Hidden in Cajun Country live angels among us… Committed to intentional artistry, divine healers share their craft, preserving cultural traditions of South Louisiana. This slice of life documentary, narrated by eleven women, encompasses the profound gradient of cultural heritage within this southern region. Contextualizing language, music, food, art, and faith healing, the work encourages viewers to consider their personal pursuits of passion in practice.
Directed by Syd Horn + Olivia Perillo / Produced by Syd Horn + Olivia Perillo / Director of Photography: Reyna Hope / 1st AC: Bron Moyi / 2nd AC: Alex Moreno + Lucius Fontenot / Location Sound + Mastering by Ben Livingston / Editing by Olivia Perillo + Joseph Howard + Syd Horn / Original Score by Dylan Babineaux
Run time: 01:08:18
This project is the recipient of the 2019 #CREATELouisiana French Culture Documentary Film Grant sponsored by TV5Monde, Cox Communications, Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, and Deep South Studios. This film has also been supported by Panavision’s New Filmmaker Program and the Al Berard Memorial Music Fund. Intention made its world premiere at The New Orleans French Film Festival at the Prytania Theatre on February 28, 2020 to a sold out audience. Intention streamed online with Southern Screen on November 12, 2020.
Lafayette photographer and filmmaker Olivia Perillo creates slice of life Cajun film
Lafayette Daily Advertiser
From the swampy waterways of Louisiana to the flat grasslands of West Texas to the carved desert of Arizona, Olivia Perillo remembers watching the landscape transform in front of her young eyes. These road trips with her family helped develop her keen eye for visuals and observing the natural world. These attentions to details led Perillo to becoming a Lafayette-based visual artist, photographer and, most recently, a filmmaker."I got into photography by documenting my surroundings on these trips growing up, especially in West Texas," she said. "I found it fascinating that I could live, for sometimes weeks at a time during the summer, in a completely different world than the one that I lived in, but one that was also part of my ancestral identity."
Her documentary feature film, "Intention," was released in February, under Honest Art Productions. "Intention" marked Perillo's most recent collaboration with creative partner Syd Horn. The duo's first film, "Migration," debuted in 2018.
Perillo always thought she'd become a cinematographer, though she appreciates photography for being able to capture a solid moment in time. Her newfound appreciation for film visuals is only matched by Horn's love of writing, Perillo said.
The cultural landscape of South Louisiana and Perillo's ancestral roots in the desert Southwest are often documented in her work. When she isn't doing commissioned work, Perillo can be found photographing the terrain and wildlife around her.
This exploration of the natural world started as a teenager and is still an ongoing personal photography project of hers. Through the years, she has found many similarities between Mexican and Cajun culture.
"There's some sort of underlying current that exists here that's different than other places, a different dynamic. It's also in west Texas," she said. "It's still fairly divided in some parts of Lafayette but I hope to bridge those gaps with my work."
The idea for her most recent film is derived from this concept. Perillo has always been interested in the creative process and how it heals the artist and the audience simultaneously, although in perhaps different ways.
"I wanted to capture this to learn more about myself as a multidisciplinary artist," she said. " ... to show the audience where they can find healing qualities in our culture and in art." This developed into documenting several perspectives of the South Louisiana cultural landscape exploring not only art but music, food, language, poetry, traditional craft and faith healing.
"Intention" premiered at the New Orleans French Film Festival, which ended up being a sold out screening."I absolutely loved the film-making process as a whole, in collaborating with amazing artists both on and off screen," she said. "And I am so grateful to our subjects for trusting us to tell their stories about living in a magical place with an underrepresented voice."
RECENT PHOTOGRAPHY ACQUISITIONS
ON VIEW MARCH 14, 2020 TO MARCH 7, 2021
Revelations: Recent Photography Acquisitions features a selection of photographs made from the early 20th century to the present and added to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art’s permanent collection over the last decade. With over 70 photographs featured, Revelations represents a wide range of processes and techniques made by a diverse group of 39 photographers.
Revelations celebrates regional identity in parallel with the South’s ongoing contributions to a global conversation on photography in the visual arts.
