Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The most NYC show you'll see in SPT: Clyde Connell retrospective, Artspace Shreveport, opens Fri, Sept 19, 7 pm

Imagine some 120 pieces of art by Clyde Connell, who is both the Clementine Hunter and George Rodrigue of North Louisiana. In the collection you will observe a life in art that spans 40 years - the 1950's to the 1990's.

Therein you will see work reflecting the woods at Lake Bistineau, Louisiana. But it is art about Louisiana intended to communicate with the world. And especially with people in New York and Los Angeles. It may be the most NYC show you ever see at Artspace Shreveport.

Clyde fell in love with Manhattan in the 1950's, when she attended annual meetings for the Southern Presbyterian Church. She explained that, somehow, "the churchniks introduced me to the beatniks." She learned to get around in Soho and hung out at MoMa.

In Shreveport in the 1960's she painted and sculpted in a Cotton St. studio, At-the-Loft, alongside a group of equally obsessed Shreveport artists. Her cohorts included Lucille Reed, Janet Parker, Nevelyn Brown, Tama Nathan, Berk Borne, Lynn Gautier and Gwen Norsworthy.

She had no money. She couldn't afford to ship her art to out-of-town shows. Couldn't afford to fabricate sculpture in metal.

By the 1970s artists were submitting work to galleries and juries by slides. Murray Smithers of the Delahunty Gallery, Dallas, saw her slides. He came to Lake Bistineau for a look. He added Clyde to his Dallas roster.

She was discovered by Texans. But getting into the top galleries in Dallas and Houston was not her end destination.

In 1981 the Delahunty arranged a solo show for Clyde at the Clocktower Gallery, Manhattan. She was finally able to gallery hop in Soho with an inner glow.

In the 1980's Clyde was in her 80's - she was born in 1901. But she did not shrink from success. She won grants that paid assistants like John Fredericks, an art-minded neighbor, to help fabricate her towering totems.

Her work was purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Hirschorn Museum, Washington, DC. She was given awards and shows from coast to coast. In 1990 she was featured in a major exhibit in Paris and Geneva presented by the Valois Gallery.

At Artspace you will see the minimalist, abstract and primeval art she created on the shore of Lake Bistineau while dreaming of places far, far from here.

From a NY Times review in 1992: "Miss Connell is at her best when she is at her most abstract. It is then that her synthesis of regional and non-Western culture, earlier 20th-century art movements and the crafts-intensive spirit of some of the feminist art of the 1970's become something very much her own. With these eclectic ingredients, a case might be made for the post-modern character of her work. Its strength, however, lies neither in calculated irony nor in borrowed styles, but rather in a sense of having been worked by a guileless, individualistic hand."

This sort of recognition was not won easily or quickly. But when you see her art at Artspace you will sense how the story unfolded. You'll see her vision - both local and cosmic - in one vast body of determined work.

Party at Artspace, 7 to 10 pm, with food, drink and music. Troubadour Kenny Bill Stinson will entertain.


Debbie Buchanan Engle said...


Thank you for sharing this important exhibit with us. It's been a long time coming, and we are all very excited about experiencing this retrospective.

In addition, the Norsworthy Gallery on Texas Street is spectacular...a true "don't miss" in Shreveport! This important group of artists were diverse and amazing - how much we owe to their influence & legacy!

PS: I'll give you a dollar if you quit comparing Clyde Connell to George Rodrigue...

Deno said...

A hundred "THUMBS UP" to Talbot and #1 assistant Robert for the best art exhibit Shreveport has ever seen! It was Electric and Inspiring!

Thank you Clyde.

- Deno