Meet the Ko'ox Krewe: Liz Allen & Meriweather Bean

Meriweather Bean, Liz Allen & I (Alex Melnick) will travel to Yucatán in late May to work with the community of Yaxhachen, the home of Camp Ko'ox. Learn more about how to show your support for the camp  here ! 

Meriweather Bean, Liz Allen & I (Alex Melnick) will travel to Yucatán in late May to work with the community of Yaxhachen, the home of Camp Ko'ox. Learn more about how to show your support for the camp here

I always say this, but I will say it again. I have the best co-workers in the world. Part of the reason Ko'ox Boon works so well is that all of us get along famously, and all love to spend time with each other. (We better, if we're going to live at Kaxil Kiuic, Millsaps College's 4,500 acre Bio-cultural Reserve, together for six weeks this summer!)

I hold in my heart a special place for two particular Ko'ox Booners: Meriweather Bean & Liz Allen. These Boon Babes, as I call them, are to thank for much of Ko'ox Boon's success in Jackson. Bean and Liz are the wind between my wings and the frijoles to my arroz. We all spend a lot of time together and go on adventures, from Cafe Ole to late night facetimes & phonecalls & giggling endlessly.  The Boon Babes all have each others' back and want nothing more than to help each other succeed. I'm always chatting it up on the Arte y Vida blog, so I figured it was time for me to give them a little shout-out. Meet the Boon Babes!

Meriweather Bean

Major: Anthropology with a business minor
Fav Drink:   Sparkling Water
Fav Song:  "How Will I Know," by Whitney Houston
Fav Spanish word: frijol 

In her lessons for Camp Ko'ox, Meriweather will focus on nature walks, connecting Maya heritage to present day life in Yaxhachen, and having some good clean fun with the kids this summer. She's teaching the six to eight year olds ninos, whose group in Camp Ko'ox is informally known as the "corn grinders." She's really excited to do yoga & dance with co-leaders Alex Melnick & Shaun McDonough, despite none of us knowing how to dance. (The kids will have to teach us.) One of my favorite things about Meriweather is her "can-do" attitude and tireless cheerful spirit. No matter what obstacle or crazy thing that stands in our way, Bean (as I call her) is ready to meet it. Meriweather is also quite the traveler, having visited Yucatán before & studied abroad in Tanzania the year prior. Meriweather is the real exploradora of our group, and a very kind spirit. 


                                         Liz Allen

Major: Communications Studies, with an art history minor
Favorite song: A tie between 500 Miles by the Stranglers and Big Poppa by Notorious B.I.G.
Fav Drink:Coffee
Fav Spanish word: Oso

Liz is focusing on teaching Media Literacy this summer to the older children & helping them explore their world. From cameras to book binding, Liz & her co-leader Sara Sacks hope that they can empower students to tell their own stories. After camp, Liz will begin her Millsaps College 1 Campus 1 Community Fellowship, and spend the year connecting community members in Jackson to Millsaps & facilitating community engagement.  My favorite thing about Liz is her sense of humor, & her commitment to the Jackson community. ( Also her love of possums.) Liz has the silliest sense of humor of anyone I know. We once went to  a Mississippi's Museum of Art's Pop-Up Show & I'm pretty sure I made her cry laughing when I pointed to a (very nice) drawing of an aardvark & gravely told her: "This is a terrible cat."  I'm the least funny person I know, but Liz will always laugh with me, if not at me.  Liz is also a selfless friend and an excellent travel buddy, & an incredibly talented artist.

Reflections of Emily Simmons

Emily Simmons has the most relaxing presence. Her conversational tone is as intimate as her art and her smile always implies that she’s letting you, just you, in on a slightly embarrassing secret. Her work focuses on nautical themes, and Emily is in love with the sea. It is this love that is projected in her work, as only a lover could create pieces depicting the object of their love in such innovative ways, sketching out creatures in coffee grounds and wine stains. Emily takes the ingredients of her everyday life and then recreates it into the extraordinary into something bigger than herself.

imageEmily wants art to be comprehensible to all. It makes sense she wants to be an art teacher. An art history Senior at Millsaps College, Emily tells me serenely that she doesn’t have a “thought-out thesis or anything.” She instead tries to just make art that is authentic to herself, and that reflects her personal thoughts and experiences. (This is why there is glitter and seashell fragments everywhere in her recent work.) “I don’t like making artwork in a scholarly sense,” Emily continues. “I just like it for myself.”

