Lake Charles Legends

A Virtual Exhibit Tour 🖼️

You’re invited to explore a virtual art exhibit “Twofold: Lake Charles Legends,” highlighting the contributions of fifteen of Lake Charles’ most notable figures. Each legend was paired with a local artist who then created an abstract piece of work to represent their lifetime  accomplishments. 

The exhibit was curated by the Arts and Humanities Council of Southwest Louisiana and local artist Meagan Green, and it was produced with support from the City of Lake Charles. Enjoy the exhibit and tributes to some of the trailblazers that called Lake Charles home.

LIVE from Historic City Hall, we’re broadcasting a virtual gallery tour of “TWOFOLD: Lake Charles Legends.” I’ll tell...

Posted by Matt Young on Wednesday, April 8, 2020

After Lynda Benglis, 2020

By Heather Ryan Kelley

Medium: gold and silver leaf, encaustic, glitter, oil and glow-in-the-dark paint on canvas
Dimensions: 20 x 20 inches

When considering how to create a work in response to the career of Lynda Benglis, I knew I wanted to use the range of materials she explored, spanning from traditional media of gold leaf, silver leaf, and encaustic to craft materials like glitter and glow-in-the-dark paint. Of the many famous photographs of Benglis, I was thinking of the picture of her wearing a Greek costume taken when she was ten or eleven years old while visiting Greece. For the image in my painting titled After Lynda Benglis I used the contours of the Greek mainland and islands as a way of relating her heritage with the forms in her poured sculptures and her inventive use of media.

Gulf Coast MuleClick Image to Enlarge

Lynda Benglis

American sculptor and visual artist Lynda Benglis was born in Lake Charles on October 25th, 1941 and was the eldest of five children. She attended McNeese State University and later earned a BFA from Newcomb College in New Orleans. In 1964, she moved to New York where she studied painting at the Brooklyn Museum Art School. She became acquainted with many influential artists, such as Andy Warhol, Donald Judd, and Barnett Newman. Her work has been included in over 40 exhibitions, in locations such as: Norway, Brussels, New Zealand, and Italy.

The Swamp Fox—Alvin Dark, 2020

By Erik Jessen

Medium: mixed media on artist board
Dimensions: 11 x 14 inches

To represent an All-Star talent that achieved so much in one piece can be a challenge. I learned much about Mr. Dark’s journey and enjoyed creating a piece to represent such a great American that had roots in Lake Charles, LA. Alvin Dark achieved so much in baseball and shared his talents with so many teams, I wanted to create a piece that communicated his journey through baseball - as a player, then a manager. I chose to represent Mr. Dark at age 32, when he played for the New York Giants. His career as a player mostly shined in this era as a 3x All-Star, and winning the World Series in 1954. I represented all the teams he played for and managed, as the letters found on the hats of the players. Using the bat as a dividing line - the teams below is who Alvin played for; the teams above the bat are the teams he managed. The banner hanging in the stadium represents his three All-Star’s and the pennants show his World Series wins, once as a player, then as a manager. There was one very important accolade left, his Rookie of the Year in 1948 while playing for the Boston Braves, which is marked on the bat he holds. This is a mixed media piece of pencil colors and acrylic on artist board.

The Swamp Fox—Alvin Dark, 2020 by Erik JessenClick Image to Enlarge

Alvin Dark

Alvin Dark is considered to be the greatest athlete ever to come out of Lake Charles. Dark was the 1948 Major League Rookie of the Year and was a three-time All-Star during his 13-year playing career. He served as captain of the 1954 World Series champion New York Giants and later managed both the San Francisco Giants and Oakland’s A’s to World Series titles. He relocated to Easley in the 1980s and began the Alvin Dark Foundation, which supports ministries. He was a member of the New York Giants Baseball Hall of Fame, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, the LSU Sports Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame.

Eddie, 2020

By Devin Morgan

Medium: monotype w/ mixed media
Dimensions: 20 inches

Upon the invitation to participate in this exhibit with the subject not being a traditional portrait I began to research nontraditional approaches to portraiture and the different mediums some artists were using to create them. I wanted to create something that not only portrayed Eddie, but also honored his passion for music, efforts to document regional musical styles of southwest Louisiana, and the promotion of the many different recording artists that worked with him. My immediate thought was to incorporate a source of music that most people are familiar with: a vinyl record. At first I toyed around with the idea of painting and collage and began taking notes on how I would start the process by making preparatory sketches. At one point I changed gears to enable myself to use a more fluid trial and error process utilizing the actual vinyl record to pull monotype prints from. I then transferred the illustrations from album artwork and drew Eddie at his mixing panel. To honor the many talented bands and musicians that recorded with Eddie, I inscribed their names with music annotations following the record groves around the vinyl.