Photographers included in the exhibition: Keith Calhoun, William Christenberry, Lee Deigaard, Walker Evans, Debbie Fleming Caffrey, Aaron Hardin, Lewis W. Hine, Birney Imes, Dorothea Lange, Sally Mann, Andrew Moore, Chandra McCormick, RaMell Ross, Ernest Withers and more.
This exhibition is curated by Richard McCabe, Ogden Museum Curator of Photography.https://ogdenmuseum.org/exhibition/revelations/
Louisiana Life, Sept/Oct 2018
Breaux Bridge photographer Lynda Frese explores spiritual places in Louisiana and all over the world
BY JOHN R. KEMP
According to the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, “nature always wears the colors of the spirit.”
Over the years, Breaux Bridge’s transcendental photographer Lynda Frese has traveled the world, studying religions, mythologies, early goddess cults and the classical world of medieval Europe. She has visited prehistoric cave paintings, photographed megalithic sites in France and the sacred valley of Peru, and explored the natural and spiritual landscape of Louisiana in search of Emerson’s “colors of the spirit.”
In a sense, these journeys and resulting photographs are portraits of self-discovery and self-reflection. Through her art, we accompany her on these journeys. Regardless of where she goes in that search, Louisiana-themed images continue to float in and out of her work.
“The ancient sites of human culture have been a subject in my photography for decades,” says Frese. “But I also photograph the wilderness of my own backyard of Louisiana. These are the places, stretching back into prehistoric times that represent our cultural and natural heritage. The images from these places have been a kind of bedrock for my work.”
Hilliard University Art Museum
University of Louisiana at Lafayette
710 East Saint Mary Blvd.
Lafayette, LA 70503
Jolie Johnson, Marketing Manager
Lynda Frese, Cosmic Lake Martin, 2009
Lynda Frese: Holy Memories & Earthly Delights
Exhibition Dates: Feb 17 – May 19, 2018
Artist Talk: Wed, Mar 7, 6:00-8:00 PM
The Hilliard University Art Museum is pleased to announce Lynda Frese: Holy Memories & Earthly Delights. Featuring over 60 photographs and paintings by UL Lafayette Professor Emerita Lynda Frese, the exhibition draws its title from an essay by Alejandro Malo which appears in a forthcoming monograph on her work. March 7 the museum and UL Press will host a book signing event and gallery tour led by the artist. On Wednesday, March 7, as part of the museum’s Creative Conversation series, Frese will lead a gallery tour of her exhibit, followed by a book signing event, co-hosted by UL Press and the museum.
Curatorial Statement by Laura Blereau:
This exhibition highlights Frese’s early silver-gelatin photograms and experiments made in California thirty years ago – while also tracing a steady trajectory of her continued interest in the human form. About half of the pieces on view were created before her move to Louisiana in 1986, when she joined the faculty of UL Lafayette’s College of the Arts.
There is a loose energy of drawing in much of the work. As a photographer Frese draws with light, but as a painter she also reveals a deep sensitivity to color and material that is specific to place. Some of the compositions radiate an earthy glow. She is a keen observer of the natural world and its energies, yet her figures operate in a symbolically rich plane of the imagination.
Lynda Frese: Holy Memories & Earthly Delights includes works from 1978 to 2018, and is divided into eight categories that explore recurring visual themes. For example, nine pieces examine her longstanding interest in vessels and pottery, while another sixteen works are rooted in Jungian notions of the subconscious. The show features early formal experiments created in the darkroom, as well as collages and later mixed-media artworks that incorporate egg tempera and organic elements such as plants and insect parts. The photographs on display range in technique from digital composites to silver-gelatin processes that incorporate a variety of toners affecting color including copper, selenium and vanadium.
In her words: I believe in the mystery of Gaia: that the components of Earth are functioning as a single living system or organism. Frese’s pictures are essentially landscapes, and the human lives represented in them are part of a larger system of nature. She is an avid traveler and seeks out UNESCO world heritage sites. Her work is a witness to countless mythologies, and also tells a story of personal discovery. It seeks spaces of emotional and spiritual power while featuring a myriad of figures – from family members to pop-stars, insects, and icons from antiquity.
