Natchitoches – Since its opening in 1983, the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts has offered students a wide variety of visual arts opportunities.
Through the decades, thousands have been exposed to lessons in painting and drawing, sculpture, photography, design, printmaking and video art. These students also enjoyed a rich cross-disciplinary exchange with the performing arts, including theater, dance, music and spoken word. Alumni carry on their interest in arts today, through fields as diverse as set design, computing, comics, Mardi Gras costuming, filmmaking and culinary experimentation.
“Alumni often describe LSMSA as a place where they were first challenged to take greater risks or exposed to difficult new ideas,” said Laura Blereau, a member of the Class of 1994 and co-organizer of “Past Perfect,” the alumni art show now on display in the art gallery of the Center for Performance and Technology. “The camaraderie fostered in this boarding school environment is unique, and that has always played an important part in the development of our creative communities.
“The bonding and mentorship that fellow colleagues experience in Natchitoches can be transcendent.”
The alumni art show features works by 17 former students, and is the first exhibit to focus exclusively on the art of LSMSA alumni. It presents a wide range of mediums, styles and practices from artists that span several generations – from the Class of 1986 to the Class of 2013.
The exhibit is made possible through the generous support of the LSMSA Foundation and the LSMSA Alumni Association.
Featured artists include:
Deborah Mahnken is a member of the Class of 1986. She has had a lifelong passion for art and has been creating in some form for most of her life. At LSMSA, she took art classes, volunteered in the visual arts department at Northwestern State University for service hours and took an art and architecture trip through Texas and Louisiana for special projects week.
“That was the first time I really spent time learning to draw and paint, and it was exciting and fulfilling,” said Mahnken. “I took as many drawing classes as I could in college, until my schedule wouldn’t accommodate them.
“Looking back, I wish I had made more time for art.”
Nathaniel Wood is a member of the Class of 1990. At LSMSA, Wood focused on visual art and his artwork tended to display a lot of animal-human themes. He was a cartoonist and illustrator for “The Renaissance,” and he appreciated the opportunity to sketch dancers and to study art in the museum at NSU.
Working at “The Renaissance” prepared him for his job as an editorial cartoonist at “The Current Sauce” at the Louisiana Scholars’ College, where he also continued to take art classes.
Realizing his limitations, and not wanting to try to make a living as an artist, Wood decided he would like to be a college professor. He is a professor of Eastern European history at the University of Kansas.
David Lowe is a member of the Class of 1992. He is a photography specialist at the New York Public Library. He is the primary editor of an online historical archive, “The Photographers’ Identities Catalog,” a collection of biographical data for more than 115,000 photographers, studios, manufacturers, dealers and others involved in the production of photographs.
Misty Cole is a member of the Class of 1992. According to Cole, there is a huge debate in the quilting world of is it a quilt if it is not a functional bed cover. She has made plenty of bed quilts and she has found great joy in making and sharing something intended to provide warmth and comfort. However, most of her quilts are “wall quilts” – intended to hang, not live on a bed.
“I hope others find joy in looking at my work, but I make them for my own expression and enjoyment,” said Cole. “I enjoy learning about and mastering traditional quilting techniques and using them in contemporary work.”
Doris Mejia is a member of the Class of 1992. She loves the fiber arts for their tangible connection to the peoples, cultures and practices of the past and present. She draws inspiration from other fiber artists and loves doing her part to keep traditions alive. She crochets and makes handspun yarn on a drop spindle. According to Mejia, this is the first time she has created a piece specifically for an art show.
Dakota Bertrand is a member of the Class of 1994. Bertrand uses art to work out his thoughts and to share them. His goal, in most cases, is to present images and objects as subjects for contemplation. When he attended LSMSA, there was no shortage of inspiration.
“Bro. Michael David encouraged me to work freely in all media, while still making plans and researching processes,” said Bertrand. “Everyone was so encouraging and had so much knowledge to give. I probably should have paid closer attention.”