Eddie, 2020 by Devin MorganClick Image to Enlarge

Eddie Schuler

Eddie Schuler was born in Wrightsboro, Texas, in 1913 and moved to Lake Charles in 1942 to work in an oil refinery. Schuler played the guitar with the Hackberry Ramblers before forming his own band, The All-Star Revelies. He formed Goldband Records in 1945, originally to record his own group. Shortly after he established the Goldband complex and recording studio in Lake Charles. Hit recordings included Boozoo Chavis’s “Paper in My Shoe,” Phil Phillips’s “Sea of Love” and Dolly Parton’s first record, “Puppy Love.”

DeBakey, 2020

By Lisa Reinauer

Medium: acrylic on canvas
Dimensions: 20 x 20 inches

This portrayal of Dr. Michael Ellis DeBakey was influenced by interviews conducted with the world-renown cardiovascular surgeon, educator, and inventor.  When asked about innovation he said,” To be an innovator one must be discontent with what exists. One who is satisfied with life as it is, is not likely to innovate.” 

Dr. Michael DeBakey was never satisfied.  His innate love for learning, for mastering whatever subject he studied, and for teaching others, seemed to be part of the fabric of his being.  It was his custom as a child to read one book a week from the library.  His mother’s instruction in sewing was not lost on a young surgeon, as he went to fabric stores in search of materials. He invented the Dacron graft using his wife’s sewing machine.

When asked to name the most important courses in his education, he listed philosophy, literature, and math, as he believed these to be central to the knowledge of an educated person. He loved to write and he loved poetry.  He loved teaching because it put him in the midst of others with whom he could explore and exchange ideas.

Dr. DeBakey felt life was becoming increasingly passive, and like the heart or any muscle, one must use it or lose it to atrophy.  This portrait represents the stages of innovation – thought leads to concept and then invention and finally achievement. The image of the man himself is left fluid, as Dr. DeBakey was never content to cease learning.

Dr. Michael Debakey by Lisa ReinaurClick Image to Enlarge

Dr. Michael E. DeBakey

Doctor Michael E. DeBakey was a cardiac and vascular surgeon whose career spanned 75 years. DeBakey was born in Lake Charles on September 7th, 1908 to Lebanese immigrants. He attended Tulane University and Tulane University School of Medicine. He also served in the U.S. Army during WWII. He received a number of awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Medal of Science, and the Congressional Gold Medal. Multiple institutions bear his name. He performed over 70,000 surgeries and operated on some of the most famous people in the world, including the Duke of Windsor and the Shah of Persia.

Compassion, 2020

By Meagan Green

Medium: acrylic on canvas
Dimensions: 12 x 12 inches

Where we come from and who we are, the constraints of being and becoming mold us. When deciding how I wanted to represent Lucinda Williams, I kept returning to her relationship with her father - poet, Miller Williams. His words and personal exchange of critiques were the ties in which Lucinda relied on up until his death in 2015. This piece is a depiction of Compassion, his poem turned song, from her 2014 album Down Where The Spirit Meets the Bone. I was drawn to the truth in phrases and rawness in her voice. The lyrics are a constant reminder to have compassion for all we encounter.

Compassion, 2020 by Meagan GreenClick Image to Enlarge

Lucinda Williams

Lucinda Williams was born in Lake Charles on January 26th, 1953. She is the daughter of literature professor Miller Williams and amateur pianist, Lucille Day. Williams started writing music at the age of 6 and was playing guitar by the age of 12. She recorded her first album in 1978 and in 1988 she released her self-titled album featuring the song “Passionate Kisses,” that garnered her first Grammy Award for Best Country Song in 1994.

Lake Charles Famous, 2020

By Eddie Mormon

Medium: oil on canvas
Dimensions: 30 x 40 inches

Painting Nellie Lutcher meant a lot to me personally, and finishing this work is like bringing her back to life. I hope her legacy is known for a long time. She was a saint, and she played the piano like one too.  That’s on the real side, you know?

