It's long been a truism that New Orleans is “the northernmost city of the Caribbean,” but that may be the only reasonable explanation for much of south Louisiana as well. So it's only appropriate that Lafayette artist Francis Pavy's paintings inspired by 200 years of Louisiana statehood turned up at Arthur Roger right next door to Cuba native Jose Bedia's paintings at Heriard-Cimino. Of them, Pavy's imagery is more outwardly colorful as we see in his exotic Birds of North America painting, below, a reminder of Louisiana's placement as a major flyway for migrating wild fowl. Red Raft, above, is a schematic arrangement of symbolic forms like Captain Shreve's steamboat, swamp grass and dark rain, snakes and sailor's knots amid logs burning as brightly as a Biblical portent, all united by a sense of looming epiphany within a matrix of elemental forms and tropical colors, a milieu far more redolent of the Antilles than of Vicksburg. In Modern Times, a tropical landscape is studded with broken chains and streamlined trains, the sun, the stars and the Huey P. Long bridge arranged like an old time Catholic miracle in the form of an improbable vision of progress. Pavy is good at this.
A singular aesthetic miracle worker, Jose Bedia cuts to the quick with swashbuckling earth toned paintings that depict a variety of Caribbean spirits and, occasionally, his wife. Raised in the Palo Monte tradition of Afro-Cuban Santeria, Bedia has dedicated his life to the art of shamanic wisdom wherever he may find it. Tata Ngombe depicts a seer who has taken the form of a forest creature bristling with weird energies. Makishi, below, is like a Central African spirit mask come to life. But Mato Inyan is a stylized rendition of Lakota Indian Chief Rocky Bear as a skull-shaped landscape representing Wounded Knee, the scene of the infamous Indian massacre perpetrated by federal troops too frightened to see they were only seeking safe passage. They passed as spirits arising from carnage, commemorated here in Bedia's stark tribute. ~Bookhardt
Francis Pavy: Paintings Inspired by 200 Years of Louisiana Statehood Through March 31
Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St. 522-1999; www.arthurrogergallery.com; Jose Bedia: Recent Paintings Through April 3, Heriard-Cimino Gallery, 440 Julia St., 525-7300; www.heriard-cimino.com
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