Saturday, December 30, 2006

Nevelyn Brown in the Garden Images and Body Print era, about 1978

Originally uploaded by trudeau.

Brown: "I am sitting in front of one of my series of "Garden Images", circa 1978-9. The photograph is by Janet Parker."

Arlington Hotel remains, Shreveport Laboratories, home of At-the-Loft, gone / photo Mike Rosebery

Originally uploaded by trudeau.
Nevelyn Brown was the last person in charge of AtL affairs, according to painter Berk Borne.

Brown said, "Clyde, Lucille and I swept and mopped all the floors every week and kept it as spotless as we could. At times, we as a group would get together and paint the halls and our exhibition rooms.

Each studio was rented seperately from Henry Rosenblath, Realtor. He provided the paint for our use. Several of us also kept our studios painted.

We ran the place as a co-op, with everyone paying in a share for the invitations, postage and other expensives. We screened everyone who wanted to rent there.

The policy was no drugs or parties. What you opened, you shut up or picked up. No one left food or containers each day, therefore we had no roaches or rats.Things ran smoothly and successfully!"

From body prints to hieroglyphics, At-the-Loft was the center of Shreveport's modern art scene; 708 Cotton St site demolished

Nevelyn Brown: greenmount
Originally uploaded by trudeau.

"Ooh, I remember an At-the-Loft art opening in the late 1970's that featured my body prints," said Shreveport painter Nevelyn Brown. "I painted myself orange and printed my body on large sheets of brown paper."

"I didn't get to paint myself and make figure prints in the 60's when everyone was doing it," she said. Brown was an art student in San Antonio.

In 1974 she and her husband, an Air Force colonel, were in Shreveport. Brown rented the last open space in At-the-Loft. She remembered with a giggle, "My husband said I could do anything I wanted as long as I didn't embarass him or get in the newspaper. Well, the body print opening became a big event. It made the newspaper. It was celebrated as one of the events of the year."

"We featured performance art at the opening. Everyone got to paint their foot or hand and print part of themselves on a seven-foot piece of watercolor paper. One woman asked me if she could make a special impression when everyone else was gone. She painted her body and made a print in the middle of the sheet. And she must remain nameless." Asked if the prints were stylized or sensual, Brown replied, "Oh, they were all erotic."

Painters Jerry Wray, Flo Duval, Clyde Connell, Jean Sartor and Lucille Reed were among the artists who had studios in At-the-Loft in the 60's and 70's. They were determined female artists at a time when art was dominatd by men. And they were serious students of abstract art. "Some of this region's first abstract art was created there," said Brown. "And the realistic painters mocked them, I was told by Lucille Reed."

Clyde Connell became recognized internationally for work done at 708 Cotton St. "She worked on her hieroglyphic series there," remembers Brown. "Mostly she did works on paper there. Also, she made her papier mache skin there."

Painter Berk Borne had a studio and recalls that "There was no air conditioning. And we only had space heaters for the cold. In winter I'd bundle up like I was going skiing just to go paint."

Sculptor-painter Luclle Reed painted her five-color grid canvasses there. She made totems and "I remember her weaving," says Borne. She wove in wool, paper and wood, among her media.

"Tama Nathan had a printing press there," says Borne. "She made books and all manner of art."

Lewis Conger, who inherited the Shreveport Laboratories building, was given credit by Brown as, "Quite a patron of the arts for preserving it." Conger said, "Rent was practically nothing. It was so low that it made, in the end, an economical stoarge facility. But it was vacated because access was by a long and difficult flight of stairs and, basically, there was no parking." Conger held out on the demolition that was carried out this week, he said, "Hoping that they might find a benefactor. No one came along."

At-the-Loft, called "Shreveport's oldest continually operating studio work space and alternative gallery," is a central site for art history in Shreveport. Indeed, as Diane DuFilho is working on a book featuring the pioneering female abstract painters above, it is a story that resonates widely.

My plan is to collect stories and images for a blog site devoted to At-the-Loft. Already, photographers Phil Messinger and Neil Johnson have sent photos.

Painter Lewis Kalmbach sent this note from San Francisco: "The Loft has only a few memories for me, but they are fond. Laura Noland Harter had a studio up there when I was president of Artist Transit at the old Central Station. When I visited Laura there, I was so envious because it was so clean and organized! The artists there were so serious about their work and inspired me to keep painting. I was most impressed by the older artists and thought to myself. 'Artists never really retire. I hope to be an old man artist one day.'"

Please send your images and notes to trudeau@earthlink.

Nevelyn Brown: Abstract Landscape, a sign of the times from At-the-Loft

Nevelyn Brown: abstract_land
Originally uploaded by trudeau.
Nevelyn Brown was an artist of At-the-Loft from 1974 to 2006. "Jerry Wray, Jean Sartor, Lucille Reed, Clyde Connell and others were already there. I got the last studio. Lucille had been there a long time by herself."

In her note on illustrations sent to me: "Of the body print photos, they are the same, except one is hanging in my studio AT-THE-LOFT and the other has been adjusted. The other pieces, including Abstract Landscape, were painted there. The mountains (not shown yet) won a cash award and the watercolor landscape also won a best of show.

I wrote Janet Parker (in North Carolina) about the picture of the invitation room and she said it was in slide form. She will copy it for me and send it.


The Nevelyn Brown Body Print show, an At-the-Loft avant garde moment

Nevelyn Brown created an event of the year, she said, in the late 1970's when she opened an AtL show of body prints. She painted her nude form in orange paint and applied it to large sheets of brown paper.