Anne-Louise Ewen is a member of the Class of 1994. Her painting and philosophy are fueled by the deep-rooted conviction that art is a realm of true freedom – a beacon that makes it possible for artists to share inspiration, preserve human dignity and instill joy.
“I see painting as an investigation where I am always looking for beauty,” said Ewen. “I invent processes and explore unconventional uses of traditional media. I am interested in working on a painting until its own logic emerges, one that gives it a feeling of harmony, of things clicking into place.”
Watson native Amy Traylor is a member of the Class of 1994. As a photographer and creative coder, Traylor loves created space and the individual’s love affair with objects.
She moved from photographically documenting the careful arrangement of beloved objects in personal space, to 3D scanning of precious objects, to 3D scans as precious objects in their own right.
“I want more people to realize the potential of code as an art medium,” said Traylor. “It is incredibly liberating. The LSMSA alumni exhibit is the debut of my code-based work to the world.”
Sharon LaBorde is a member of the Class of 1995. Her work is influenced by the animation she grew up watching in the 1980s and by anime.
“I believe animation can serve as poignant social commentary,” said LaBorde. “Traditional animation also presents a more engrossing world in which viewers confront their hopes, fears and dreams.
“I am passionate about preserving the life drawing and painting skills that I believe are so necessary for this medium.”
John Waggener is a member of the Class of 1995. His two paintings on display are from his “Arabia Mountain” series. They are a meditation on place. Creating them is taking a walk on the surface of Mount Arabia, a unique place on the planet and a favorite of Waggener’s. The paintings are a catalyst to feel the sublime, and an act of documenting a subjective way of knowing the medium.
Daniel McKernan is a member of the Class of 1999. He tends to focus on the otherworldly – with a touch of the surreal or the absurd. At LSMSA, he remembers taking several art classes each semester. He also remembers doing work study in the media lab, which introduced him to video editing and gave him a taste of what he has since turned into a career.
Jared Normand is a member of the Class of 2005. Normand enjoys working with his hands and technical precision. Photography, particularly traditional darkroom photography, affords him both in one medium.
“I would like to help people see that photography is more than selfies and posed group photos,” said Normand. “While those are fun, there is more to the art of ‘light writing’ than recording data.”
Liz Yerby is a member of the Class of 2007. Memoir and diary comics have been her main inspirations. She believes diary comics have an extra level of intimacy not found with other non-fiction.
“I try to highlight vulnerability and strength,” said Yerby. “I hope other people relate to the vulnerabilities I talk about and realize that it takes strength to live with some things, and also to be facing them and talking about them.
“I get really excited when people laugh or cry while reading my comics.”
Chyenne Bertrand is a member of the Class of 2010. The story of her animation is about inspiration and inspiring others. She is currently working on making and publishing her own comic books. She hopes to gain a job in storyboarding.
“LSMSA really did prepare me for the intensity of college classes, and I learned that Cs were not the end of the world,” she said. “It also became apparent to me how different art styles could be.”
Tucker Howard is a member of the Class of 2011. Printmaking was best described to him when he got to college as “drawing on steroids,” and this is a major aspect of his process. He is constantly drawing and pushing himself to draw daily and save everything he makes. This is key to his creative process.
“LSMSA exposed me to a broader view of art,” he said. “Instructor Chris King was both a mentor and an example of what a professional artist is. My time with LSMSA and Chris King gave me a solid foundation that I will always appreciate and value.”
John Goedtel is a member of the Class of 2011. The three mixed media works in the show are still new in the context of his work. He believes they are an important point in his work and will feed his artistic progress.
“When I start a piece, my goal is to be genuine with myself,” he said. “The process is cathartic and a crutch I use to confront my own habits of dishonesty.”
Toni Carlone is a member of the Class of 2013. Carlone has learned that starting a painting with a purpose does not work for her. Instead, she starts drawing and plastering on paint until, eventually, something clicks and she realizes what she is trying to tell herself.
“After I separated what I thought it meant to be an artist and what I am, I realized that I have to make art to better understand myself,” she said.