POSTED: Thursday, August 2, 2012 - 6:00am
UPDATED: Thursday, August 2, 2012 - 6:04am
BATON ROUGE, LA — Nowhere else in the United States does the natural environment of one state present a more intriguing variety of flora and fauna than in Louisiana. While widely celebrated for its rich cultural traditions and zesty cuisine, Louisiana’s melting pot of peculiar plant and animal life serves up a bizarre and remarkable “natural gumbo.”
A new exhibition at the LSU Museum of Art, “Uniquely Louisiana,” celebrates the state’s 200th anniversary and explores the many ways contemporary artists portray and are inspired by Louisiana’s unique plant and animal life.
“Uniquely Louisiana” will be on view at the LSU Museum of Art, located on the fifth floor of the Shaw Center for the Arts, 100 Lafayette St., from Aug. 11 through Nov. 11.
The exhibition is comprised of more than 50 paintings, prints, sculptures, mixed media and video installations by artists including David Bates, Brad Bourgoyne, Michael Crespo, Courtney Egan, David Humphreys, Kathryn Hunter and Ed Smith.
“The world has paid much attention to the Gulf Coast region in the past few years as a result of media coverage of natural disasters and oil spills,” said LSU Museum of Art Executive Director Jordana Pomeroy. “‘Uniquely Louisiana’ encourages a renewed look at the region’s spectacular natural life through the eyes of some of Louisiana’s finest contemporary artists.”
The works of art in this exhibition are a testament to the natural wonders that define Louisiana, a state whose unique environment, shadowy trees, and unusual plant and animal life have inspired visual artists for more than 200 years. Embracing its unusual natural treasures, Louisiana adopted a wealth of state symbols revolving around wildlife – the state amphibian is the green tree frog, the state insect is the honeybee and the state dog is the Catahoula. Even the official state seal depicts a pelican feeding three young birds, with the motto “Union, Justice, Confidence” inscribed below. The state continues to serve as inspiration for artists today. The pelican, for example, remains a popular subject for local artist Ralph Bourque, who finds beauty in the bird’s peculiar form.
“‘Bourque’s Pelicans’ refers to the horrors of the BP oil spill from 2011. His use of black ink to render the majestic birds creates a stunning, although haunting, composition,” says LSU Museum of Art Curator Natalie Mault Mead.
“The Pelican State” is also home to a diverse range of birds. In fact, Louisiana’s coastline is the largest winter migratory habitat for waterfowl in the nation and a source of inspiration for artist Ed Smith, an associate professor in the LSU School of Art. Smith is fascinated by the Louisiana landscape and his paintings illustrate the clash that occurs when nature and man collide. His painting, “Paradise Island,” shows this ongoing fight for survival as a vast array of birds stand precariously tangled around one another.
“The resulting work of art is a curious scene that is both beautiful and hostile,” Mead said.
Deep in the heart of the Louisiana bayou, one can find a great variety of trees – multiple types of oak, elm, cypress, sweet gum, maple, black locust, honey locust, red haw and others. The striking silhouettes and canopies of Louisiana’s trees often inspire the settings for artists’ works. Bald cypress, magnolia trees and magnificent live oaks bedecked with Spanish moss often form serene backdrops for paintings. For local artist Courtney Egan, Spanish moss serves as the inspiration for her video-based sculpture, “Sigils (Spanish Moss).” Exploring the visual relationship between nature and technology, Egan projects a tangle of the distinctive trademark of the southern landscape hanging from a branch.
Flowers bloom year round in Louisiana thanks to the summertime heat and the mild winters. Louisiana’s official flower, the magnolia blossom, remains the most popular floral subject for artists in Louisiana, as seen in works by artists David Bates, Dede Lusk and Bradley Sabin, whose works range from photography to ceramics. Common flora of Louisiana also includes the swamp lily, thistle and Louisiana iris. Artists Cynthia Giachetti and Ben Diller explore the beauty of botany through ceramic wall installations; David Vella works in glass; and Ryan Coubourn employs the more traditional oil on canvas.
General admission to the museum is $5 each for adults and children age 13 and over. Admission is free to university faculty, staff and students with ID, children age 12 and under and museum members. Hours of operation are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Thursday from 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
For additional information, call 225-389-7200, visit www.lsumoa.com  or find the LSU Museum of Art on Facebook.