Day #2 of Interviews and I just feel smarter, wiser, and CONNECTED

I only feel smarter, wiser, and connected because i spent almost my entire day talking to 5 amazing Louisiana artists about their craft and their love for Louisiana and her inspiration. My Louisiana Muse has left the building and is traveling all over the state! I learned so much talking to these artists i had to share with you some of our stories. Keep in mind, after this process i am collaborating with each artist to photograph a portrait of them in the next few months...i can't wait.

I started my morning talking with local New Orleans photographer Michel Varisco, who just recently returned from her Rauschenberg Foundation residency outside of Florida. Her current series is a beautifully realized collection of superbly composed aerials of the Louisiana coast and it's relationship with oil companies and pipelines. I really can't write about it in any way that give it just need to SEE it.

©Michel Varisco

We talked at length about man's relationship to it's environment and how we are affecting it every day. She mentioned Walker Percy's book "The Thanatos Syndrome", in how she described this kind of scared me. And that's just what her work wants to do...make you realize the beauty around us seen from a different perspective, make you love it, and tell you "oh , and by the way, here is how it is being destroyed". Makes you want to DO SOMETHING..right?

I truly do love this state, it moves me like no other. It is home, and home is powerful. Talking with Louisiana's Poet Laureate, Darrell Bourque (Sunset, LA) about the power of home and your geography as it influences your work, he said, "the land tells me what i am supposed to be writing, that Prairie environment" and "the land tells us what to say and what to paint, i know the land and the geography we grow up on is our first instructors..". And I couldn't agree more

We talked about his current project delving into the story of Amede Ardoin and his life. Darrell has put out a book on Yellowtail Press called "If you Abandon Me, Comment Je Vas Faire". We talked about the Prairie (the area in Louisiana known by the towns of Church Point, Sunset, Opelousas, Ville Platte and others) and what inspires him.

Amede Ardoin sings Le Blues De Voyage

In sticking around the prairie i also spoke with musician, artist, blogger, and mother, Ashlee Michot who lives in out the country near Arnaudville. Ashlee has recently dedicated her life to her art and it is represented in almost daily blog posts centering around her Prairie Des Femmes blog. Ashlee uses the blog to document her daily writings, (amazing) iphone photography, and personified musings on her Prairie Des Femmes. Being from Evangeline Parish, Ashlee could see the land already personified as a woman and has the instinct to "love" her place no matter where she is, and it is on her blog where she shows that love with a sense of wonder, love, and humor. She also plays the Triangle, or traditionally known as the Tee Fer, with her husband in the hott hott Lafayette band, Soul Creole.

PDF Sunrise - from Prairie Des Femmes blog, photo ©Ashlee Michot

I spoke at length with artist Bryan Lafaye, whose work over the years has evolved to meet his message. Bryan calls upon his time in the service, his love of the waterways and bayous, as well as his strong political stance, to inspire his work. His current work with encaustics and sculpture has allowed his art to be experienced in a whole new way.

September 2012 – Current work in progress – Bryan F. Lafaye – Copyrighted Image

I had not heard of Monroe photographer Jenny Ellerbe before, but something about her "Waker Evans-ish" approach to photographing rural Monroe made me want to explore more. I am so glad i did as we talked more about her current project Shared Earth, than anything else. I was truly brought to yet another sense of "connection" with this project as Jenny explained the project to me. Shared Earth is a beautiful black and white depiction of the sacred thousands of years old Indian burial grounds all over the Monroe area. With recent World Heritage Site Poverty Point being the most popular mound, there has been interest in the many other mounds around the area, and some of those aren't getting the care and attention they need. Ellerbe commented that these mounds are  direct link to our past, our land, and the way we use the land.

Lower Jackson Mound...3900-3600 BC, ©Jenny Ellerbe