Visual Arts

Landscapes and Blue Skies by Socially-Conscious Louisiana-based Artists

Following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the town of Arnaudville, Louisiana saw the need to preserve the cultural assets of the region, including the French language, music and visual arts. The NUNU Arts and Culture Collective – a multipurpose art and culture space that plays host to social and educational events – was born; and works by its co-founder and director are on display now in Gallery Jatad’s “In A World” exhibit.

The three mixed media pieces presented by George Marks all contain blue skies and billowy white clouds, but the similarities end there. With a subtle reference to the master bakers of France, his Ciel Fragmente – Degrees of Separation incorporates four vintage commercial bread pans. The 16 smaller segments of sky are placed in the pans at different angles, alluding to the driver’s seat vista in the rear-view mirror. The piece was inspired by photographs taken as part of an interdisciplinary international exchange, “Degrees of Separation,” between painters, poets and writers from Louisiana and the Bretagne region of France.

At more than five feet in length, the horizontally arranged wooden boards in Panoramic Sky 1-5 are part of a larger body of work, which can be mixed and matched and arranged in groupings of few or many. Each individual piece is unique in its own way, with variations on sky and darkened wood; the result is light and airy, in spite of the scale of the piece and the weight of the media. Marks’s third piece, Wholly, not holy, offers an exaggerated perspective of converging electrical lines against the wide, open skies.

The dual exhibit also features seven paintings by Louisiana-based Lisa di Stefano, who is both artist in residence and membership director at NUNU, and who also participated in the “Degrees of Separation” exchange. Concerned about the vanishing wetlands in the region – one report estimates that by the year 2040 Louisiana will have lost more than one million acres of coastal wetlands – di Stefano’s paintings document the beauty of these disappearing landscapes.

Her diptychs set inside an unpainted frame include the sublime green gestures of trees and rolling grasses in St. Francisville, Louisiana; the ghost-filled trees framing the open sky of Atchafalaya Swamp, Summer; and the peachy sky of Arnaudville, Louisiana, LA31. The dark, expansive tree line casts orange shadows in Arnaudville, Louisiana, Summer; while the other framed triptych, Arnaudville, Louisiana, Fall, features fewer trees. Somewhat different in subject matter, the unframed trilogy of St. Francisville, Louisiana, Fall, incorporating a touch of tan, suggests structures or buildings. The single paneled Cluster of Trees, Arnaudville, Louisiana introduces cobalt to the foliage with the beckoning of an open door.

The gallery, which features contemporary art as well as traditional African art, has on display many figures, masks, miniatures and utilitarian pieces that originate from the Ivory Coast, the Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Cameroon, Guinea, Liberia and the Republic of Mali.

“In A World” continues through September 26, at Gallery Jatad, 1517 Blodgett, open Thursdays to Saturdays, noon to 6 p.m., 832-657-4328 or
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Susie Tommaney is a contributing writer who enjoys covering the lively arts and culture scene in Houston and surrounding areas, connecting creative makers with the Houston Press readers to make every week a great one.
Contact: Susie Tommaney