By Zoe Fitch

The South is a place for discovery or rather rediscovery of an influential time in one’s life and the world. It is a place where one can enter the time warp and create something new from the connection to the past. Creatives have historically been drawn to this place in search of a space to welcome discovery and gain knowledge, as well as create their own strange recipe for art. Now imagine, a Greek pottery collection fell into a portal back in time to the 1980s and returned to the future in North Mississippi. That’s pretty punk if you ask me. And where else can someone find something so strange and playful than in Mississippi, well besides Florida?

Image by Mike Cinelli

Mike Cinelli is from Daytona, Fla., and moved to Oxford in 2011 when he enrolled at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). He went on to accomplish his Master of Fine Arts degree at Ole Miss with an emphasis in ceramics. He currently lives, works, and helps raise his family in Oxford, MS. While Cinelli is inspired more so by time, cyberpunk aesthetic, and narrative than place, he might not be making the work he does today without his journey to Ole Miss.

Upon entering the MFA program at the University of Mississippi, Cinelli viewed the university’s collection of ancient Greek pottery. He recalls this being extremely influential to his research and lifelong practice. Cinelli says this was his “oh shit” moment. These forms inspire his work today while the aesthetic used in his color/glaze application and usage of figurative forms, such as text, reflect a very different time period, the 1980s.

The University of Mississippi Museum houses the largest collection of Greek pottery in the South and one of the finest in the nation within the David M. Robinson Memorial Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities. Many of the items were brought to the University of Mississippi from the personal collection of Professor David M. Robinson, a world-renowned archeologist and academic. 

Image by Mike Cinelli

Dr. Robinson came to teach at the University of Mississippi in 1949 after retiring from Johns Hopkins University. Upon his death in 1958, Robinson entrusted his Roman sculptures to the University of Mississippi while the remainder of his collection was divided between his widow, the late Helen Tudor Robinson, and Harvard University. The collection at the University of Mississippi is not only magnificent in quality, but is also extremely useful in teaching the culture, archeology, and artistic practices of the ancient Mediterranean world. 

Cinelli’s pottery aesthetic is influenced by 1980s cyberpunk, mid-century ideas of the future, comic books, and video games. His artwork and research are rooted in video games, and he recalls being a life-long comic book kid. He aims to portray a connection to science fiction with an air of escapism. Cinelli intends for his pottery to be both utilitarian and simply “just existing.”

One can view Mike Cinelli’s art at the Companion Gallery and East Mitchell Clay in Humboldt, Tennessee where he exhibits an annual solo show every August. He describes his playful work as “tangible fiction”. When viewing his pottery one feels transported to a different era, and the feeling of discovery is offered to his viewer. And even though “place” is not a direct guide in Cinelli’s artwork, Mississippi has provided a conduit to an epiphany and become home.