DENHAM SPRINGS — A small, framed message hangs in the Arts Council of Livingston Parish’s offices and gallery that reads, “An artist is not paid for his labor but for his vision.” That admonition helps to explain the muse that drives artists to create their works that draw attention and hope for favor from the audiences who view their works.
For the month of June, the results of the creative drive that propels artists to pursue their craft are on display at the Arts Council’s gallery on Hummel Street near Historic Downtown Denham Springs. The exhibit, titled “Gentlemen’s Art,” features the work of seven Livingston Parish artists who express their creative talents in a number of artistic genres.
Displaying their works are Livingston Parish artists Michael Verrett, Pierce Rainey, Kerry Curtin, Dody Sandifer, Kevin Paninski, John Bolander and Robert Reynolds. The seven were honored at a reception on June 11, the day the exhibit opened.
Discussions with some of the artists about how they came to their craft shows they feel an urge to be creative and enjoy sharing their artistic creations with others. And while earning some income from their creativity is welcome, money is not what drives them.
“It’s not about the money; it’s just exciting to know that someone cares enough about your work, your art, to buy it,” said Curtin, who works in pastels and said he sells his art occasionally. “That’s the real reward.”
Curtin said he enjoys movement, action and spontaneity and that is what he tries to capture in his paintings.
“I want to show action, to paint something that shows that active life is being lived. That’s why I have drawn and painted sports scenes,” he said. However, Curtin said he has recently been painting landscapes to explore something else in his creative life.
Curtin said he enjoys spending time with elementary and middle school students at the Live Oak Talented and Gifted Program and at arts summer camps. “Once students get focused and inspired about an art project, they can be really creative. It’s very rewarding to watch youngsters discover the joy of being creative,” he said.
Curtin added he always pursues an arts project with the students so they can watch him at his craft. “It’s something like an artist-in-residence — they are inspired by watching an artist at work,” he said.
Paninski specializes in ceramics, pottery and sculpture. Paninski, who was a contractor, endured a dramatic turn in his life when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. No longer able to do physical work, he turned to art to fulfill his life. Paninski also has returned to school and is a senior seeking a fine arts degree at Southeastern Louisiana University.
“I was uncomfortable being dormant, so I decided to concentrate on my art, something in which I was always interested. I hope to graduate in December and then go on to get a master’s in fine arts. I’m just working my way through school and enjoying the talents that I have,” he said.
Paninski said he hasn’t sold many of his creations but that is not his current focus. The pieces he has on display for “Gentlemen’s Art” are part of his senior exhibit at Southeatern. Paninski said he is doing some teaching, especially at the Young Artists Academy in Denham Springs. He teaches about 30 students on Saturdays and, like Curtin, enjoys seeing young artists emerge.
Sandifer, who lives near Livingston, creates metal sculptures and paintings. “I enjoy both … when I get tired of cutting and welding metal, I spend time painting and when I get tired of painting, I go back to the metal sculpture,” he said. “I am always tinkering with my art … I’m also a musician … being creative is just part of who I am.”
A retired electrician, Sandifer said now has time to pursue his creative urges. One of his pieces on display is a compelling sculpture of a fish made from a shovel, two rakes and a hook. Another, a man’s face, is created from a shovel, nuts and rebar.
Sandifer said he has a small gallery where he shows his works. He does sell pieces on a regular basis and said he sells his metal fish “as quickly as I can make them.” One of his large pieces, a metal alligator, greets guests in the lobby of the gallery. He said that he has other large pieces at his workshop and gallery. Sandifer said he started painting on canvas in 2005 and after he won honorable mention in an art show, he was “turned on” by painting. He has had a one-man show and some of his art is on sale in the nearby Antique Village on Range Road.
Verrett, who has written and illustrated 39 books, has lived an almost James Bond-like life. He was a homicide detective for 16 years and worked as a police department sketch artist. Verrett explained that six weeks after his retirement as a police officer, he was tapped by the U.S. government to investigate waste, fraud and abuse in the armed forces. He said he saved the U.S. government $100 million by uncovering waste and fraud, and he helped to recover and catalog art from Saddam Hussein’s private art collection.
About his art, Verrett said when he was 4 years old he would draw on his bedroom walls.
“I always want to do something in art,” he said. These days, he said, he has the time to pursue his artistic interests. He has his own nonprofit publishing program and sells his books on the internet. Verrett also is involved in the schools. “Because I do books, and because of my background in law enforcement, I can visit the schools and encourage kids not become customers of their local police departments.” Because of his work in the schools, Verrett was once rewarded with the Crystal Apple Award by the East Baton Rouge school system.
Bolander, a retired retail and real estate salesman, paints in oils and acrylic. “I like color, I like to experiment with unusual colors. I enjoy painting landscapes that are now quite realistic … I try to make them different and exciting,” he said.
Bolander said he also enjoys creating abstract art and he has sold “quite a few paintings.” He enters art shows from time to time but said that he doesn’t often have his paintings in galleries.
“Art is a part of my life and now retirement has given me the time to pursue my art,” Bolander said. “I spend at least a little bit of every day of the week painting. It’s important to me and when people show an interest in my work, it makes it all worthwhile.”
Cherie Ducote-Breaux, vice president of the Arts Council and an artist herself who was on hand for the artists’ reception, said the council is fortunate to have such a variety of talent to on display.
“This is wonderful … we have a great deal of variety in the works being displayed and we look forward to having a steady stream of visitors to the gallery for the rest of this month,” she said.
She said the exhibit is the council’s latest effort to showcase the amount of artistic talent in Livingston Parish.