Frese uses montage and collage to create pictures that contain surreal, imagined places. Layers of imagery serve as windows. Choices of scale suggest the figure’s relationship to his or her environment. In these spaces, the forces of gravity, light and optical clarity are optional and, at times, are manipulated for emotional or psychological impact.
Lynda Frese was born in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1956. Her art has been exhibited internationally and is part of many public and private collections, including the SF MOMA, San Francisco; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Ogden Museum of Art, New Orleans; Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, Davis; Hilliard University Art Museum at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette; Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento; Palazzo Farnese, Ortona, Italy; Santa Barbara Museum of Art; and the Center for Photography, Woodstock.
Between 1976 and 1986, Frese lived in the Sacramento Valley of California. She trained in printmaking at UC Davis and earned a BFA in 1978. Afterward, she began exploring darkroom techniques and earned an MFA in photography. Among the artists mentoring her during this period were painter Wayne Thiebaud and ceramicist Bob Arneson, a leader of the Funk Art movement. In 1985, Frese attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. A frequent visitor to Italy, her past residencies also include the American Academy in Rome; ArteStudio Ginestrelle, Assisi; The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center, and the Liguria Center for the Arts and Humanities at the Bogliasco Foundation.
In 2016, Frese was also recognized by the Louisiana Cultural Awards as Artist of the Year for her sustained work celebrating the culture and history of the Southern United States. The National Trust for Historic Preservation and National Endowment for the Arts awarded her a 2014 residency at Shadows-on-the-Teche in New Iberia LA. She is currently based in Breaux Bridge, LA.
In conjunction with the opening of theexhibit UL Press will publish a new monograph on Frese’s work. The publication will include essays by Dr. Mary Ann Wilson, Distinguished Professor of English and Women’s Studies at UL Lafayette, and Mexico City-based photography critic Alejandro Malo.
Upon request, press and media kits are available that include high-resolution images and selected literature on the artist.
Museum Hours, Admission & General Information
The Hilliard University Art Museum is located at 710 East Saint Mary Boulevard, on the campus of University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Museum Hoursare: Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm; Wednesday, 9:00 am to 8:00 pm; Saturday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm; closed Sunday and Monday. General Admission: $5 Adults, $4 Seniors (62+), $3 Students (5-17). FREE for Members, UL Students/Staff/Faculty with identification, and visitors under 5. Guided tours of the galleries are available Friday & Saturday at 2 PM, complimentary with admission. For general information, please visit hillliardmuseum.org or call (337) 482-2278.
About the Hilliard Museum
The Hilliard University Art Museum operates on the campus of University of Louisiana at Lafayette and was originally founded in 1964 as the Art Center for Southwest Louisiana. Featuring a state-of-the-art modern facility that was erected in 2004, the museum houses more than 2,200 objects in its permanentcollection, and is the largest art exhibition space between New Orleans and Houston. The Hilliard serves a wide range of educational and cultural needs by fostering cross-disciplinary intellectual discourse on campus and throughout the region. At the core of the Hilliard's mission is to collect, preserve, interpret, and exhibit the art of our time while celebrating the great diversity of Louisiana's heritage.
The Advocate, February 27, 2018
Lynda Frese: Artist and feminist still going strong
BY PATRICIA GANNON
Lynda Frese's Arugula Icon, in which the plant, circled with haloes, takes precedent over the human presence.
In Subterranean Reds, artist Lynda Frese used pigments from some of the same quarries used by cave artists in prehistoric times.
Lynda Frese identifies as a quiet environmental artist; it's a subtext of her work.
LAFAYETTE — Lynda Frese’s philosophy and photography haven’t always been appreciated in foreign places. Or at home either, for that matter.
But thanks to her persistence, a show spanning 40 years of her work will open in mid-February at the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum. It's also because of her stubborn streak that the female art instructors at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette get paid the same as men.
“No one wanted to stand with me then,” she recalled. “But they thank me now.”
Retired after a 30-year career as the university’s first art professor emerita, the exhibit is a retrospective entitled "Lynda Frese: Holy Memories & Earthly Delights." It showcases her early work to the present as curated by Laura Blereau.
