The Mennello Museum of American Art Presents The Work of William Eggleston

Orlando, FL — May 24, 2017

The Mennello Museum of American Art is pleased to present the work of William Eggleston in their upcoming solo exhibition, The Beautiful Mysterious: The Extraordinary Gaze of William Eggleston. The exhibition will be on view from June 23 through September 3.

The Beautiful Mysterious: The Extraordinary Gaze of William Eggleston is guest curated by American novelist, Megan Abbott, and includes 36 color and black-and-white photographs from the University of Mississippi Museum’s remarkable permanent collection, including some photos never before exhibited.

Eggleston, a renowned American photographer, is acclaimed for elevating color photography and transforming ordinary scenes into fine art. Through the eye of Eggleston, nothing is ordinary, despite his photographs’ apparent depiction of ordinary things and ordinary people doing ordinary things.  Eggleston once said, “I am at war with the obvious,” a phrase curators at the Metropolitan Museum of Art thought apt enough to use as the title for a 2013 exhibition of his photographs from their permanent collection

Shannon Fitzgerald, Mennello Museum Executive Director, states “William Eggleston is the pioneer of color photography and single-handedly introduced color to the field, thus elevating photography’s place in art history and museums.  I am thrilled to share his compelling images with Orlando.”  She continues: “ His work is deeply poetic, utilizing his own invented visual language that includes the mundane in everyday life—barns, trains, cafes, motels, gas stations, parking lots, laundry lines, Coke signs—creating a distinct Southern vernacular without nostalgia or sentimentality. It is exciting to share one of America’s greatest photographers with our community.”

A Memphis native, Eggleston acquired his first camera in 1957 at age 18. During his time studying art at Ole Miss, his interest in photography grew. He soon began to experiment with color negative film. Today, Eggleston is a world-renowned innovator of color photography, transforming ordinary scenes into fine art.

The exhibition is organized by the University of Mississippi Museum, who owes its vast collection of Eggleston photographs to the generosity of Dr. William R. Ferris, scholar, author and founding director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, University of Mississippi who personally donated his collection to Ole Miss. Ferris, a photographer and longtime friend of Eggleston, describes him as “the greatest living color photographer.”  “He is the Picasso or Faulkner of what he does.” Ferris continues, “This exhibit allows everyone to know his work, which is part of the legacy of Ole Miss.”  Michael Glover, art critic for the British newspaper The Independent, agrees. His review of the 2013 opening of the permanent Eggleston installation at the Tate Modern was headlined, “Genius in colour: Why William Eggleston is the world’s greatest photographer.”

Greatest or not, art critics agree that Eggleston’s work has shaped art photography since 1976, when the Museum of Modern Art presented the now famous exhibition William Eggleston’s Guide, its first-ever solo exhibition of color photography.  Since that watershed exhibit, Eggleston’s work has influenced art photography and even filmmaking. Film directors citing his influence include John Huston, Gus Van Sant, Joel and Ethan Cohen and David Lynch.

It was Lynch who brought Eggleston to the attention of the exhibition’s guest curator, American novelist Megan Abbott, University of Mississippi’s 2013-2014 John and Renée Grisham Writer in Residence and an Edgar Award-winner.  Abbott has drawn her own inspiration from his photos for many of her novels. She helped choose the pieces for the exhibit, which capture scenes from more than two decades.  “To me, his photographs evoke entire worlds, not worlds we merely see, but worlds we feel, smell, touch,” she said. “When you look long enough at his photographs, like the gorgeous, lonely blue parking lot chosen as one of the exhibit’s central images, you get lost in it. You’re in another place.”  Acclaimed photographer, first cousin and Eggleston protégé Maude Schulyer Clay served as consulting adviser for the exhibit. In 2015, German photo book publisher Steidl produced a collection of Clay’s portraits titled Mississippi History. Steidl discovered her photographs while working with Eggleston on the multi-volume set Chrome (2011) and Los Alamos Revisited (2012).

