Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Judy Chicago was one of the artists brought to Shreveport by At-the-Loft people

In Feb, 07, artist Michael Harold wrote, "It's great to see that you are putting together an At-the-Loft blog and to hear that Diane Dufilho is doing a history of art in Shreveport. I read the contributions from the artists that you have posted. The list of names includes some of my favorite artists. Not favorite Shreveport artists. Favorite artists, period.

The artists in this group are a big part of the reason I do art. In the early 70s, I would take a bus to the Craft Alliance on Dalzell Street to see these artists. Remember, it was late 60s, early 70s and the U.S. was in the middle of a high renaissance where art and culture was concerned. (Wars always bring out the best in artists, I think. I know that during the past six years I've done some of my best work ever. Mostly writing, though.) Even here in Shreveport, when they were not busy smoking dope, having sex and being routed out of various public parks by George D'Artois, the young people were walking around with Burroughs, Kerouac, Heller, Vonnegut, Plath, Beckett and Pynchon in their backpacks and listening to Hendrix, Zeppelin, The Doors, etc. Visual art was no different. Everyone with an interest in visual art was exposed to Pop Art, Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, Conceptual Art, Body Art, Happenings, Environmental Art, and all the other art isms of the period. The older artists in Shreveport, especially the ones you mention, were fully aware of the larger cultural currents. Clyde Connell with her "church" and "ladder" and "reliquary" sculptures made of paper mache, hammered nails, stones and found objects. Talk about hidden (or not so hidden) meanings related to slavery, poverty, education, religion and judicial injustice. There were David Horner's and Jerry Slack's installations. There was Lucille Reed's minimalism.

These people were amazing. I followed them from Dalzell to the Craft Alliance at Centenary (now the Turner Art Center), to the Craft Alliance on Stoner (later renamed the Stoner Art Center).

And then there was At-the-Loft.

There are a couple of people in town who should be able to provide a wealth of information on the contemporary art scene in the area from the 70s to the present. I spoke with Jim Huckabay recently and his memory of the early Craft Alliance was much better than mine. Bruce Allen was an insider on all of this stuff from the mid-80s onward. Kitty Kavanaugh, a Director of the Stoner Arts Center, if you can locate her, would be a great resource. There were a lot of potters, jewelers, fabric and mixed media artists who were in the thick of it as well. Bruce would remember. And an oral history from all of the artists that have surfaced in your blog would be essential to any real understanding of the contemporary art in this area from the late 50s to the present.

You've mentioned everyone I remember. Just off the top of my head we have Janet Parker, Nevelyn Brown, Tama Nathan, Berk Bourne, Clyde Connell, Lucille Reed, Lynn Gautier and Gwen Norsworthy. I also seem to remember that there were some younger artists who had studios there at one time or another. I don't always trust my memory but I was looking for Ellen Soffer and Laura Noland in the list and didn't see them.

It doesn't stop there. There has been continuity from the beginning. The At-the-Loft artists were the same people who brought Judy Chicago and Alan Sondheim to Shreveport. They invited artists like me and Bruce to put installations in the space (which was a very big deal to me). They participated with other groups such as the Artist's Transit, the Princess Park Works-In-Progress group, SRAC's public sculpture projects, the Red River Revel, the Eye-20 group and lots of others. And they set the example, especially the women. Donna Service (and her partner Donna Moore), exhibited the same type of no holds barred artistic guts as the At-the-Loft artists. Dorothy Hanna, too. Thank god for the women artists in this town is all I've got to say. Many of the younger artists in the area (Allison Dickson comes to mind) are part of this larger work-in-progress. There is a lot of continuity here.

Then there are the artists from the other half of North Louisiana, the artists of color. They don't show up in these narratives, even though many of them achieved as much in terms of their art as any of the other artists in the area. I know. I have seen it.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Janet Parker on her studio compadres in At-the-Loft

"I wasn’t involved in the initial planning for the art space where the public could watch artists work," says Janet Parker. "I think that I moved in the day that Tama Nathan moved out because I met her for the first time. I believe she was moving to Mississippi. Tama later returned to Shreveport and an impressive body of public art is among her many accomplishments.

I had studio space while Clyde Connell, Lucille Reed, Nevelyn Brown, and Berk Bourne were there.

Clyde never met a stranger and loved everybody and they returned the affection. Clyde was generous in sharing important guests who came to see her work. We all were thrilled when Clyde moved into the mainstream art world. I cherish my Clyde Connell original and feel honored that I knew her.

I remember Lucille for her perseverance and belief in a Shreveport art community. She worked very hard for a long time and should have received more recognition.

Berk and Nevelyn were open and shared information with me. I always enjoyed seeing their new work because they had interesting ideas. They were fun to work with in planning our open studios. I remembered, it snowed in Shreveport and Nevelyn did a wonderful snow landscape. She didn’t like it and wanted to destroy it. That bothered me because the colors were so gorgeous, golds and blues. I just recently found out that she still has the painting.

At times, I felt like the Shreveport art world was not real because artists didn’t make a living at their trade and I often wondered if our guests knew it. We were doing something similar to vanity publishing insofar as we could do as much as we were willing to finance.

I miss those days."

Janet Parker
Charleston, WV

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Tama Nathan on Norsworthy, Wallace, Brown, Connell, Borne, Reed, Gautier, Parker, et al

Tama & Ira Nathan
Originally uploaded by trudeau.
Says multi-media artist Tama Nathan: "I became involved with the Loft via Gwen Norsworthy, as I had just started going to the Barnwell Center studio. Gwen and I shared a studio at the Loft, tho' neither of us did our work there.