Divided into eight sections, the work is not displayed chronologically, but mixed thematically. For example, “Dream World & The Subconscious” has a lot of interesting bodies. "Vessels," which have always been symbols for the female, contains work from three different decades.
“We don’t want to impose preconceptions on the show,” said Frese, casually sipping coffee in the museum atrium. “Laura looked at all the work in my studio while I went to Italy. She spent days in there.”
Over a third of the exhibition is early works from California, but Blereau saw significance in Frese’s younger phase, when many of her pieces were made with multiple negatives in the darkroom on gelatin silver paper. “She thought it was the key to the work that came after,” Blereau said.
Images of religious relics and veneration remain, and their shadowy figures and deserted cathedrals persist in later collages. A lexicon of images from the past, mysterious and deep, recur in present work.
February 22, 2018
LAFAYETTE (BHP) – The exhibit, Lynda Frese: Holy Memories & Earthly Delights, is on view at the Hilliard University Art Museum through May 19, 2018.
Bayou Hack Press (www.bayouhackpress.com) caught up with Frese via email and the result follows in the following Question & Answer format.
After reading the Q&A, check out lead story here.
BHP: What is it like having your work, a part of yourself – past and present – displayed in one room?
LF: Well, the exhibition is in eight sections and it is not organized by the years of production, which allows visitors to focus on ongoing themes, rather than tedious dates. For many artists– and I think this is true for all kinds of artists, including musicians– we are always making work that is a part of ourselves, parts that are vulnerable and naked. So that is something that happens in any art show to a certain extent.
One of the most valuable outcomes for me was working with a curator and two writers who have identified and articulated recurring themes in years of work, some of which I had not even noticed! For example, there is a large collection of work that metaphorically uses vessels or containers. Other ongoing themes are mythology, as well as how humans exist in the natural world. So these discoveries, which connect the dots, will have a strong impact on my future studio work.
BHP: In many ways, depending on the photog/subject/“job”, straight up photography is art in and of itself. What made you move from simply taking photographs (if you ever did, come to think of it), to what we see in your work?
LF: Harvey Himelfarb, my photography professor from UC Davis, would say that there is a distinction between “taking” photographs and “making” photographs. Making photographs is a more conscious act, and it encompasses all kinds of photography, straight and manipulated. And really, what photograph is not manipulated in some way? My early training was in printmaking, so I was always interested in this idea of the negative, and playing around with different materials. But combining different photographs together started early for me, even though there are a few “straight” photographs in the show. Visual art is kind of like language, and I am always making up my own vocabulary and syntax.
BHP: If not for photography itself, would you still create the work you do, say, via painting, drawing, sculpting – or any other art form?
LF: Ha, we couldn’t include my drawings and prints and paintings! And, I do like to sing.
BHP: What does the accompanying book add to the exhibit of the same name, “Lynda Frese: Holy Memories & Earthly Delights”?
LF: The book is not a copy of the show, but it does include most of the work, and also a section on Louisiana history and preservation, which has been an important subject in my art, but which we did not end up being able fit into the exhibit.
The catalogue also includes some beautiful writing about the art––you know I think it is very important for artists and writers to work together. Dr. Mary Ann Wilson, a UL distinguished professor, has written a wonderful essay about the matrifocal and feminist aspects of my work, including Art & Shadows, a series made at Shadows-on-the-Teche in New Iberia, about antebellum Louisiana.
Alejandro Malo is the Mexico City-based photography critic who has written exquisitely about the ethics of how artists can speak about nature and environmental issues. We used the excellent title of his text for the exhibition. And finally there is an interview between myself and curator Laura Blereau, who selected the work and designed the show. These interpretive writings are a kind of map for thinking about the art.
BHP: Was there an emotional toll going through work for this exhibit? If so, how and why? If not, how and why?
LF: The project was years in the making and it was an emotional journey for sure. “Toll” is an interesting word, does that mean I’m on the freeway now? The exhibit includes many gelatin-silver prints from my darkroom days in Davis, California, where I lived for ten years; and it was kind of wild to go over that territory again, to think about the family members and friends who were my models. We sure got naked a lot!
