Cenla’s Artisans

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J. Aubrey Bolen III

J. Aubrey Bolen III is a native Alexandrian, married to Nicole Bolen with two daughters, Jenevieve and Lorelei. He received a Bachelor’s Degree in Studio Art from Louisiana College and apprenticed for 7 years with master antique restorer Mike Armand. He has owned and operated his own furniture restoration business for 6 years now. Aubrey has dedicated his professional life to applying his creative skills to both furniture and the canvas. As a furniture artisan, he has honed his craft over the past 13 years, bringing back quality, vigor and functionality to antiques and contemporary furniture in desperate need of a pair of skilled hands. His furniture studio in LeCompte remains an eclectic environment, bustling with inspiration and innovation. In addition, Aubrey continues to paint and participate in gallery shows. His keen eye for the use and mixture of color, love for natural landscapes and frequent use of surreal humor result in paintings that intrigue and captivate an audience. His most recent works will be showcased in the Louisiana College Alumni Show, beginning October 22nd.

David Crain

Deeply passionate about design, David Crain’s creativity can be seen in both the work he does as an ad agency Creative Director, as well as opportunities he seizes after hours in other venues. Those “after hours” projects vary greatly in scope and type. They range from entire office suite overhauls to special one-of-a-kind art piece commission for use in retail environments.

“In today’s world – even locally – people are looking for design that reaches beyond the traditional realm. That’s what I’m really good at,” Crain explains. “Many times people have told me they can spot my mark on a space before anyone tells them who did it. I consider that a huge compliment.”

When quizzed about his growth as a designer, Crain quickly credits the impact of attending three different annual “HOW” Conferences (a national design conference for a wide variety of designers). “This provided a huge catalyst for expansion. The exposure and training from those experiences are second-to-none.”

West & Marguerite Constantine

Located in the center of the village, along the banks of Bayou des Glaises, you’ll find a state-of-the-art dairy operation and artisan cheese-making kitchen – WesMar Farms owned and operated by West and Marguerite Constantine. “Making cheese is a intricate process, one that requires patience and maintaining a delicate balance between aging, and acids, heating and pressing,” Marguerite says. “You have to be patient. You can’t tell cheese what to do. It’s gratifying to be able to provide food for others that is nourishing.”

As strong advocates of locally produced food and sustainable agriculture, West and Marguerite manage their farm in a manner that works with the environment and natural resources. They raise their dairy goats with a natural approach to animal husbandry. The herds are raised in a non-confined environment and allowed to graze in open pastures. “We feel a responsibility to help others learn how and where their food comes from.” Marguerite explains. “Our mission is to meet the needs of people who are seeking good, authentic products that not only feed their bellies, but nourish their souls and support a local, healthy economy.”

The couple shares their knowledge with others. They provide educational opportunities for the young and old alike by scheduling periodic farm tours.

Besides caring for and milking the goats, making artisan goat cheeses and handcrafted goat milk soaps, the Constantines host a weekly farmers market and gift shop every Thursday afternoon at the farm and invite area farmers to bring their fresh produce to sell. For more information visit their website at www.WesMarFarms.com.

Tommy Faulk

My love affair with watercolor paint began in high school. That relationship has survived raising two families, a career job at Cleco, competition with other hobbies and several inspirational “dry spells”. Through it all, I always returned to the watercolor well.

My latest work was painted from a reference photo a friend gave me from his childhood. The photo was black and white, so I had to make up the colors. Painting from photographs, usually my own photography, is my preferred method. A long time ago, I decided that the camera was the best image collector for me. I appreciate plein air painting and drawing from life, I have practiced it a lot, but I prefer working from photos in the comfort and privacy of my home studio.

Being an artist in Cenla is an advantage for me because of the abundance of subject material, a large network of talented artists, and an educated, appreciative group of art patrons.

Marti Hair

Thirteen years ago, my husband and I bought a small cottage in North Carolina. We wanted to be near our grandchildren who live in Georgia. After spending several summers there, I became interested in watercolor. I joined a group taught by Bonnie Adams, who is a very good watercolorist. Three years later, I decided to give oils a try. I have been Jon Houglam’s classes ever since. Jon is a marvelous oil painter known throughout the Carolinas. He is an excellent instructor; and, under his guiding hand, I have come to love painting.