Lake Charles Famous, 2020 by Eddie MormonClick Image to Enlarge

Nellie Lutcher

Nellie Lutcher was an R&B and jazz singer and pianist, who shot to stardom in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Lutcher was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, the eldest daughter of Isaac and Suzie Lutcher. Both of her parents were active in the local church. At age 15, Lutcher joined Clarence Hart’s Imperial Jazz band. In 1935, she moved to Los Angeles, where she married Leonel Lewis and had a son. In 1948 she had a string of chart toping hits and in 1950, Lutcher dueted with Nat “King” Cole on “For You My Love” and “Can I Come in for a Second.” She died in Los Angeles in 2007, at the age of 94.

Here Comes the Judge, 2020

By Patsy Zwahlen

Medium: mixed media
Dimensions: 20 x 20 inches

As a Federal Judge and a woman of color, I feel that Judge Norma Holloway Johnson deserves to be honored in a way fitting for someone who not only accomplished so much in her career, but also did so with strength and dignity.  The news media titles in her portrait represent the trial she oversaw in 1998 regarding President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky.  To me, the teal color chosen in the portraiture represents strength and serves as a representation of non-color.  After becoming the first African American woman to serve as Chief Judge, she paved the way for women everywhere. ​

Here Comes the Judge, 2020 by Patsy ZwahlenClick Image to Enlarge

Judge Norma Holloway Johnson

Judge Norma Holloway Johnson was born in Lake Charles on July 28th, 1932 and received a Bachelor of Science degree from District of Columbia Teachers College in 1955, followed by a Juris Doctor from Georgetown Law in 1962. First entering private practice in Washington D.C., she later became a trial attorney at the United States Department of Justice Civil Division from 1963 to 1967. Johnson was appointed by President Nixon in 1970 to be a judge of the District of Columbia Superior Court, later becoming the first African American woman to serve as Chief Judge. Judge Johnson was known to objectively apply the law to all parties irrespective of politics. She oversaw the grand jury investigation into President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. Among a series of pivotal decisions, Judge Johnson delivered a setback to the president’s efforts to limit the scope of the investigation, ruling that he could not invoke executive privilege or lawyer-client privilege in trying to block prosecutors from questioning his aides. But, she also held prosecutors, which investigated President Clinton accountable for illegally leaking secret grand jury testimony to twenty-four media outlets.

Perception, 2020

By Melinda Antoon Cormier

Medium: mixed media acrylic on canvas
Dimensions: 16 x 16 inches

Tony Kushner is a thoughtful, visionary human.  Much has been declared about his brilliant talents, and the proofs of such are the landmark productions that have changed the way we consider our history, our future, and ourselves.  

I came away from this beginning study of Kushner with an admiration for his power to translate words into passions.  In looking at pictures of him, I noticed he kept choosing the glasses of a scholar.  Round eyed.  Clear visioned.  It's the telling icon in this little work, as a suggestion of the person himself.  Pivotal themes are visually mentioned, but what mattered was finding a balance, of peace and agitation, of blood shed and calm regained.  And through feeling his works, there comes a knowledge that despair cannot prevent the spirit from rising. 

Perception, 2020 by Melinda Antoon CormierClick Image to Enlarge

Tony Kushner

Tony Kushner moved with this family from Manhattan to Lake Charles shortly after his birth. During his childhood Kushner was active in policy debate. He returned to New York in 1974 to attend Columbia University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree. Kushner received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1993 for his play Angels in America, which was later adapted for an HBO series. He also co-authored the screenplay for the 2005 film Munich and he wrote the screenplay for the 2012 film Lincoln.

Ball’s Pink Elephant, 2020

By Rex Alexander

Medium: porcelain with red copper glaze

On considering how to illustrate the life of Reginald Ball Sr. through ceramics, Alexander considered Ball’s unwavering service to his community in ways that changed as the needs of the community changed.  From trade school to music halls to restaurants to seasoning—and everything in between, Ball’s attention to the advancement of his community is apparent in all he did.  In this piece, Alexander high-fired 15 pounds of porcelain with copper red glaze, creating something that called into his mind Ball’s Pink Elephant.

Ball’s Pink Elephant, 2020 by Rex AlexanderClick Image to Enlarge

Reginald Ball Sr.

Reginald Ball Sr. was a native of Winnfield and lived in Lake Charles most of his life. He was a member of Mount Calvary Baptist Church and a life-member of the Lake Charles Chamber of Commerce. He was active in a number of committees, boards, and organizations. He founded the first African American trade school in the area and served on the Mayor’s advisory council. His business ventures included Ball’s Auditorium, Ball’s Apartments, Ball’s Tropicana, and Ball’s Drive-Inn. In 1977, Ball formally launched his Creole Seasoning Company. His trademark all-purpose seasoning is now found in most major supermarkets and remains a staple in many Southwest Louisiana households. 