Eggleston’s published books and portfolios, include Los Alamos (actually completed in 1974, before the publication of the Guide) the massive Election Eve (1976; a portfolio of photographs taken around Plains, Georgia before that year’s presidential election); The Morals of Vision (1978); Flowers (1978); Wedgwood Blue (1979); Seven (1979); Troubled Waters (1980); and The Louisiana Project (1980). William Eggleston’s Graceland (1984) is a series of commissioned photographs of Elvis Presley’s Graceland, depicting the singer’s home as an airless, windowless tomb in custom-made bad taste. Other series include The Democratic Forest (1989), Faulkner’s Mississippi (1990), and Ancient and Modern (1992).  In 2016, The Democratic Forest was presented in a solo exhibition at David Zwiner, New York with a new publication.

Of his 2013 Metropolitan Museum exhibition, At War with the Obvious, New York Times critic Ken Johnson writes “But photographs like Mr. Eggleston’s are not like movie images, which come in linear sequences, establishing explanatory narratives around scenes that would be mysterious, were they viewed in isolation.  There is no before and after here, so the photographs remain provocatively enigmatic, which accounts for much of their poetic resonance.  His pictures tease the mind, eliciting associations and possible meanings that swirl around them like bugs around a light bulb.”

In 2016, The New York Times Style Magazine featured Eggleston on the cover of the “Greats” edition, photographed by famed contemporary photographer Wolfgang Tillmans.  Writer Augusten Burroughs wrote “A visit with the American Master of color photography reveals him to be every bit as brilliant, confounding and heartbreakingly soulful as the pictures he makes.”

A clear spring rises somewhere on the home place, for the human strain begins there for Mr. Eggleston, and we see it in what follows: it turns into a river that runs through, or underneath, every place succeeding it.  Whatever is done to block it or stop its flow, it surfaces again.  Pure human nature proves itself in likely or unlikely places.

—Eudora Welty

William Eggleston, born in 1939 currently lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.

The Beautiful Mysterious: The Extraordinary Gaze of William Eggleston is organized by the University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses with exhibition support provided by the Friends of the Museum. Additional support by Dr. William R. Ferris and the Eggleston Artistic Trust.


Please join The Mennello Museum of American Art in celebration of the opening of The Beautiful Mysterious: The Extraordinary Gaze of William Eggleston

The City of Orlando, Friends of The Mennello Museum of American Art, The Mennello Museum Board of Trustees together with Executive Director, Shannon Fitzgerald, invite you for an evening celebrating the work of the incredibly talented artists in our community.

Preview & Opening Reception
Friday, June 23

Members-only Preview
5:30–6:30 p.m.

Public Opening Reception
Free for members | $5 for visitors
6:30 – 8:30 p.m.





  1. William Eggleston, Untitled, 1973, color photograph.
    Collection of the University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses, gift of Dr. William R. Ferris.
  2. William Eggleston, Untitled, c. 1971, color photograph.
    Collection of the University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses, gift of Dr. William R. Ferris.
  3. William Eggleston, Untitled, 1971, color photograph.
    Collection of the University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses, gift of Dr. William R. Ferris.
  4. William Eggleston, Untitled, 1977, taken in 1976, color photograph.
    Collection of the University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses, gift of Dr. William R. Ferris.


About the Musuem
The Mennello Museum of American Art, established in November 1998, is owned and operated by the City of Orlando. This intimate cultural gem located in Loch Haven Cultural Park, is just minutes from downtown Orlando, and is housed in what was once the private home of Howard Phillips, son of local philanthropist Dr. P. Phillips. Among the Mennello Museum’s many treasures is the permanent collection of paintings by self-taught artist Earl Cunningham (1893-1977), which was generously donated from the collection of Michael A. Mennello and Marilyn Logsdon Mennello.

On view now through June 18, OUR ORLANDO and AMERICAN YOUTH: OUR IDENTITY. OUR ORLANDO presents the work of five rising local artists who have shaped the visual fabric of The City Beautiful through art. Supporting and fostering the creativity of Orlando’s talented teen artists, AMERICAN YOUTH: OUR IDENTITY aspires to empower rising high school artists throughout Orlando, providing a space for engagement and conversations about their art.

The Mennello Museum is located at 900 E. Princeton Street, Orlando, FL 32803. · ·


The Mennello Museum of American Art is generously supported by the City of Orlando and Friends of The Mennello Museum of American Art. Additional funding is provided by Orange County Government through the Arts & Cultural Affairs Program and United Arts of Central Florida.

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Francesca Ascione
Marketing & Graphic Design Coordinator
The Mennello Museum of American Art and Public Art, City of Orlando