the 50//50 project

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.

@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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Bienvenidos, Evan!


Evan Parker thinks slowly. His handwriting is bad, but he writes everything down. That's the way a good archaeologist works: detail-oriented, and mindful to a fault. Never quick to jump to conclusions, the archaeology reveals its secrets of human behavior slowly. Evan seeks to understand the way that artifacts interact with the built environment through close analysis of context---without the frame, the picture means nothing.

For seven years Evan worked at Escalera al Cielo in Kaxil Kiuic (located just a couple of kilometers from Yaxhachen, Ko'ox Boon's outreach community), answering questions concerning the fall of the ancient Maya civilization. Now, Evan is setting out on his dissertation research in the Anthropology program at Tulane University, where he will tackle "an awesome opportunity to work on the question as to how Maya civilization developed." He'll be digging a small, pre-classic site near Kiuic, called Paso del Macho. The site is thought to have been founded around 700 BC, which will take Evan more than a thousand years back in time from the archaeology he's always known, forcing him to explore questions he's always had. "Ideas about the origins of inequality have always fascinated me," Evan says, "and this project affords me my first opportunity to explore those ideas."

Beyond a professional commitment to archaeology, a profound investment in the local community driven by relationships with colleagues fuels Evan's connection with Yucatan. Friendship with the local community and a deep love for panuchos led to Evan's involvement with Ko'ox Boon.  Now, we welcome him to the team as a member of our Board of Directors, and we can't wait for you to get to know him as well as we do. Without further ado, here's sitting down with El Gusano, Evan Parker:

One road to drive down forever: I've got a real soft spot for any backcountry Mississippi road. Specifically Pike 93 Central in Pike County, MS.

Favorite Jackson restaurant? Cool Al's.

A metaphor for how you feel on Friday afternoons: A rubber band pulled to its maximum extent, waiting on the weekend for its release.

Your favorite art projects as a kid: Finger painting, I think it's so visceral.

Beer or wine? Beer, always beer. I'm not terribly picky either, but I think what I want to drink is largely driven by context. One of my favorite parts of working in Mexico is the beer. It's typically light, and a little skunky, but in the heat, it's absolutely perfect. Microbreweries are booming in Louisiana and Mississippi right now, and they understand what it takes to make a truly Southern beer. I feel like I can't capture the same experience with wine.

Name one experience that impacted you tangibly to become who you are today. I remember being a young boy and falling in love with the history of the American Civil War. I would read Civil War histories by the dozens. But one year I finally had the opportunity to visit the Vicksburg battlefield, and I think it was a formative experience for me. Being able to walk on the same ground as those soldiers and gaze upon their battlements and weapons made history so much more tangible to me. It's something that cannot be obtained from books alone. I think that experience laid the foundation for my interest in archaeology, a field of study so dependent upon space, place, and materiality.

If you were to anamorph… I've been told that my spirit animal is an iguana, so I suppose that's only appropriate.

What triggers your “aha” moment? Normally the only moments when people say they see me truly excited is when I have an "aha" moment, and it's typically followed by a torrent of manic explanations regarding my eureka moment. Typically these occur when I'm doing archaeology. Often the artifacts and architecture we're excavating can be baffling, but when the pieces click, and I understand a particular event or process that was occurring in prehistory, I get that "aha" moment.

Immediately when waking up in the morning, you... I typically moan, groan, and curse the heavens and the earth for making me get up. Then I make a coffee and read the Times Picayune, and that's when everything feels just right.

Who is your greatest role model/person that you would like to emulate? Mr. Fred Rogers (host of the PBS show Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood). I think the key to being a good human (and anthropologist) is the ability to empathize and love other people. Growing up and watching Mr. Rogers taught me quite a bit about empathy, and how we should all strive to understand and love others. He also believed that self-acceptance and loving yourself is an important key to happiness. Sometimes it can be tough to accept your shortcomings, but only after accepting your own faults can accept the faults of others.

How do you feel about the creative economy of Jackson? This is actually one of the things that I enjoy most about visiting Jackson after having graduated from Millsaps. Every year it seems like more artists and entrepreneurs are flocking to Jackson. Combine that with the rich artistic and musical heritage of the city, and I would say that the creative economy of Jackson is attracting people from around the country.

For you, what does the 50//50 project mean? Collaboration and exchange is one of the strengths of Ko'ox Boon. Developing connections between the local and the global promotes collaboration and exchange. Through 50/50, we can ensure that the creative economies of both Jackson and Yaxachen are supported. Considering I straddle both the local and the global, seeing a project like 50/50 becomes personally meaningful.

We look forward to moving onward and upward underneath your patient counsel, Evan!

Here's to painting the world together. Cheers!




How to: peace flags

DSC_0396 (1) Making peace flags was one of our most successful crafts in Yaxhachen this summer. Granted, the little ones can be a little difficult to organize, but after the first day, the routine was a breeze. If you’re not familiar with the peace flag, they come from an ancient tradition of Tibet. Traditionally, “prayer flags” hang throughout the Himalayas and are filled with symbolism. The different colors represent the five elements: Blue, sky; white, air; red, fire; green, water; and yellow, earth. The flags are loaded with text and image, which seek to bring around good fortune.

In our project, the peace flag maintains its ability to be symbolic, but each one might represent something different.



STEP 1: Encourage your students to discuss what they want their flags to represent, whether it be hopes and dreams for the future, or a celebration of friendship. Whatever they come up with will be great. :)

STEP 2: Have your students cut out their flags. Use a flat edge to draw the triangles on the paper first.

STEP 3: Create an image (and text) for your flag. Remember the point goes down! Instructors or supervisors MUST make a flag too.

STEP 4: ADD MORE! Due to growing up in fast-paced environments, kids sometimes have trouble sitting with a craft and adding detail. Or, they want “otra oja”--a new paper. Encourage your students to go back and add color or figures. Tell them to fill up the triangle. Reward them with positive affirmation. Notice what they changed when they return to show you their revisions!

STEP 5: Practice the order of you flag. After everyone completes their individual flag, practice what they will look like when they are all put together. Think about the order like a puzzle. How do they look best? Why?

STEP 6: Punch two holes into the top of each flag. I like to appoint a “Captain” for overseeing this step.

STEP 7: String them up! Keep the order in mind, and have everyone help thread the flags. The string can get long, and it takes a lot of little hands to hold it up and keep it organized!

STEP 8: HANG YOUR PEACE FLAGS. In order to maximize your impact, hang them in a public space. Or use them as decoration for an event.

STEP 9: Talk about it. How does the result embody the ideas that the artists wanted to convey in the beginning? Are there additional ideas that they hadn’t thought of?

SIGN UP AND WE WILL SEND YOU THE PEACE FLAG PACKET. Classroom teachers and groups of 15 or more can qualify to receive a packet in the mail with materials, instructions, and a treat for your class. The trick is: You make two! Keep one for your school, classroom, or public space, and send one back to us (plus a photo, obviously). Email us at!