What makes Mississippi chickens different from other chickens? Their accents, of course. So says Ellen Langford ’90, who paints barnyard fowl, along with clotheslines, dogs, and children. She has built an entire career around documenting these images of her rural state.

Clotheslines are iconic in the Delta, she says, and all her friends have them. “From their back door, you could look beyond the clothesline and see cotton fields forever, and levees. Visually, clotheslines are about colors and shapes, and the moments in our lives when we do a meditative chore.”

Born in Mississippi and returning there after years of travel and living on the West Coast, Langford says art allows her to tell a story, “and ideally, one of hope and redemption.”

Living in a 400-square-foot home with an attached art studio, she’s situated only a mile from where she was born. But her paintings have found homes all over the world. Her broad brushstrokes and muted color palette (even the brightest paintings have an undershadow of darkness) have wide appeal. She’s currently represented by galleries in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi, and she has mounted shows in four other states.

“Ellen’s one of our top sellers,” said Lesley Silver, owner of The Attic Gallery in Vicksburg. “When you meet her, you fall in love with her work. Watching her paint, she’s so spontaneous. There’s so much energy in it.”

—Erika Mailman ’91