The Oxford Eagle
A city treasured for its unique history and appreciation of the arts, Oxford has established itself as a community in which artists grow and share their work.
Mary Frances Ratliff, a Georgia native and University of Mississippi student, was inspired by the overwhelming display and admiration for the arts when she arrived on campus her freshman year.
“Being in Oxford has definitely influenced my art successfully because of the general love for art here,” Ratliff said.
Ratliff has not only been inspired by the Oxford art community, but it has also provided a fresh canvas of ideas for her.
“I’ve gotten so many great ideas on new things to paint here that have been good to sell in Oxford, and even back in my hometown,” Ratliff said.
Campus Greek life has also helped Ratliff’s art thrive, since many sorority women pay skilled artists to paint canvases with their sorority letters.
A sorority woman herself, Ratliff has filled many requests from friends and sorority sisters to make chapter-inspired art.
“I met a variety of girls while living in a dorm last year, and they all joined different sororities, so I’ve had the opportunity to make a lot of sorority-inspired stuff for them, which has been really fun,” Ratliff said.
Showing an interest in art from a very young age, Ratliff began selling her work in high school. She was surprised how much people in Oxford were willing to pay for her art.
“Coming to Ole Miss, I learned that people will pay more for paintings in Oxford than back in my hometown,” Ratliff said.
Ratliff enjoys painting various subjects, and never turns down a client’s request for a new idea.
“I really like painting cute patterns and sayings, but when I have time, I like to paint more challenging things like nature, animals, and people,” she said. “All of my paintings are so different from each other, and I’m always down to paint something new.”
Intrigued by her own creativity, Ratliff doesn’t model her work after any one artist, but instead, blends styles of different ones.
“I’m not really attached to a certain artist, I just like to take different pieces from random artists, and try to paint them and make them more of my own version of the painting. I also really like painting on my own and seeing what I can come up with,” Ratliff said.
Taking a different approach to painting, UM student Emmy Wood specializes in black and white portraits of musicians.
“I started painting my sophomore year of high school,” Wood said, “I took the required art class we needed to graduate and ended up liking it more than I thought I would.”
Arriving on campus her freshman year, Wood, like Ratliff, was surprised at the contrast in art styles between Oxford and her hometown.
“Oxford art is just different than other types of art,” Wood said. “It’s different than my hometown of Franklin, Tennessee, because it has Mississippi-inspired aspects to it.”
Wood has successfully used social media and word-of-mouth marketing to expand her client base since she began selling her artwork this summer.
The price people are willing to pay for one of her black and white portraits is impressive.
“The price of the painting depends on the size of the canvas, but I’ve sold my work for anywhere from $50-$250,” Wood said.
Wood said some of her paintings reflect the Ole Miss school spirit.
“I love to paint Col. Rebel as well, and this is obviously the place to do it at,” Wood said.
Like most other artists, Wood has a muse – an artist based out of Ocean Springs, Mississippi.
“There are a few artists based out of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, that I look up to,” Wood said. “One’s name is Jean McKee, and I’d really love to be able to do what she does. The way the light hits the water in her paintings is really cool.”
Besides modeling her technique after McKee’s, Wood creates art based on the feelings she has in the moment.
Although both Ratliff and Wood aren’t art majors, they have expressed interest in intertwining their passions with their careers one day.
“Right now, I’m business undeclared, but I’m going to change it to real estate and add interior design,” Ratliff said. “I really love interior design and think I’ll be able to use art to help me be creative and succeed with that.”