I recall that first Open House when Gwen introduced me to the "art community". I especially remember Betty Wallace from down the hall. She was doing wonderful macrame pieces, and greeted me with open arms. Nevelyn Brown showed me how she organized her workspace. Clyde Connell gave me a warm welcome and talked about her newest pieces.

Berk Borne and his dear wife were the Loft's official "host and hostess," as I recall, for those marvelous, exciting Sundays. Berk and Lucille also tended the verdant plant life in the front room.

There I later met Lucille Reed, Lynn Gautier and Janet Parker. They were all awesome talents who became close friends. I didn't participate in the Loft's Judy Chicago weekend (ed: the group paid for a visit by the reknowned artist so as to deepen their insights into women and success in art), which influenced many of the local artists, especially Clyde. I remain under the spell of my undergrad mentors.

One of my highlighted Loft memories is the first poetry reading by David Love Lewis; we were all so delighted to be an audience for this sensitive soul. It was followed by other readings and became the core of a poetry writers' group.

Another highlight was the first Women's Week collaboration. The theme was auto-biography. As guests we had Henry Price and the young black man who later created the S'port logo. We had a great discussion re the theme and Women's Week. On that Sunday we exhibited our work specific to the theme, and had conversations led by each artist about each work. It was very cathartic.

Tho' I no longer kept a studio space there, I was on their Board of Directors.

The next year, we did a window on Texas St. that became a cause celebre and the first front page news coverage the art community had.

I recall a hot, hot day's visit and seeing Deborah Howard (painter and art prof at LSUS) working hard in her studio, stripped down to her slip. I think I have some photos taken during one of the yummy Lasagna lunches for some visiting art VIP. We set up long tables in the front room for those lunches.

After Willie Middlebrook's residency, the Loft participated in the one Open Studio event we've had. It was a delightful day of meeting and greeting visitors. It was orchestrated by Kathryn Usher.

I had a show of my "books" in the central gallery room and a few of my paintings, but don't recall the date.

As the Pyramid Group, Nevelyn Brown, Lucille Reed and I had a studio, starting in 1995. We usually met there for discussions and to store the equipment and supplies for our collaborative public art works.

That small front area had walls covered with art show announcements and news clippings. The layer of posted items had to be at least an inch thick by the close of At-the-Loft.

The latest and saddest was the day Lucille had her studio sale. She was selling her wonderful works at flea market prices. Her husband, George, was there as Lucille couldn't make it up the stairs."

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Korner Lounge
Originally uploaded by skipgo shannon.

The Korner Lounge, almost directly across Cotton St from the former site of At-the-Loft, is known as Shreveport's oldest gay bar. I should say longest-running, but I've also been told the clientele isn't exactly the youth market.

Regardless, I've never heard a story about At-the-Loft artists and visits to the Korner Lounge. Surely . . .

Thanks to Shannon Palmer for the neat snap.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Cotton St, Shreveport

Arts Center
Originally uploaded by mikerosebery.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

1984: One year in At-the-Loft

My name is Dorothy Kristin Hanna. I rented a studio for a year in 1984.

It was a good experience being there, in a corner studio. I remember that I never felt completely relaxed there, because I kept getting notes on my door about the smell of turpentine. I was in my early 20's and my paints were messy and I did not know how to paint without getting paint all over me.

The walls had no paint on them.

Sweet Nevelyn Brown asked me if i would cover my paints with saran wrap before I left each time and to please take my wet paintings home to dry. My husband told me he would leave me if I ever brought a wet painting home. So the solution was to seek another studio.

The Loft was the first group, that welcomed me completely into the art world. From there I went to the Artist Transit.

I loved the loft and I am happy that I had the experience of the wonderful kind ladies. I especially loved the stairs that led up to the studios; it was like being an artist in an old building in New York City.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Robin Clawson, former Craft Alliance and Stoner Arts Center volunteer, on Lucille Reed and Clyde Connell

"I took classes at and taught at the Craft Alliance through which I met both Lucille and Clyde when I first came to Shreveport," says Robin Clawson. "Both were always generous beyond belief in the cause of contemporary arts and crafts. I was on the Board of the Craft Alliance and then Stoner Arts Center for what seems like forever. For many years, my job was to book and hang shows and to organize publicity and openings for them. Both ladies donated their art (and advice and time) for every fundraising effort we made, and I could never thank them enough for always being can-do types. Without fail, they were devoted and dedicated worker-bees, not the least bit the prima donnas they could have been and deserved to be.

Lucille was so helpful with organizing the new space on Stoner to make it more studio friendly. She seemed quiet and peaceful and easy-going to me; she also seemed like a person who could move mountains with incredibly passionate ferocity.

I once went out to Clyde's place at Bistineau (have forgotten the reason...probably on business during my short directorship of SRAC...it was perhaps late '70's) and watched her point, clamor, instruct and hover about a large swamp creature while an assistant built it from native clay and fibrous plant materials and such. I remember wondering if her free-wheeling white hair was in the mix :)

She then made tea for me. We rocked on her porch, and I just remember looking at her and hoping I'd be that lively and hip when I got to be that aged. I knew I'd never live to be that pretty! Some years later, I returned to visit friends in Washington, D.C. where I'd lived for several years. It was joyous to see Clyde's work at the Hirschorn. I remember telling passers-by, 'This is my friend's work,' and being SO proud to claim her."