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Stella Jones Gallery sings Mahalia Jackson’s praise

Mahalia Jackson's altar

One hundred years ago today a star was born in New Orleans.

Mahalia Jackson, the acclaimed African-American gospel singer, brought a new fervor to gospel music, infusing the traditional religious message of her songs with popular blues rhythms. Almost 40 years after her death, she is lauded as a legend in both gospel and secular music.
This fall the Stella Jones Gallery celebrates this queen of gospel music with a mixed-media exhibition featuring 55 local and national artists. Jackson’s “Nommo,” which gallerist Stella Jones refers to as the “magical power of the word,” bears witness to “the spiritual force of black women” and is evidence of the vibrancy of the pieces in the exhibition.

Monica Tryan's "Mahalia"

Monica Tryan's "Mahalia"

Many works, such as Monica Tyran’s “Mahalia,” depict the gospel queen belting lyrics with her eyes closed. Their visual imagery evokes the passion of Jackson’s voice and the joy she found in singing and in the religious message of her songs.

Wadsworth Jarrell’s “Come Sunday, “is derived from the journey in life of this great lady who could electrify an audience” and uses iconography of a cross and bell to evoke a church, a fan to depict relief for those in “non-air-conditioned churches,” and a bouquet as a traditional post-performance symbol of praise.

To Jarrell and many others who are familiar with Jackson’s voice, her spirit lives on and its powerful essence is certainly captured in this exhibition. Her spirit is depicted in a variety of media, but all possess the power and vitality of this force of a woman.

Wadsworth Jarrell's multi-pannel piece evokes the many dimensions of Mahalia

Stella Jones Gallery will continue to celebrate Ms. Jackson with a Day of the Dead Celebration at the in-gallery devotional alter on Tuesday, November 1, at 6:00 p.m. and on Saturday, December 1, by playing her favorite Christmas carols. The exhibition, Mahalia: Queen of Gospel Music, will run through December 31.

Brianna Smyk has an M.A in Art History from San Diego State University. She lives and works in New Orleans and writes about arts and culture for NolaVie. Read more of Brianna’s articles at


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