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CUTLINE ... SHARED ARTISTIC
VISIONS -- Artist Linda Dautreuil of Covington pauses while laying out
the tiles she and fellow Covington artist Luz-Maria Lyles created for an
installation piece in their exhibit "Visiones/Vision: Shared Stories; Diverse
Expressions." The exhibit, which also includes 30 paitings, will be on
display at Southeastern Louisiana University's Clark Hall Gallery through
EXHIBIT BLENDS ARTISTS' STORIES FROM DIFFERENT CULTURES
HAMMOND -- Luz-Maria Lyles' and Linda
Dautreuil's shared artistic vision began with two strangers in a car. And
it grew into a collaboration between two very different artists united
by their love of their heritages.
"I didn't know Maria, but we both live in
Covington," explained Dautreuil, as she arranged brightly-painted squares
of tile on the floor of Southeastern Louisiana University's Clark Hall
Gallery last week. "We both had fellowships from the Louisiana State Arts
Council. So when it came time to go to a survey of our works, we arranged
to share a ride."
Getting to know each other during their trip,
Dautreuil and Lyles discovered that a Louisianan Cajun and a native of
Honduras can have a lot in common. In their case, the connection was stories
-- the ones Dautreuil learned from her Cajun grandfather and those Lyles
grew up hearing from her Italian-Mayan Indian grandmother.
Their car ride conversation about their relatives,
their heritages and their art proved to be the common thread from which
Dautreuil and Lyles wove "Visiones/Vision: Shared Stories; Diverse
Expressions," an exhibit which opened June 5 at Southeastern's Clark Hall
"It developed into something much more extensive
than we thought it would be," Dautreuil said.
The exhibit will be on display at Southeastern
through July 31 and previously was shown in Slidell, Lake Charles and Thibodaux.
It also will be displayed in Baton Rouge this fall.
"Visiones/Vision: Shared Stories, Diverse Expressions"
includes 30 paintings and assemblages by Lyles and Dautreuil. The artists
also collaborated on an installation, which includes an altar-like display
and 60 tiles with painted different motifs from Cajun and Hispanic cultures.
"We had some ground rules we had
to use a neutral, beige background, for instance," Dautreuil said, "but
it was exciting to see how well the tiles worked together. It was risk-taking
Also part of the exhibit is a videotaped
presentation of folktales by Louisiana storyteller and performing artist
Adella Gautier, better known as "Adella Adella the Storyteller." The film
was videotaped on location at Laura Plantation in Vacherie by Southeastern
photographer Claude Levet, and includes interviews, music and stories by
individuals from communities across Louisiana.
Dautreuil said that her stories, steeped in
Creole and Cajun traditions, came from her grandfather, William Henry Trappey
of New Iberia, whom she describes as "a teacher and raconteur." Lyles,
a 1995 Southeastern graduate, grew up listening to the tales of her grandmother,
Julia Flores, who was of Italian and Mayan Indian descent. She began her
career with a series of paintings depicting her grandmother's stories,
then broadened the scope of her brush to include the folklore of Honduras
and other Central American countries.
Lyles' narrative paintings are dominated by
bright primary colors that are given a relief-like effect by incorporating
objects such as beads, sequins, costume bangles, and foil. Dautreuil's
work is equally colorful and narrative, but more abstract. It includes
landscape and figurative and abstract elements, many of which suggest folktale,
literary references, and incidents from her French background.
In the exhibit's catalog, Judith H. Bonner,
senior curator of the Historic New Orleans Collection, said Dautreuil "explores
transformation, repetition, and exaggeration as a means to express variation
within the storytelling tradition."
Lyles' paintings combine her grandmothers'
stories of characters performing heroic deeds with themes of injustice,
often interpreted through Christian and Mayan icons. "One sees saints,
Madonnas, angels, and human figures in lively and richly colored compositions
having overt spiritual subjects," Bonner said.
"Both artists exhibit paintings, often with
shared motifs, based on solid formal principles of art. Each clearly
speaks with an individual voice, each voice springing from distinct literary
and narrative traditions," Bonner said.
"Even though our work is expressed differently,
there are certain themes that run through all cultures," Dautreuil said.
One example of a theme that appears in many
cultures is the Cinderella story. Dautreuil's Cajun version, depicted
in her painting, "Cendrillonne," tells of a witch who finds a girl in the
woods who was being starved by her stepmother. The witch gives the girl
a set of magic sticks that, when tapped on a copper pot, makes the pot
produce pudding. She also gives her magic words that will stop the pudding-making
process. The girl's wicked stepmother steals the sticks, but, in her greedy
haste, doesn't catch the crucial magic words and drowns in overflowing
Lyles' tells the Cinderella story in
"The Old Woman by the River." The story says that an evil stepmother sent
her daughters to the river to wash clothes. They encounter an old beggar
woman who asks for help in getting water from the river. The evil stepsister
refuses, but the kind one helps. The old woman then tells the sisters to
close their eyes. When the evil stepsister does, a donkey's tail grows
on her forehead, and when she speaks, snakes and frogs come out of her
mouth. When the good sister closes her eyes, a star appears on her forehead,
and stars and pearls come out of her mouth.
"The sisters did not know," says the story,
"that the old woman was really the Virgin Mary disguised as a beggar to
punish or reward deeds. Later the good sister went to the king's ball and
fell in love with the price, and she revealed the star on her forehead."
"This has been one of the most rewarding shows
I ever put together," Lyles said. "The theme of stories is one that is
not only familiar to me, but it also continues to broaden my understanding
of how much we, as a people, are alike despite our cultural
and physical differences."
Dautreuil agrees. The exhibit, she said, "has
increased my awareness of the common themes in our oral folk narratives
and the manner in which these themes unite us while celebrating our uniqueness
A reception for "Visiones/Vision: Shared Stories;
Diverse Expressions" is planned later this summer in conjunction with Southeastern
summer art camps. For additional information, contact the Department of
Visual Arts, 985-549-2193.