When I asked her what the readers of the Ko’ox Boon blog should know about her artwork, Emily paused and said with a trace of amazement, “ I don’t know. I’ve never really had think about my artwork.” That might be the best answer. Emily’s artwork is reflexive, and as intrinsic to her as breathing or the ocean flowing through its tides. Her art is where she “wants to be, and just a representation of myself.” It’s not something she wants to write papers about. It’s something she wants to embody, and something she wants to embody her. It’s a reciprocal relationship, like the interplay between the ocean and the sand, feeding into one another.


Favorite Food? Anything. I love to cook.

Beer or Wine? Beer.

Favorite JXN Restaurant? Aladdin’s Café.

Would you rather be deaf or blind? Deaf.

Do you speak any other languages? Spanish.

What fictional universe would you want to live in? The Walking Dead.

3 Words to Describe Your Work. Ridiculous. Misunderstood. Personal.

Katelyn Gabbard: all relaxed

katie with fire

You wouldn’t guess it by looking at her. Katelyn all relaxed in her West Sixth tee and paint-stained jeans watching a documentary on Netflix. Katelyn all crazy running tree to tree. Katelyn all cool on the back porch with a coffee, ideas sparking each sip. You wouldn’t guess it, but Katelyn Gabbard wants to make a monster out of you. Yeah, and you. And that tree chunk that looks like a hip. And the iron that she can mold into whatever: broken arm, heart. The foam she can warp to look brainy, or burned.

A mixed media artist, she’ll work with anything. Anything that pumps the pulp out. The pulp. That little bit of damage that’s been done. The loose muck that sticks. Stays wedged between. Sans citrus. For Katelyn, art is freedom (to explore various realms of the self,  different media, etc.), but hers is wire-bound in the hollow dark, because she is so taken with/ disgusted by humanity. Now let’s not get too Negative Nancy, of course there are do-gooders; just look at this project: for betterment, peace, learning, sharing. But the others. Something off there. This time it's something about the teeth. (You’ll see.)

katie teeth front

katie gabbard other profile   katie gabbard teeth


One road to drive down forever/ ultimate travel destination:  Anywhere wild and free where I can be my own pioneer. Most likely in the mountains.

If you could have one super power… Time travel. Or teleportation. Salem, MA during the witch trials has always intrigued me. I’d go to that time, figure out what was really going on. Honestly, I’d probably be a witch. Go big or go home. Teleportation because I could go anywhere at any time. Go to Liverpool, watch some football, and be back in time for Netflix and dinner.

A metaphor for how you feel on Monday morning: I don’t really care about Monday mornings.

Your favorite art project as a kid: 3rd grade. Miss Gum’s class. Had to do a piece representing “movement.” Drew all these figures dancing with multi-color lights on them. She praised me on that piece and made me feel confident in my artistic abilities, which meant a lot to me. It wasn’t just mom and dad saying, “You’re so good, you’re so good, you’re so good.” 

Beer or wine? Beer. Duh. Brown ale. For the ails.

Name one experience that impacted you to become who you are today. After I completed my first wire sculpture in a University of Kentucky class in 2010, I knew. 3D was for me. I fell in love with iron pours. Pouring metal, in general. More than the art: community. I left with so many mentors and a new family that constantly pushed me to do better, instilled my current drive. Aw... I love my sculpture family...

If you were to anamorph… THE KRAKEN. UNLEASH THE KRAKEN!!! Or a dragon. I’m always the dragon. See, my nostrils do this thing where they flare... I could start as a dragon. Then, as a dragon, find my way to the ocean, and become the kraken. Really, it just depends on my mood.

