at the American Embassy in Bridgetown, Barbados, for two years.

Today’s Art, a trade magazine published in New York, saw Byrd’s work and did a feature story on his original “water-black” style.  Elevating black-and-white acceptance with representation of prominent fine art galleries and museums and unprecedented sale prices is the artist’s proudest achievement.

Other publications include a feature story in Art Voices South; cover art and 32 illustrations for the book “Unnatural Resources”; front and back covers for “A Banker’s Daybook”; “Biloxi and World History” by Glen L. Swetman, Peoples Bank president; inclusion in “Moods of Mississippi,” a collection of visual and written works of state artists with a pencil rendering entitled “Fishermen III”; and a cover story for Intermission Art and Theatre magazine.

Byrd’s work “Bogue Chitto Blues,” was executed on handmade bark paper with pencil and has won numerous awards. The most prestigious was the top-10 finalist in the people and figures contest of International Artist magazine and was featured in the 2006 December-January issue. There were 1,600 worldwide entries. Byrd was also the featured artist in the August-September 2007 issue of the magazine, in an eight-page article depicting 11 of his works.

Five duotone silkscreen prints were selected to hang in the Museum of the Southwest in Midland, Texas, along with fellow renowned artists Thomas Hart Benton, Peter Hurd and G. Harvey.  Additional accomplishments include being one of the artists chosen to participate in the First Annual Walter Anderson Museum of Art Show, “Coastal Artists Reflect on Walter Anderson.” The work Byrd created for this show was a watercolor entitled “Pair of Souls.”

Byrd and Emmitt Thames were featured artists in the campus’s Fine Art Gallery 2011 Art Show “Keeping It Real.” The show included 55 originals valued at more than a quarter of a million dollars, earning a second title of “The Last Great Picture Show.”  Byrd’s latest honor was the inclusion of his Dominican Republic combat art in the National Museum of the Marine Corps Combat Art Gallery in Quantico, Virginia, along with artists Tom Lovell, John Clymer, Charles Waterhouse, James Montgomery Flagg, Howard Terpning and Henry Casselli.

For a virtual tour of the exhibit, along with an artist’s interview, visit mgccc.edu/grady-byrd-retrospective.

MGCCC’s Jackson County Campus Fine Arts Gallery is open Monday – Friday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.  For more information about the exhibit, contact Gallery Director Marc Poole at marc.poole@mgccc.edu.


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