Travel

Postcard from Mississippi

George E. Ohr, known as the Mad Potter of Biloxi.
George E. Ohr, known as the Mad Potter of Biloxi. MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST CVB

The Mad Potter of Biloxi is headed for some pretty fancy digs designed by Frank O. Gehry, but I ''met'' him when he was still hanging out at the public library.

George E. Ohr, 1857-1918, was a Mississippi potter with a singular eye for design and an inclination for self-promotion. He dubbed himself ''The Mad Potter'' and claimed to be the greatest art potter on earth. His pottery -- he called his works ''mud babies . . . no two alike'' -- was in fact unusual. He crimped edges, poked holes and crumpled the curves of his paper-thin creations. Some now consider him the father of American art pottery.

I first learned of Ohr during a trip to Biloxi in 1999. Bored with playing blackjack in the just-opened Beau Rivage and uninterested in the usual alternatives -- golf and fishing -- I went to the Biloxi Library and Cultural Center, which had a large permanent exhibit of the Mad Potter's work. I was entranced.

In 2003, ground was broken for the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art (www.georgeohr.org), a complex of off-kilter stainless steel pods designed by Gehry, himself a fan of the Mad Potter. Two years later, Hurricane Katrina crashed through the museum, which was still under construction. Ohr's pottery, however, had not been moved and it survived.

The new museum is scheduled to open in December 2009. No doubt Ohr would be pleased that the design of his new home will be as remarkable and eccentric as his own work.

This is one in a series of postcards by Marjie Lambert, assistant Travel editor, who has been to all 50 states.

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