What triggers your “aha” moment? Cruising on country drives with my jams.

Immediately when waking up in the morning, you… have me some coffee and a basic breakfast.

Who is your greatest role model/person that you would like to emulate? My mom. Is that a cheesy answer? She is so logical and really thinks things through. Knows how to take care of her stuff, and not lose things. Me, I’m just impulsive and can’t keep one train of thought.

What are some of the things happening in Louisville that excite you? The Tim Faulkner Gallery in Portland (the West End of town) is really amazing. It’s an old 25,000 sq. ft. warehouse converted into gallery, studio, and performance space, plus creative shops. Art lives and breathes there. And so do I.

For you, what does the 50//50 project mean? It’s a great way to broaden horizons. Within the self and amongst people. For the artists, an opportunity to make, and more importantly, contribute. For the Ko’ox Boons kids, art again, and art is therapeutic.

If you could fly, you would go so high.

katie working close upKatelyn Gabbard received her BFA in Art Studio at University of Kentucky. For the last two years, she has been an intern at Sculpture Trails in Solsberry, Indiana. Sculpture Trails is an innovate sculptor's retreat tucked away in the woods, where artists spend all day sculpting and learning new practices.

K-Tisha--we couldn't be more honored to see you join the ranks of the Ko'ox Boon 50//50 artists. Welcome to the team!

@Couchcommunity Between the Lines

kooxboon_couchcommunityFormally trained in architecture, it's no surprise that J Humphries' visual artwork is an exploration of angles. He's interested in the way that lines intersect, the connection of forces, and how planes overlap. Within his artwork, layers and patterns pervade the visual plane and render an organic, distant familiarity that's reminiscent of architecture. A building on legs pries itself from the Earth, and the weight of gravity buckles the legs, causing a negotiation of forces--a diagram from imaginary physics. It is within this "buckle" or struggle that the artwork takes on its deepest meaning, ultimately suggesting that lines, or the built environment, are meant to bend. That we, as viewers (or more potently, as humans), are responsible for the built environment and the way that humanity interacts with this environment.

photo 4

Humphries' artwork brings to mind questions about cities, structures, environmentalism, and design, while begging that consumers prioritize design over functionality. We have long lived in an environment where design aesthetics are bastardized for one reason or another, and Humphries asks us to review our stance on this issue. These themes are timely and deeply appealing, perhaps even more so in the pieces where the artist sacrifices centrality for patterning, an exploration that is reminiscent of the art of textiles, which, like architecture, is an old art form that hinges on use-value. Humphries' reinvention of old world venues is exactly what makes his work both resonate and appealing, as well as why I'll be making a purchase at his upcoming show.



Here's sitting down with @couchcommunity

One road to drive down forever: Any road with that perfect tree canopy that makes a nature tunnel

If you could have one super power... I'd like to be better at reading minds

A metaphor for how you feel on Monday morning: Unfortunately, I don't think there is an appropriate metaphor for how much I loath Monday mornings.

Your favorite art project to teach: I'm always showing people how to relax. The best ideas I've ever had come from being comfortable and prepared for any obstacle. (Usually on a couch)

Beer or wine? Beer.

If you were to anamorph... I should probably say something that flies, explores, and discovers great things, but in reality I'd just be anything that hibernates.

What triggers your “aha” moment? Well as I said before; you just need to get comfortable for a second and let your mind be the only force. Then the ideas roll.

Immediately when waking up in the morning, you... Let the dog out, as to not be attacked with slobber.

Who is your greatest role model/person that you would like to emulate? Well this changes everyday, its like people always wanna be something they're not or so it goes, right? I have always liked Jack Nicholson though.

What are some of the things happening in Jackson that excite you? I am excited now and hope to continually be excited about my generation coming to the table with new ideas and ventures for this city. Jackson is so ready to be the progressive epicenter of the state (maybe region), and I like to think that these new creative strongholds will take charge to make this place greater.