Putting together an exhibition and publication of this magnitude has so many pieces to it, and involves so many collaborations. I really tried to lean into the expertise of others. There is so much to be learned from looking through the lens of someone else’s eyes, to use a photography metaphor.
BHP: Where do you go from here?
LF: I think what I’d like to say here is that my concern for the environment has grown, obviously. These are dire times. If there is any impact my voice as an artist can have, I am grateful for that.
February 20, 2018
Notes on Lynda Frese’s Batwoman at Hilliard Museum
BY VIRGINIA BILLEAUD ANDERSON
Only good bourbon in a bar after could have made my visit to Lynda Frese’s studio more fun, but perhaps it was too early in the day for two old broads to be “drankin” at La Poussiere or T-Boy’s Lounge. Nevertheless, it was a fine moment, which often happens when the discussion includes Romanesque architecture and ancient archaeological sites. Dominating our conversation was Frese’ La Femme Chauve-Souris (Batwoman), a collage painting with found images, photographs, and egg tempura paint on panel. Particularly inviting was its postcard depiction of a wood carving housed in the Church of Saint Bertrand de Comminges’ Renaissance-era choir stalls of a pocked-skin, winged “Bat” woman with a creature emerging from her crotch. Deep in my gut I understood the decorative carving’s meaning veered beyond soothing orthodoxies to something more fundamental. An object with that degree of resonance pulls back the mind’s heavy drapes.
Acadiana Profile Magazine, February 2018
Former UL professor takes a 40-year look in the rearview mirror, while also looking ahead
BY WILL KALEC
PAINTINGS SPANNING THE COURSE OF LYNDA FRESE’S FOUR-DECADE CAREER AS AN ARTIST WILL BE EXHIBITED IN THE PAUL AND LULU HILLIARD MUSEUM, ON THE CAMPUS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF LOUISIANA AT LAFAYETTE, FROM FEB. 17-MAY 19, 2018. THE EXHIBIT IS CALLED, HOLY MEMORIES & EARTHLY DELIGHTS.
After decades of splitting time between passion and a profession, Lynda Frese’s artistic process flows without interruption. That means more hours are spent in the studio. More hours are spent traveling. More hours are spent reading. There’s time to ponder, time to reflect, time to pause. Inspiration no longer has to fit between semesters and syllabi.
An accomplished and beloved art professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette for 30 years, Frese retired after the 2016 academic year, and in doing so, rediscovered the artist she once was and the artist she always wanted to be.
“Sometimes, I feel like I’m living the dream that I had when I was 10 years old when I thought, ‘Oh, I’d really love to be an artist,” she says. “What’s it gonna be like to have an artist’s life?’ So in a way, this is coming back to the original dream….I’ve enjoyed exploring the notion of having a different identity. Because when you’re a teacher, so much of who you are is being a teacher. So you have to deconstruct that, and build a different idea of who you are.
“I feel very grateful for the opportunity to teach at the university, but now this is a new chapter that’s happening before I get too ancient. It’s been nice to turn the page.”
But, as Frese admits, it’s also been a joy and an honor to thumb back a few pages, as well — a privilege afforded to her while putting together the particulars of her upcoming exhibit, “Lynda Frese: Holy Memories & Earthly Delights” at the UL Hilliard Museum.
KRVS, February 2018
Lynda Frese on Apres Midi
Art & Shadows Exhibit Now Open at the Shadows-on-the-Teche Visitor's Center
An exhibition of Lynda Frese's Art & Shadows series is now at the Shadows-on-the-Teche Visitor's Center. The exhibition runs through October 3, 2015. For directions and admission information, please visit their website.
Lynda Frese and Ben Hickey from the Hilliard Museum discuss the new exhibit “Holy Memories and Earthly Delights".
"Art and Shadows" on the Bayou Teche
Lynda Frese’s haunting photo collages of the Shadows-on-the-Teche Plantation in New Iberia call to mind William Faulkner’s memorable line in his 1950 book, Requiem for a Nun – “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
JOHN R. KEMP
Over the last 12 months, Frese has created an impressive body of images that draw upon the history and people who inhabited the plantation for almost two centuries. Faces of long dead members of the Weeks family who owned the Shadows, their clothing, household objects, personal letters, and the belongings of slaves who worked the land move in and out of her collages like specters in a dream. Each hand-tinted collage is an impression of time, place, and the tragic and complex relationships between the people who once lived and worked in this elegant historical home on Bayou Teche. They are silent stories left to the imagination of viewers. Continue reading
Art and Shadows artists-in-residence Lynda Frese and David Greely at Shadows-on-the-Teche in New Iberia, LA.
