Sunday, January 22, 2017

Kemp explores Louisiana's 'Expressions of Place'

I’ve long studied expression of place through literature, both classical and contemporary works, and written about many of those books in this column. Louisiana exemplifies such scholarship, offering both diverse landscapes as well as a distinct cultural connection to the land. Art writer John Kemp collects 37 landscapes artists addressing the same theme — Louisiana’s sense of place — in a gorgeous new coffee table book, “Expressions of Place: The Contemporary Louisiana Landscape.” Artists highlighted in this University of Mississippi book hail from all corners of the Bayou State.

They were chosen, according to Kemp in the book’s preface, “on geography, subject matter, painting style, or accomplishment, and whether the urban or rural Louisiana was the primary focus of their work.” They range from professionals who are known nationally to those famous closer to home. George Rodrigue’s haunting oak trees are included, as are the dreamy rice fields of Elemore Morgan Jr. The vibrant brushstrokes of Mary Louise Porter pop off the pages, while Robert M. Seago Jr.’s landscapes offer a softer interplay of light and color. Shirley Rabé Masinter, Willie Birch and Alan Flattmann present New Orleans realism while Francis X. Pavy transforms Louisiana into “mystic zydeco expressionism.”

Each artist spotlight includes their story, residence, inspirations and art training, in addition to several examples of their work.

I savored this book, entranced by its images, especially those utilizing water, studying Rhea Jones Gary’s colorful wetlands, Adrian Deckbar’s ethereal reflections and Melissa Bonin’s calm New Iberia bayous. It was almost a spiritual experience.

Kemp is the former deputy director of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities and has written and contributed to more than a dozen books about Louisiana artists.


New releases
Christopher Hallowell has published “Beneficiaries of Deceit,” a novel which takes place in Massachusetts, Louisiana and the Peruvian jungle. Hallowell is also the author of the Louisiana books “People of the Bayou: Cajun Life in Lost America” and “Holding back the Sea: The Struggle of the Gulf Coast to Save America.”

Allen Cates of Lafayette spent almost eight years in Southeast Asia flying helicopters with the Marines and Air America. He relates these experiences in his novel, “Full Circle: An Odyssey About America’s Secret Air Force in Southeast Asia.” For more information on Cates’ novel and his nonfiction book, “Honor Denied,” visit www.allencatesbooks.com.

LSU Southern Review’s winter 2017 issue brings together a group of authors, including two National Book Award finalists, a Pulitzer Prize nominee and a former U.S. poet laureate. The winter issue of the literary review is available for purchase online at http://thesouthernreview.org and at select bookstores.

Conferences
Heather Graham’s Writers for New Orleans will be Sept. 1-3 at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans. For information, visit www.writersforneworleans.com.

The Readers & Writers Symposium will be held Feb 18 at Hemingbough, outside St. Francisville. This year’s authors include Rheta Grimsley Johnson, nationally syndicated columnist and nonfiction author; Melissa Delbridge, author of the memoir “A Family Bible;” Deborah Johnson, who wrote two award-winning novels set in the Jim Crow South; and Peter Cooley, the present poet laureate of Louisiana. Tickets can be purchased through Brownpapertickets.com.

The Fourth Annual Walker Percy Weekend will be June 2-4 in St. Francisville. For more information, visit www.walkerpercyweekend.org.

Book events Jan. 22-28, 2017
Tim Gautreaux signs his latest book, “Signals: New and Selected Stories,” at 6 p.m. Monday at Octavia Books and at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Garden District Book Shop, both of New Orleans. He is the author of three novels and two earlier short story collections.

Frederick D. Jones J.D., writing coach and publishing strategist, presents “Write & Publish Your Book NOW!” from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Main Rapides Parish Library in Alexandria. He will discuss with participants writing, motivation and publishing a story, a kick-off to the library’s new writing group “Come Write In” which begins this month. Preregistration required; call (318) 445-2411, Ext 1020, or visit www.rpl.org. The class is free.

George F. Schneider, author of “Survivor: Memoirs of a WWII Vet,” shares his experiences fighting in the European Theater of World War II and answers questions from the audience following the talk from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Main Lafayette Library.

The Festival of Words hosts an evening of stories, poetry and an open mic beginning at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Chicory Coffee in Grand Coteau. The event will feature poet Michael Rather and Marie Marcel of Leonville, who has researched area families for more than 30 years. The oral history presentation will be videotaped and placed in the Cajun and Creole Archives at the Center for Louisiana Studies in the “Grand Coteau Voices” collection. For more information, call Patrice Melnick at (337) 254-9695 or email festivalwords@gmail.com.

Dr. Shane K. Bernard will present a program on his latest book titled “Teche: A History of Louisiana’s Most Famous Bayou” at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Young-Sanders Center for the Study of the War Between the States in Louisiana in Franklin. The program is free and open to the public. For information email ysc1861@aol.com or call (337) 413-1861.


Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country.” She writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Her latest is "Carnival Confessions: A Mardi Gras Novella." Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.