I paint mountain scenes in the summer and Louisiana scenes in the winter. My family has been in Louisiana for seven generations, so I love my state. However, those eighty degree temperatures in North Carolina are awfully appealing. Wherever I am, happiness for me is picking up a paintbrush and allowing my spirit to soar. I am excited about my first art exhibit at River Oaks, which runs through November 26th.

Frances Johanson

Frances Johanson creates original, one-of-a-kind handmade jewelry in her studio in the heart of Louisiana. From delicate crystal beadwork, to glamorous cuffs, to earthy stone and metal signature pieces, Frances’ passion for creating beautiful jewelry radiates in many directions. Connecting all of her work is a love for the history and culture of Louisiana, especially the music and the people.

Frances, a graphic design and advertising specialist by trade, began creating jewelry 15 years ago as a hobby that provided a different creative outlet and allowed her to explore a new artistic medium. Her original medium had been painting, but she found that jewelry design required less space and could be done wherever she went. What began as a fun experiment soon became an intensive learning process, in which she studied many traditional and contemporary beading and jewelry techniques. Frances’ hobby quickly grew into a business, as friends and colleagues increasingly asked to purchase pieces from her.

In the last few years, Frances’ jewelry business has evolved into nearly a full-time job. While her graphic design clients are still first priority, she now sells her jewelry at art markets all over Louisiana as well as at her new online store, www.johansonjewelry.com. Although her schedule has become more demanding, she always enjoys being involved in regional art markets, meeting customers, and getting to know and learn from fellow craftspeople.

Catherine M. Pears

When Sheri Bennett and I we were painting “A Look Back,” the mural on the Sentry Drugs building, we often questioned the difference between artist and artisan. The distinction seemed elusive to both of us who enjoyed creative lives that seemed hard to define as simply a painter. Research reveals artisan as “a person manually skilled in making a particular product … skilled in the arts…to instruct in the arts.”

I always feared too much emphasis on commercial work rather than “real art”, while seeking a living in the arts. And lately, my concern is not making art at all. But, if I look over the products I’ve created, not worrying about fitting neatly into any particular medium, I do see an artisan’s body of work.

Logos, brochures, ad campaigns, paintings, murals, theater sets, cookbooks, magazines, kids music programs, sculptures, photographs, art workshops, mardi gras floats, kiosks, faux finishes, plays, radio shows, songs, art history classes, poems, performance art characters, essays, festivals and now, a museum…and one piece of monkey art!

Rhonda Reap-Curiel

Rhonda Reap-Curiel is a multi-medium artist working in photography, oil, charcoal, acrylic, glass, iron and mixed media. She holds two degrees from Tulane, neither of which is in art. She is a Resident Artist at River Oaks.

Her contemporary pieces are inspired by music, nature, light, and movement while her traditional work captures the essence of Louisiana. Always searching for the drama of the subject, she sees beyond the surface beauty or ugliness to something that stirs her soul. Through her art, she challenges the voyeur and expresses a freedom from the daily restraints of traditional work.

Rhonda has had her work recognized locally and regionally, winning awards in various competitions and being juried into multi-state shows. A member of the River Oaks Iron Pour Crew, she has demonstrated with the team in both Alexandria and Lafayette.

Rhonda is married to Ricardo Curiel. Her dog Wolfgang often accompanies her on back road excursions. Her current show entitled The Beat Goes On (The Music I See) is running from through November 26th in the Gallery des Amis at River Oaks.

Morris Taft Thomas

From my perspective as a visual artist, I envision life as a sphere. We are mere passengers who pass though and orbit in a circle starting with inception to infinity. Between the two entities lies the essence of our being. Visual social commentary was not a high priority for creative expressions during my formative years as an artist. Now that my chronological age and mental maturity have evolved, there is urgency for me to reflect and document social events as they occurred during my era of social change.

I was preoccupied with an attempt to escape from what out to be, not realizing there is no eradicating life experiences, for they come full circle. Through this awakening as a painter and sculptor, an attempt has been made to reflect and visually document, with the use of metal sculptures and mixed media paintings, life experiences as they were during my formative years.

My utilization of an existentialistic approach is intended to capture the viewer’s attention by using an explosion of brilliant hues. The overlay of textured materials tends to make jobjects in the composition appear three-dimensional. My metal sculptures and mixed media paintings, though contemporary, reflect simplicity that is explicit and unambiguous enough to convey a message from past to present.