St. Francisville photographer Darlene Reaves is a self-described “Katrina transplant,” having moved to West Feliciana in 2005 following the storm.
“I started photographing this beautiful area once I landed here,” said Reaves, a former teacher. “What a treat this is for me.”
Reaves says the scenic landscapes, trees, flowers, even the early morning fog she and her husband encounter on walks with their dogs beckon to her.
“One day, we were riding along, and I screamed, ‘Stop; go back’ and jumped out of the car to photograph a country Tunica road,” Reaves said. “Another time, it was a turtle crossing the road near the old ferry landing. He was a brave little guy. He let me get right up in his face with my camera and didn’t retreat into his shell.”
Artist Joe Savell, who owns Backwoods Gallery in St. Francisville, asked Reaves if he could paint one of her photos, selecting one she snapped at the old ferry landing in St. Francisville. Then Murrell Butler, an artist and St. Francisville resident noted for his dramatic landscapes and bird illustrations, chose to paint the same ferry landing photo as Savell.
True to Butler’s style, a bird was added to his interpretation of the image.
Savell’s artist wife, Dahn, chose to paint a shot of wisteria on Ferdinand Street during another of Reaves’ early morning, fog-filled walks.
“It was then that the Savells suggested a ‘Paint My Photograph’ exhibit, and in no time, 13 local artists had joined in, and we had one unique exhibit in the works,” Reaves said.
Joe Savell said he began sending around photographs to area artists in the summer and early fall, and by January, the exhibit was ready. An artists’ reception for Reaves and the 13 artists was held Jan. 8.
“I had no trouble selling people on the idea,” Joe Savell said.
Amateur artist Carolyn Thornton chose to paint an old oak on Mahoney Road in St. Francisville.
“I’m a relatively new artist and thought this was challenging but really enjoyed it. I’m grateful for the opportunity,” Thornton said. “St. Francisville is an artists’ community. Everyone is so generous and encouraging.”
The 13 artists who took part in the exhibit are as varied in their mediums and styles as their personalities. Some are professional artists, while others paint as a hobby. One artist enjoys chasing and repoussé while another likes to paint burlap and stepping stones.
Each artist painted the photo of their choice.
“Their interpretations are what make this exhibit so unique,” Reaves said.
All of her photos were taken in the St. Francisville area, but not all artists are from St. Francisville. Merry Hobgood and Donna Kilbourne are East Feliciana residents known in art communities throughout the region.
Hobgood, who enjoys painting faces, chose to paint “Smiling Kathryn,” a candid photo of an actor from the St. Francisville Transitory Theatre.
Hobgood’s technique builds upon layer upon layer of acrylic paint.
“I’m not a portrait painter, and there is no known name for my technique,” said Hobgood, who has won awards for her paintings in Jackson.
Kilbourne chose to paint cows on Tunica Street.
Olivia Pass, a Many native, painted the Tunica Road and says the exhibit was challenging but she loved the colors of the moss, the leaves, the trees.
“Even now, as I’m seeing the photo next to my painting in the gallery, I’m seeing colors I never saw before,” Pass said.
A former writer of romance novels and psychological thrillers, Sandra Ware, the wife of retired Judge Hal Ware, also chose the ferry landing as the inspiration for her mixed-media and acrylic painting, as well as a poem titled “The Door Into Summer.”
“It’s about death and rebirth,” Ware says of her piece. “I’m influenced by Native Americans and places out West such as New Mexico.”
Blacksmith, metalsmith and found object sculptor Marcia Kistner-Roberg, who had not painted in about 20 years, painted a golden orb spider on its web.
“I focused on the different tones of the spider after drawing it to scale. Modern art is in nature everywhere; just look at the geometrical shapes of this web,” Roberg said pointing to her work.
Other interpretations of Reaves’ photography include zinnias by Pam Notestine, who likes to paint on burlap, driftwood and metal; red spider lilies in front of the West Feliciana Courthouse by Kathryn Ward; and a red-eared turtle crossing the road near the old ferry landing in St. Francisville by Kelly Ward, Kathryn’s husband.
Trees at the West Feliciana Sports Park, Reaves’ husband walking in the snow with their dogs and a cat from the West Feliciana Animal Humane Society are some of the other photograph-inspired paintings in the “Paint My Photograph” exhibit.
The cat painting is a watercolor by Reaves’ sister-in-law, Evelyn Williams, who lives in Florida. The artwork will be donated to the new feline facility at the West Feliciana Parish Animal Humane Society where Reaves volunteers.
Savell says other artists have expressed interest in participating in another “Paint My Photograph” exhibit next year.
“I love it. I’d surely be open to it but wouldn’t mind if other photographers and their work were involved, too,” Reaves said.
Savell invites the community to check out the exhibit at Backwoods Gallery, 11931 Ferdinand St., any time between 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.