MEDIA CONTACT: ANDY GRABEL, PUBLIC AFFAIRS MANAGER, 202.588.6025,
Arts Program Celebrates History and Culture of Storied Louisiana Site
Visual artist, musician to create new works inspired by Shadows-on-the-Teche
New Iberia, La. (June 26, 2014) – Visual artist and University of Louisiana at Lafayette 2013 Distinguished Professor Lynda Frese and traditional French Louisiana musician David Greely, founding fiddler of the Mamou Playboys, have been selected as artists in residence for the Art and Shadows program. The 12- month Art and Shadows program provides unique studio and performance space for one visual artist and one musician at the Shadows-on-the-Teche, a National Historic Landmark and historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in New Iberia, La.
While the National Trust has artist residencies at other locations in its portfolio of 27 historic sites, the Art and Shadows program represents a new prototype that brings visual artist and a performing artist into dialogue with one another during the residency. Art and Shadows, supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), demonstrates how innovative arts programming at historic sites can enhance their role as community assets and increase cultural and economic impacts in their neighborhoods and regions.
“During its storied history, the Shadows-on-the-Teche has influenced artists and innovators, such as Walt Disney and author Henry Miller, who visited the site” said Pat Kahle, director of Shadows-on-the-Teche. “I’m delighted that the site will continue to inspire new creative works through the Art and Shadows program and look forward to the results of having two artists here together.”
Lynda Frese and David Greely will create new works onsite that are inspired by both the location and the region’s history. They will leverage the site’s unique buildings, landscapes, and collections that document life in southern Louisiana in the 19th and 20th centuries. The artists Frese and Greely will also have access to non-traditional spaces at the Shadows-on-the-Teche, including a balcony tucked under the deep eaves of the Shadows and overlooking the Bayou Teche; an attic filled with books, artwork, clothing, and furnishings accumulated by the Weeks family over almost 200 years; and the intimate painting studio of Weeks Hall, where he entertained renowned actors, writers, and musicians in the early 20th century.
Working on-site at the Shadows-on-the-Teche, Frese and Greely will engage the community in participatory experiences around the new works. Public programming will include workshops, lectures, master classes and concerts,
culminating in a spring 2015 festival focusing on new works of visual art and the performance from the new musical works created during the residencies.
Suggested Tweet: New @PresNation Art & Shadows program to celebrate storied Louisiana historic site through @NEAarts grant http://bit.ly/1i5sqEV
The Shadows-on-the-Teche is a property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. A white-columned brick building constructed between 1831 and 1834, The Shadows is both a survivor and a reminder of the many layers of history associated with the site, each succeeding generation building on the one before to become an integral part of the property’s history.
For more information about The Shadows-on-the-Teche, visit http://shadowsontheteche.org.
About the National Trust for Historic Preservation
The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places. www.PreservationNation.org
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Virginia Billeaud Anderson
Lynda Frese wrote recently to announce her photo collage paintings are in this year’s International Contemporary Art Exhibition at Gallery Le Logge in Assisi’s Piazza del Comune, which means the art is ennobled by the first century B.C. Temple of Minerva which is also in that piazza and which has one of the most splendid facades in antiquity. Minerva’s Corinthian capitals are so lovely they seem to challenge the misguided decision to turn the goddesses’ house into a church.
Lynda Frese, Le Grande Salle, 2013, 16” x 12”
Photographs, egg tempera on panel
Frese is not new to Italy; she has had residencies and exhibitions including some at the American Academy in Rome, but the fact that many of her art images were photographed in Italy makes it a fitting exhibition venue. Further, she employs the technique of painting over collage elements with Northern Italian antique pigments used to repair church frescoes. When I first encountered her art in 2011 at Redbud Gallery in Houston I was so moved by the blue-toned egg tempura pigment she managed to snatch from Italian restoration artists, I described it as “that celestial blue Giotto stole from Cimabue.”
