The Road to Meridian: Dylan and the Gypsy Queen

Sister Sara invited me down to South Mississippi to hang out with her this past weekend. I call her sister because maybe we’re sisters like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. I don’t know, I haven’t seen the movie “Sisters.” But, it sounds right.

Backwoods Mississippi is a lot like the North Alabama mountains where I live. But, she is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from New Orleans, LA. I recently read that the New Orleans Museum of Art currently has an exhibit called “Bob Dylan: The New Orleans Series” on display in the gallery.

Bob speaks of his affection for the city in his first autobiography “Chronicles” that I just finished reading.

“The city is a very long poem,” Bob said about New Orleans.

As a longtime Dylan fan who has been studying his life and works more in-depth recently that ever before, I tend to think of Bob Dylan, himself, as a very long poem.

I love the way one can be creative in different realms of art, music, and writing. There are no rules. That’s probably what most of us who live a creative life love about it the most.

“Rescue Team” by Bob Dylan

Besides the amazing folk musician, artist, composer, metal-working Bob Dylan exhibit, the NOMA had another one, equally as fitting to my personal taste.

“Self Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum.”

Self-Taught Genius considers the shifting implications of a self-taught ideology in the United States, from a widely endorsed and deeply entrenched movement of self-education to its current usage to describe artists creating outside traditional frames of reference and canonical art history. Self-taught art, past and present, blurs lines between disciplines, makes definitions look constricted, and forces us to reconsider our assumptions about authoritative systems. These individuals have been active participants in the shaping of American visual culture, influencing generations of artists and establishing lively artistic traditions. Selections from NOMA’s major collection of self-taught art will be presented in The Helis Foundation Gallery, extending the reach and scope of the exhibition.

You may or may not know, I make folk art and sell it at my Grove Oak Store. My Jamie art started in the form of knives, evolved over to writing, then painting. Could there have been a more perfect day made for me to visit the New Orleans Art Museum? Suffice it to say, I left the art museum fully inspired and refreshed.

Sister Sara, being a gracious and considerate hostess, shared a story with me the next day. A local Mississippi legend about a mysterious icon, Gypsy Queen Kelly Mitchell, whom is buried in the Queen City of Meridian, MS at Rose Hill Cemetery. Mitchell died at the age of 47 in January of 1915 giving birth to either her fourteenth or fifteenth child in Coatopa, Alabama.

The Queen of the Gypsies (Romas) was then moved to Meridian because the location had enough of an ice supply to put her on ice for weeks until she was buried. The Gypsy clans were called in to attend the funeral of their queen, and according to reports some odd 20,000 gypsies showed up in the small town.

People still pay homage at her grave-site by leaving trinkets and beads on and around her head stone. Read more about the Gypsy Queen.  The Gypsies here are mostly assimilated into our American culture now, but have been a persecuted race for over a hundred years, and even faced genocide during WWII. I left her a trinket although it is not pictured here.


Bob Dylan, the Folk Artists, and the Gypsy Queen may have all been rule breakers… But, as I see it they weren’t breaking rules as much as they were and are just trying to live by their own standards according to their own identity and beliefs.

One person’s rule breaker can easily be another person’s inspiration or queen.

Jamie Godwin



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