Over years of creating, an artist can inspire many people to see the world in a new way or to gain new insights. In Nolan Lefort’s case, what people can discover is a man who is in touch with the environment, honesty and humor. Many even refer to the art he has produced as magical.

A few years ago, Lefort was diagnosed with cancer. Thus began a great outpouring of art and an attitude of cherishing life for him and his wife, Debbie. The couple decided to face the monster bravely, believing in the magic.

“I have led a charmed life,” Lefort said. “Amazing things have come our way when we needed them. Sometimes what came wasn’t what I needed or wanted, but down the road, it manifested that this had been what was needed and ultimately strengthened me.”

As a scientist and an artist, Lefort believes in the power of a well-ordered cosmos. He feels that everything must be organized, a trait not always common to an artist. Arranging the environment, space and materials allows him to reflect and get in touch with himself in medias res.

Yet despite all these abilities, logical and magical, last year the cancer reared its ugly head again. More treatments were initiated. The couple had been in Houston for more than two months when the doctors told him that nothing was working and that the treatments were only making him uncomfortable.

When they got home to Slidell, the couple’s longtime friend Suzanne Stymiest was anxious to share an idea. This was another instance of love and magic guiding them. Stymiest suggested they have a celebration of Nolan’s art in their home.

At first Debbie thought it was not a great idea. Nolan said, “I have to let this idea incubate.” Debbie was concerned about all the organization it would take, but Stymiest assured her that she would take care of everything.

Once the idea appealed to Nolan, Debbie was on board. A committee of friends and neighbors quickly formed, including Suzanne Stymiest, Rose Marie Sand, Donna Laurent, Mary MacCurdy, Grace Marshall, Boni Johnson, Rebecca Kennedy, Dave Stymiest, Dan Farnsworth and Sam Sutter. Neighbors Melvin Cousins and Bill Green coordinated parking.

Nolan placed only one stipulation on the event: to make everything affordable so everyone could find something to take home.

“This was a wonderful celebration that stemmed from the existence of Nolan’s soul in each of his artworks,” Suzanne Stymiest said. “People connected through his creations.” Actually, 150 people came to the celebration.

Debbie described their home as filled with love. She held her hand over her heart and said, “It was gripping. So many people love Nolan. They came to celebrate his creativity, his life and one another. Our home was filled with hugs.”

“Always the teacher, Nolan spent the afternoon sharing his inspiration for pieces that focused on science, nature and history,” Laurent said. “With a twinkle in his eye, Nolan transported us to realize the unique beauty in the piece and the masterful hand of the artist.”

His work is marked by respect for the environment and joyousness within his colors and style.

“I have an emotional reaction every time I see Nolan’s art,” Sand said. “It expresses gratitude for life and a kind, generous spirit. The love in their house was palpable through appreciation of his work, friends touched by it and the beautiful love shared by Nolan and Debbie.”

A doctor at MD Anderson in Houston asked Nolan whether there was anything he still wanted to do. He told the doctor that there was a pontoon boat he wanted to buy because he lives along the West Pearl River and would like to go out in it every day to observe, meditate and sometimes paint.

The doctor advised Nolan that this was the time to purchase it if he could. Nolan cashed in a savings account, bought the boat and named it Honey Island Queen.

The man loves nature, and even little dragonflies land on his hat to travel along the river with him.

He explained the logic of the purchase: “The only time I feel no pain is when I am at the helm of this boat.”

Kathleen DesHotel writes about the cultural arts in St. Tammany. To reach her, email kathleenfocused@gmail.com.