Last year Frese published Pacha Mama: earth realm, a collection of artworks with haunting combinations of myth-based and landscape images that proximate life as organic, pulsating and unified. By straddling human consciousness across demons, saints, Paleolithic cave paintings, the Peruvian goddess Pachamama, grottoes, streams, Neolithic Venus statuary and stone circles, they articulate sacred connectedness freighted with birth-decay-death cyclicality. In one painting a Hindu deity accompanies Romanesque carvings of the Virgin near a mountain pool, in another medieval religious frescoes float above a rainforest. Complimenting earth realm’s images are essays, poetry and Sanskrit verse, and the book includes a refreshing “Acknowledgements” in which Frese expressed equal gratitude to local saloons as to her collaborators and university colleagues.
Lynda Frese, House of Worship, 2010, egg tempera paint, photographs, metal leaf on birchwood,
7.5” x 10” (earth realm series)
That area around Assisi is a pretty good place to realize the particular aspect of life’s unity based on fecundity and regeneration. You can’t go two feet without encountering depictions of that feminine principle in the form of the Virgin Mother whose god-birthing Queen of Heaven mythological history and iconography form a continuum with ancient goddesses of earth and abundance. A place to find the Virgin’s image by Cimabue, Giotto, Simone Martini and Pietro Lorenzetti is in the Basilica of Saint Francis where Francis is buried (d. 1226) and where pilgrims go to view his various relics such as raggedy clothes. It was Francis who began the business of saints getting the stigmata (hysteria?) which guarantees sainthood.
It’s often said that Italians invented their own hierarchyfor divinity which ranks the Virgin Mary (Madonna) above Jesus. You don’t doubt this in and around Assisi, Perugia, and other Umbrian hill towns where people use the phrase “Madonna” for exclamatory emphasis, the way Sicilians say “Mamma Mia.” “Madonna” is a standard reply and means “oh” and “really” and “how awful” and “wonderful” similarly to our interchanging “really” with “Jesus Christ” or “no shit.” I once traveled to the thoroughly medieval town of Spello to see Roman antiquities and paintings by Pinturicchio at Sant’Andrea (begun 1025) and at Santa Maria Maggiore (1159), this second church dedicated to the Virgin and constructed over a temple dedicated to Juno and Vesta, and while there encountered inebriated guys pulling large wine barrels on a wooden cart, Dionysian style. Outside Spello’s ancient walls is the small church of the Madonna of Spello where supplicants talk to the Madonna images in the frescoes and leave written invocations such as a 1586 reminder to do something about the famine.
Lynda Frese, Introitus, 2010
egg tempera, photographs, metal leaf, 10” x 24” (earth realm series)
Frese didn’t have to travel to India, Crete, Peru and all those other places to realize unity of life artistic inspiration. There is plenty of that where she lives in south Louisiana. The Rhode Island native moved there in 1986 to be a professor of Art at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette. South Louisiana is grounded in Virgin Mary mythology extensively represented in statuary form. Virgin iconography is so prevalent it suggests the human imagination must have its gods in order to conceptualize existence and mortality, for as the Council of Ephesus determined, there could be no erosion of Artemis’s temple and cult without substituting Mary as deity. In south Louisiana the earth-spirit bountiful aspect of the goddess’ totality is palpable - shrimp boat captains, rice farmers, and sugar cane harvesters pray rosaries and light candles to ensure success and profit. Mary’s corresponding role is to intercede in personal matters - “Virgin Mary, help us win the game on Friday night,” “Mary, make Daddy not drink so much,” “Mother Mary, get those children to act right!” So if you want to see how deeply the human psyche longs for ordering through mythological and iconographic intimations of wholeness, unity and abundance, drive through the towns of Breaux Bridge, Delcambre, Arnaudville, or along the canal at Dulac, or down the highway to Grand Isle and witness the unbelievably high quantity of goddess statues, all there to mirror human fears and desires. None of this escapes Frese of course who artistically imagines sacred deities, the god Shiva for instance, in inconceivable places like Holly Beach, Louisiana.