For you, what does the 50//50 project mean? I love the idea of this project because it makes a connection between two places that have been isolated and so desperately need networking.

If you could take over the world, you would.

Couch-community already serves a large part within the Ko'ox Boon organization, and we are so proud to feature his art in the Fine Art Auction on December 11. On November 15 at the Hatch in Midtown, he will sell works at a show entitled "Works in Retrograde" along with upcoming artists Samantha Ledbetter, Audrey Bardwell, and Taylor Coleman. Be sure to make it out to pick up some pieces there! Follow @couch_community on Instagram and Twitter. He also manages Mississippi AIA's Instagram @aia_ms.

Ian Harkey Returns to Mississippi

323828_2385011785851_7862085_oIan Harkey's demeanor is reminiscent of someone that was born old. Beneath his vintage Saints hat, he encounters time quietly, observant, thumbs tucked in jeans. He's been away, far away, in New York City, and now he's come back home. There's a struggle there, it seems, like Mississippi is for many of the great artists that came before him. His artwork addresses that struggle through it's physicality. When perusing Harkey's portfolio, the overwhelming majority of his subjects are bodies. These bodies are reflected and refined through a tedious process of wood block carving and screen printing, with a toolkit that includes exacto knives and Japanese gouge tools.

Much of Harkey's work features the human body folded or extended, but the look is almost always still, and the pieces capture snapshots, not whole lives. In this way the content is a product of form and the laborious process of sculpting, which old-soul Harkey praises as "classic." The centeredness renders the bodies into subjects, almost detached, like a scientific study. Harkey dissects with his gouge tools, edging a scratched-over look onto human faces and cicada carcasses. These incisions act as a filter between the viewer and the moment at hand, adding time and begging the viewer to work through an untraceable history. Time cuts through the stillness of the motionless forms, and it's this passing of time that makes the intensity of eye contact bearable. Reading the details of one of Harkey's prints is a journey--a dissection of emotion and mortality, which will most undoubtedly be more of a personal journey for the viewer than one into the history of his subjects.

Balcony cc resized

Honey Badger cc resized


Cicada wb-1

Sitting down with Ian Harkey:

One road to drive down forever: Natchez Trace Parkway - I still haven't done the full Nashville to Natchez ride but that's happening someday soon. It's the best.

If you could have one super power... I thought about this a lot, and I keep coming back to flying just because it would be awesome. Plus you could zip around to wherever you wanted to be so easily, but all the while that I'm convincing myself that flying is the way to go, stretchy limbs keeps popping into my head. I think flip a coin and i'd be pretty happy with either.

A metaphor for how you feel on Monday morning: Reset. Reload. Somethin' like that. It's not always a good feeling but sometimes it works out for me.

Your favorite art project to teach: I teach what I know and that would be printmaking. Such an old and classic artform, but so much can be done with it here and now. It's sculptural, it's movement, it's the most satisfying thing I've ever done.

Beer or wine? Beers

Name one experience that impacted you tangibly to become who you are today. I think it would have to be Sarah Lawrence, the college I went to. It was such an interesting place where a ton of different minds all came smashing together. I was kind of always "the artist" in high school in Jackson - people would come to me to draw t-shirts or laud me over whatever I was working on, and I think it wasn't great for my craft. I wasn't ever really challenged, and then I went to school, and was almost totally overwhelmed by the amount of creativity running through that place. Because of the curriculum, I was able to study almost any subject, and filter that through into my art. It was also a tough place to go to school - small classes meant more one-on-one time with teachers, and they expect and demand a lot from you, and they know if you're slacking off. So there was never really an academic moment where I could relax, but because of that I was always having to pay attention and keep my eyes and ears open. I learned so much that I never thought I would ever be involved in.

If you were to anamorph… Can I say Dinosaur? Or we can just go with Lizard.

What triggers your “aha” moment? I can't say that it's one thing in particular. It could be something that I'm reading, or something I see. I know this is vague, but it's usually people-related. I dunno, honestly. Sometimes you just know, and the other times you have to keep working and figuring it out until a new moment comes along.

