By Zoe Fitch

In the South the land, wildlife, flora, and way of life find their way into the creative space. An artist finds inspiration in the small things; a place you’ve been many times before, but see it in a new way, viewing an animal in the wild at an unusual time, or finding an old tool that sparks nostalgia in your mind.

Place is an anchor in creativity. Place is where discovery is made and identity is created, creativity is fueled and one connects soul to land. And sometimes no matter how far you go, your “place” is always home. 

Bradley Gordon is from Clarksdale; one could say the heart of the Mississippi Delta. Gordon spent his childhood in the bayou, which became his playground. He grew up on his family’s farm playing outside and finding materials for his creations. He recalls constantly having access to a multitude of tools, so he was always building things.

It is no wonder Gordon became a career artist when you hear how he speaks of growing up playing on a cotton trailer and making something out of nothing for the pure joy of it. In the South, there is a saying, “You have to laugh to keep from crying.” And, also in this region, sometimes you have to make something out of nothing to feed the creative mind. 

While Gordon’s attraction to fine art came about organically, promoted by his intuition to make things out of materials that he had access to, this extended into his desire to further his knowledge of fine art. He attended Delta State University in Cleveland for photography. After graduating, Gordon attended the University of Mississippi for art education. He later went into teaching to share his knowledge of the craft.

After his time in the Delta Gordon had the opportunity to travel to multiple countries all over the world including Japan and Taiwan, a bucket list goal for most. He accomplished this goal and brought his experiences, knowledge and inspiration home to Mississippi with him.

After moving home to Clarksdale, he opened a gallery. He notes that his gallery in Clarksdale allowed him to get on his feet, so to say, as an artist.

Gordon’s success grew, and he and his family decided to move north to Oxford to raise their family and continue their professional lives. He now lives and works in Oxford, where he is an active member of the community and continues to paint his artwork based on Mississippi’s wildlife and landscape.  His home and studio are located right off the Oxford Square, the heart of the town.

While Gordon draws inspiration from multiple experiences and places in his life, the throughline in his work is home.

Home means to Gordon painting what he knows, and this inspires his compositions and the overall feeling of his artwork. Gordon says that though he uses multiple mediums, including paint, they all reflect home and Mississippi.

Every aspect of his process is reflective of this concept including his studio helper, his daughter. Home is a broad term, but when place is your identity and you paint what you know, the canvas becomes a mirror of your environment. 

Gordon’s wildlife and landscape paintings are vibrantly colored and use bright and dark contrasts to pull the viewer in. He implements a unique hand in the painting where the texture and pattern are discovered as one moves closer. Looking closely provides an experience in its own right, but moving outward the paintings introduce an experience like no other. The lively depictions of the American South provide new life to a very old, historical, and traditional region. 

Though the artist lives and primarily works in Oxford, his Water Valley gallery is always open. Gordon’s artwork has been welcomed and embraced by Mississippians and Southerners alike because even though there is a modern aesthetic, a very recognizable spirit emerges through the acrylic paint. He presents a modern take on a familiar scene that is appreciated and encouraged. 

Southerners are ultra connected to land and the organisms that call it home. There is a spiritual connection to being a Southerner, and some would argue that this is heightened in Mississippi.

In the South, the landscape and time move constantly through and within one another like shifting planes. There is just something about going to your family’s farm and welcoming discovery of the most benign things. The smallest findings can hold the most weight, especially as a visual artist. Perhaps this is the inspiration to use every material to its fullest potential or to be less wasteful. Simply using a scrap material or finding a herd of caterpillars right before the first day of summer can inspire your own creations.

Place is influential not just on the way of life and outlook, but as a lens to view the creative realm. 

Bradley Gordon is an “artist-as-observer” artist. By this I mean, he recreates what he knows, and he knows deeply what he paints. Gordon is inspired by his home, where he is from, his travels, and his southern way of life.

While he is a cosmopolitan person, Gordon’s roots find their way into the threads of his canvas and are stimulated by the fibers of his brush.

His large paintings envelop the viewer and offer an insight into his modern take on an old world, Gordon’s world, his home, Mississippi.