Mention Louisiana history, and many listeners will think, almost reflexively, about the state’s colorful political past.
But in a massive new book published to coincide with the bicentennial of Louisiana’s statehood, the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities tells the history of the state through its visual art.
We felt several feet taller while flipping through the pages of “A Unique Slant of Light: The Bicentennial History of Art in Louisiana.” Spanning 448 pages in a richly illustrated coffee-table book that’s about the size of a small table itself, “A Unique Slant of Light” is a thrilling reminder how richly Louisiana has been blessed in creative genius. An afternoon with the book stirred our pride to be a part of this state. We’re sure that many other residents will feel the same way.
Many familiar characters appear in the book, which promises to be a big gift item for the upcoming holiday season. John James Audubon and his vividly rendered birds are here, including a Louisiana heron so blue that it seems constructed of equal parts feather and sky. Clementine Hunter is here, too — the primitive artist whose renderings of plantation life seem so fresh that the paint of her pictures still looks wet. There’s recent Louisiana art, too, such as a somber picture by New Orleans photographer David Rae Morris showing two rescue workers riding a watercraft down a flooded Crescent City street after Hurricane Katrina. The street sign, hovering only three feet above the water line provides the irony, identifying the roadway as Humanity Street.
“Louisiana is barely part of the continent to which it adheres, but its art — spanning the two centuries of its admission into the Union, and the preceding century of colonization — both captures and transcends its moment,” LEH Executive Director Michael Sartisky tells readers in the book’s introduction. “The full panoply of this work is an unprecedented wonder to behold, and seen in a truly unique slant of light.”
Printed art books like this are necessarily expensive, which is why the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is selling “A Unique Slant of Light” for the hefty price of $120 through its web site, http://www.leh.org. But the LEH has also posted a digital version of the book at its web site that can be read and viewed for free. The digital format is supplemented by additional picture galleries and full biographies of selected Louisiana artists.
“A Unique Slant of Light” is a fitting tribute to Louisiana’s creative legacy. We commend the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities for making it possible.