Immediately when waking up in the morning, you... See what time it is and gauge if I can go back to sleep again for a lil bit.

Who is your greatest role model/person that you would like to emulate? I'd have to say my Dad. He's a surgeon, but he didn't decide when he was younger that that's what he was going to do. It took a lot of hard work and experience for him to find that field, but he always seemed open to trying whatever came across and made sense. And now he's very successful, and he has a really level head about almost everything. I think I would just be able to emulate his work ethic and his passion for his field.

What are some of the things happening in Jackson that excite you? I'm not going to pinpoint any one institution or goings on, but I can say that there seems to be a larger number of good people who have lived here before, or have come for school or jobs or what have you, and they are deciding to stay and be a part of the lifestyle here. As someone who has been gone for a while and now I'm back, you can definitely feel that it's exciting.

For you, what does the 50//50 project mean? It's a great project to help to local arts community grow. You bring the art, the art brings the people, and the moneys helps the artists and this great organization to keep on keepin' on.

If you could Go to Space, you would totally do it.

Strange Pairings3 resized

Welcome Ian--you've blown us away. Visit to get lost in the visual wormhole of Ian Harkey art, and to get in touch with him about making purchases. Like his facebook page at Harkey Art, and follow him on Instagram @ianharkeu. On December 11 at Hal & Mal's, Harkey will auction off his above-pictured print, "Cicada," and I know more than three people that are bound to get in a bidding war!

Ken Seligson: Archeartist or Arteologist?

me1For work, Ken Seligson never arrives late. He's an archaeologist from Port Washington, New York, currently funded by the National Science Foundation. He packs his bag with extra empanadas to share with his crew of eight, deep within the jungle's briar-filled thickets. The head of his crew goes by the nickname "Huech," which translates to armadillo, and which also means that Ken is captain of the armadillos (cue the image of an animated bug movie). Trekking through the expanses of Kaxil Kiuic, Seligson searches for something that can help him better imagine the lives of the ancient Maya, and, sometimes, that means that he has to be creative. From the field, he's brought back to the laboratory rocks "shaped like spoons" and he famously considers any rock with a hole significant. Albeit, these conclusions are made jokingly, it is Seligson's tendency towards imagination that settles his colleagues and makes him the most popular dinner companion at Kiuic. Seligson's artistic endeavors might be most aptly described by the literary term "magical realism." Human-like characters swing through the vines of Seligson's artwork, engaging in lifelike activities or stretching into new forms. This technique renders from adults what Dr. Seuss does for children. The viewer feels capable, and the artwork asks us to stop, take our time, and decode the multi-dimensional meanings embedded within the puzzle. This Marquesian fantasma associates humanity with possibility--feet with flying. Time collapses as historical figures interact with those from the future, and animals wear the faces of humans. These juxtapositions recur fleetingly, as they suggest that we are not tied to a singular existence, rather, freedom exists in the eye of the imagination.



Without further ado, the interview:

The ultimate travel destination: One day I’d really like to spend some time in a small town on an isolated island somewhere, get the feeling of living at the edge of the world…maybe in the Azores or Shetland Islands.

 If you could have one super power... Not too creative in this respect, I’m afraid: to be able to fly would be the best (especially considering the opportunities it would open to travel).

 Your favorite art project as a kid: Aside from a general enthusiasm for painting with acrylics, I really liked building a tower out of toothpicks and tiny marshmallows in my 3rd Grade art class.

Beer or wine? Depends on the time, depends on the place.

Name one experience that impacted you tangibly to become who you are today. It wasn’t one single experience, but as a result of having the opportunity to visit a number of amazing Mesoamerican archaeological sites as a kid I developed a deep curiosity about the world of our ancestors and an appreciation for trying to understand contemporary Western civilization within the broader context of human ‘history.’

 If you were to anamorph… I would anamorph into a bird of some sort.

What triggers your “aha” moment? Usually conversations with friends, often over a pitcher of beer.