"Lynn Gauthier, an At-the-Loft artist, was painting and saw me going around in a blue & white striped robe. My face was painted orange. And my legs were orange. Later we laughed about that session."


Memories or a relevant clipping on this notable show?
Please don't hesitate to send them to Nevelyn at or to

Neil Johnson photographed artists working At-the-Loft

My favorite memories (of many) are spending time with Lucille Reed in her studio and ogling the huge assortment of found objects that permeate her work.

Her work touches my soul and to be with her and her wonderful spirit in that space where she created her work was ALWAYS somehow comforting. At one point I turned the room over the front door into a studio and I photographed her with her tall, tall pieces that were both elegant and fun at the same time.

Lucille now lives in Houston and I am calling around to check on her condition. Stay tuned. Also, I am scanning one of my portraits of her from that shoot in the Loft.

Another wonderful memory was of the Loft "break room", whose walls were covered with art exhibit invitations from all over. SO. MUCH. GREAT. ART.


Alan Dyson: inspiration from the At-the-Loft artists

Alan Dyson: consuming fire1
Originally uploaded by trudeau.
I grew up in Ruston, and as a fine arts major at La. Tech, newly introduced to the "Great Gator Group" (Clyde Connell, David Horner, Jerry Slack) and the work of Lucille Reed, Lynn Gautier of "At-the-Loft" I thought that Shreveport was some kind of artistic Mecca.

This was the era when the Creative Craft Alliance was located on Dalzell St. in Highland. Lucille Reed was doing her Mind Trap pieces with braided fabric and pallette lumber, Lynn Gautier was doing huge museum pieces of painted screen wire, and Clyde Connell was creating her revolutionary "Earth Ruptures" out on Bistineau. I was blown away that this kind of talent - and such artistic wisdom resided right here in Louisiana.

At this time, my own work expanded from the confines of my studio into the environment in the form of site sculptures that I preserved with photography - I now consider this the best work of my life - but at the time I was less sure, and wanted the thoughts of Clyde, Lucille and Lynn.

I drove to Shreveport on the off-chance that I could see them At the Loft, and as luck would have it - they were all three leaving as I pulled up. They patiently waited as I manipulated the large framed pieces out of the car. It was Clyde that exclaimed a life-changing "ALL RIGHT!!" when she saw the image of a door, standing out on the surface of Lake Bistineau, engulfed in flame. Nothing could have meant more to me at that moment back in 1978.

At the Loft was a meeting ground for some of the brightest artistic minds I have ever encountered. Nevelyn Brown, Danny Williams, Tama Nathan, those mentioned above and many others all working in a professional space, producing museum quality work.

I hope we can identify and cultivate such spaces where the creative spirit can thrive, and our architectural, and cultural heritage can be preserved and celebrated.


Historic preservation issues and 708 Cotton St: designer-artist Alan Dyson's perspective

What a loss to Shreveport.

Please forgive me as I rant over the effect that modern building codes have on our downtown infrastructure.

Downtown Shreveport will never be revitalized. The costs required to comply with the Uniform Building Code, The Life Safety Code, & The National Electrical Code simply make renovation projects financially impossible. Therefore, buildings that have been useful, structurally sound, and beautiful for over 100 years will fall into decay, and eventually meet the same fate as At the Loft. It was cheaper to tear it down and park maybe 10 cars.

Codes are necessary, but so is our architectural and cultural heritage. Hopefully, our new city administration will pursue a reasonable alternative.


At-the-Loft: a site for stories & images from Shreveport's art history

We are taking the loss of the building at 708 Cotton, home to At-the-Loft, as the starting point of a history of Shreveport's art scene.

Send an email to trudeau@earthlink.netwith your notes, stories, clippings, excerpts, invitations, photos, art and other images for inclusion in this digital history book. Please try to add a date to the story or image you submit.

Clyde Connell, sculptor-painter, was one of the artists who worked at 708 Cotton St, called At-the-Loft

Shreveport Laboratories, a 2-story brick business building at 708 Cotton St, Shreveport, was demolished this week. With its demise an era of Shreveport art history was closed.

Upstairs at the Shreveport Laboratories was At-the-Loft, once called "Shreveport's oldest continually operating studio work space and alternative gallery." Artists such as Clyde Connell, Jerry Wray, Flo Duval, Jean Sartor and Nevelyn Brown once worked from the small studios in the building.

The story on its end by john Andrew prime of the Times:

Downtown medical building to come down / Renovations for Shreveport Laboratories building were too expensive
December 24, 2006

By John Andrew Prime

Another of Shreveport's historic downtown buildings is falling prey to the wrecker's ball, the victim of old age and rising expenses.

The building is the old Shreveport Laboratories edifice, which is in the 700 block of Cotton Street, next to the now-unused Arlington Hotel.

"It's been in my family several generations, so tearing it down wasn't an easy decision," said Bossier City property developer Lewis Conger, whose grandfather Dr. Lewis Pirkle built the structure just after the Great Depression with a partner, fellow physician Dr. T.E. Williams. "But we could not rent it out, sell it or get insurance, not until it's up to code."

Getting the old building to satisfy modern electrical and other codes for commercial use just wouldn't be economically feasible, Conger said.

Conger said the building is the second of two adjacent structures his grandfather, who died in 1948 at age 75, built, a story that is borne out by old city directories.

They show Pirkle in the first building, which no longer stands, in the late 1920s, and in the newer building with tenants that included a pharmacy and a dentist in the early 1930s.

"Shreveport Labs actually started as a pharmacy," Conger said.

There's no planned use for the property, other than to be an empty city lot for now.

"It will be a less-attractive nuisance," Conger said