My Life On Canvas - Interview with painter Karen T. La Beau
Karen T. La Beau is a Louisiana visual artist that resides in Shreveport but she is originally from New Orleans. She found her artistic voice after Hurricane Katrina and she is developing a series of work on the "blue crawfish." We have conducted an interview with her.
How does the Blue Crawfish inspire you?
In Louisiana, we love our crawfish. I once saw the elite blue crawfish. Royal blue is my favorite color. So, I became drawn to the “Blue Crawfish.” I decided to give them personalities almost creating an alternate universe with them doing various activities.
What is the story behind your artwork?
Drawing came naturally. My grandfather was an artist, most of my aunts and uncles down to my cousins all have the talent. However, it was not until after Hurricane Katrina that a need was born to create almost day and night. I was depressed having to relocate from South Louisiana to North West Louisiana. Painting saved my mental health. I missed home every day. So, I decided to paint what I missed. I decided to tell my history through my paints. I called it “My Life on Canvas.” I currently travel throughout the state often. My work has developed into all aspects of Louisiana life. Since residing in Shreveport the past 11 years, the people and events of Shreveport are often the center of a piece I am creating.
What kind of childhood memories were brought back when you paint? Which are the most memorable ones?
Some of my first pieces centered on my grandfather’s work. He was a sign painter in the 7th ward of New Orleans between the 50s and 80s. I painted many of the landmarks that he did work for. It takes me back to the days of watching him paint. My favorite memory would be him picking me, my sister and my cousin up from school. He had just come from a job as he smelled like paint and turpentine. He would take us to McDonalds every day after school, drop off home and return to work.
Which are your favourite subjects to paint on canvas?
I would say my most special or endearing paintings are those that I paint scenes with my parents during my childhood. My favorite would be anything music like a New Orleans Second line brass band or anything with ladies enjoying life. I call the ones with ladies doing activities, Girlfriendology. Lastly, I would say my blue crawfish. They are simply fun to paint from start to finish.
How does painting help you in your life?
Painting is still my refuge. It is my pick me up. More than that, I love when I paint something and folks can identify with it. I don’t generally put faces on my people. I like them to have the possibility to be anyone and everyone. A lady once said to me, “that could be me and my friends!” That is exactly what I strife for, people to see themselves in my work.
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