The Baroness Pontalba
Marie Thérèse Coincoin
In the collaborative project Reconstituting the Vanished: Gender, Memory and Placemaking in the Delta South, (1994-1997) a series of my constructed early digital images was presented with an interpretive text by my then colleague, Barbara Allen. The series examined the lives of four Louisiana women of note using photographs and narrative to re-tell their story in a public display format. “We used physical places as the common ground of these women's lives. We wanted to extend a new feminist reading of these women's pasts and the places they built to recover and reconstruct a new gender-inclusive public memory.” (Allen)
One of our subjects was Marie Therese Coin-Coin (1742-1816), freed slave and slave owner, médicine (healer), plantation owner and businesswoman, and mother of ten children whose descendents established an historical Creole community in a colonial outpost of French Louisiana. There are no photographs of this woman who died before photography was invented. In the series, a portrayal of her is called Bewitchment. The digital collage includes photographs of a vintage colonial house with its dirt floors and bousillage (building material that mixes mud and Spanish moss), antique shoes, human hair, and stone and glass vessels symbolic of motherhood and fertility. In another image called Tree House, quilts and family photos of her descendents pour out of the oak tree in front of her Isle Breville home.