 Immediately when waking up in the morning, you... Try to get out of bed as quickly as possible, otherwise I’m doomed.

Who is your greatest role model/person that you would like to emulate? If I grow up, I would like to be the Derek Jeter of Mesoamerican archaeology.

What are some of the things happening in Yucatan that interest you as an artist? It’s too bad that a lot of small town markets are producing crafts specifically tailored for tourist consumption, but once in awhile you’ll still find a local artist in a small town producing art for the sake of making something beautiful and/or honoring ancestral traditions. When you come across something like that, it’s inspiring on multiple levels. It’s Ko’ox Boon’s support and recognition of the importance of indigenous, small-town community art that really makes me proud to contribute.

For you, what does the 50//50 project mean? For me the 50//50 project means the opportunity to connect with other artists and art consumers and help foster a greater appreciation for art and creativity that transcends boundaries – social, international, or what have you.

If I could could, I would I'd like to think I would.


Ken has worked with Ko'ox Boon in the past as a volunteer in Yaxhachen and as a media designer. And now, with a big hug, we welcome Ken to the 50//50 project. On December 11, you'll have the opportunity to buy a Seligson original! For more information on Ken's art, visit his account, where  he posts under the name "Sakbe," or email him at

Yes please... more Claire Whitehurst

claireMeeting Claire Whitehurst is an exotic and unforeseen experience, always. Perhaps she was your counselor at summer camp or you bumped into her painting seascapes during her stint in Australia. Wherever you run into her, Claire's delicate face laughs and rummages for more jokes. The lightness of her presence draws everyone toward her, and in the dark of the hallway, your less detail-oriented friend will probably lean over and ask, "Dude, why is Amy Adams at this party?"---the likeness is uncanny.

Claire's effervescent aura is demonstrative of her creative success in the studio. For her, being an artist is a life practice. She takes lessons on forms from her surroundings, and, in her paintings, she activates the lost jewel of motion. Her self portraits tackle the serious task of being simple, honest, and unnerving, while her landscapes are nostalgic of a romantic era, when life's scenes were idyllic. In her more abstract work, she twists symbols and color in new ways, causing startling realizations based on the juxtapositions of these symbols. Color seems to imbricate emotion, and the thick strokes in her oil paintings convey sensuality in its most heated state. Claire's many years spent holding a paintbrush seem to have resulted in the bloom of a deeply mature artist, and Ko'ox Boon is  very proud to call her a 50//50 Fine Art Auction participant.







Sitting down with Claire Whitehurst:

One road to drive down forever: The Great Ocean Road

Favorite Jackson restaurant? Saigon annnnnnd High Noon! I love their half and half tea and soups.

A metaphor for how you feel on Friday afternoons: the Same way as when you can smell the seasons changing

Your favorite art projects as a kid: I liked making dioramas for stuffed animals and drawing horses.

Beer or wine? Yes please

Name one experience that impacted you tangibly to become who you are today. I remember the first time I really perceived the moon. You know... That's a ball and I'm on a ball and there are other balls out there. It freaked me out in a good way. I think about it a lot.

If you were to anamorph… Pegasus

What triggers your “aha” moment? Listening to other people and changing perspective. Coffee also helps

Immediately when waking up in the morning, you... Kick my covers around and roll up into a cocoon. Then give myself a pep talk

Who is your greatest role model/person that you would like to emulate? I have a lot of role models, but if I had to pick someone ... A mix of Amy Sedaris and Amy Poehler and Carmella Soprano. Also a lot of role models in my family.

How do you feel about the creative economy of Jackson? I think there are great steps being taken by a lot of talented and bright people. I'm glad I get to call them my friends.

For you, what does the 50//50 project mean? I think it's all about coming together and sharing cultural experiences. Connecting the community through the arts.

If you could breathe underwater, you would build a house made of glass down there.


We welcome Claire to the Ko'ox Boon team, and we look forward to sharing her art with you! You may contact Claire about information regarding her art at or visit her website at