A Tapestry of Words, 2020

By Meghan Fleming

Medium: handmade paper and paper strips
Dimensions: 18 x 18 inches

A friend gave me a copy of Andre Dubus’s Selected Stories in 1998. I read the work quickly, absorbing every word, and promptly followed it with a book of essays. The poignancy of his work—at times gut-wrenching, and then tender—capturing the messiness and beauty of life had me hooked. He immediately joined the ranks as one of my favorite writers. A year later, I found out I was moving to Lake Charles, and considered it a good omen because Dubus was from Lake Charles.

In considering my approach to TWOFOLD, creating a weaving of his writings felt true to his work and the way he worked. I divided hundreds of small strips of paper from copies of his handwritten letters, his published works, and newspaper articles about him. Reduced into this abstracted form, the strips revealed textural patterns, symbolic of a lifetime of experiences woven together.

Dubus placed much importance on the editing process.  He described the ritual of writing five pages a day, but only using a fraction of what he had written. It was the act of writing that mattered. There was a moment while working on this piece that I felt like a kindred spirit. I had cut hundreds of pieces of paper, but only used a portion of them in the weaving. The editing process created the piece, and this project reminded me that returning to the studio day after day—making work—is what matters.

A Tapestry of Words, 2020 by Meghan FlemingClick Image to Enlarge

Andre Dubus

Andre Dubus II was born on August 11th, 1936 in Lake Charles, Louisiana. He attended Catholic school in Lafayette and graduated from McNeese State College in 1958 as a journalism and English major. He then spent six years in the Marine Corps, rising to the rank of captain. Many of his short stories were published in distinguished journals such as Ploughshares, The New Yorker, and Playboy. Several writing awards are named in honor of Dubus. He spent his later years in Haverhill, Massachusetts, where he died in 1999, and was buried in Greenwood Cemetery.

Senator Shero, 2020

By Lydia Powers

Medium: paper, watercolor, ink
Dimensions: 20 x 20 inches

When considering how to best illustrate Willie Mount’s impact as mayor of Lake Charles and as a state senator, I wanted to create something for the youth who need a role model.  I chose a paper doll because they have a rich history of helping children to imagine the world from their perspectives and build empathy.  Paper dolls are unique because those who can’t afford manufactured ones can easily create their own.  It’s an attainable art form for everyone.  I think these qualities capture the spirit of Willie Mount. 

Senator Shero, 2020 by Lydia PowersClick Image to Enlarge

Senator Willie Mount

Louisiana politician Willie Mount has left an indelible mark on her hometown of Lake Charles, Louisiana. She obtained a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from McNeese State University and was a small business owner. She was elected the 25th Mayor of Lake Charles in 1993 and served at that capacity until 1999. Mount was the first woman to serve as the mayor of Lake Charles. Mount served as a Democratic member of the Louisiana State Senate from 2000 to 2012.

Lover’s Eye, 2020

By Matthew Duplichan

Medium: acrylic on canvas
Dimensions: 11 x 14 inches

This painting explores the infamous story of an altercation that happened between Charles Anselm Sallier, his wife Catherine LaBleu and Jean Lafitte. During the years 1815 to 1821, when Jean Lafitte was headquartered in Galveston, he spent many hours slipping up through the Calcasieu River and Contraband Bayou and docking in front of the shell mounds by the Sallier’s cabin on the southeast shore of the lake to visit with his friends.

Legend has it that Lafitte was in love with Catherine, and Charles would accuse her of being too friendly with the buccaneer. One day, Charles was away for business longer than expected and upon returning to their cabin he discovered Lafitte’s sister inviting Catherine to go and stay with them in Beaumont. Charles caught a glimpse of Catherine wearing a gold and amethyst brooch that was gifted to her by Jean Lafitte. He assumed the worst and in a rage, drew his pistol and shot his wife.

Fortunately for Catherine, the bullet hit her hand and then the amethyst brooch, which saved her life. Catherine’s brother Arsene LeBleu and Lafitte chased after Sallier for justice. He was never heard from again. Catherine lived out her life raising her kids and never remarried and most believe that she was innocent of Charles’ accusations. However, the mysterious lover’s eye miniature is an embellishment of the brooch, which represents Charles’ fear and projection of the affair, hence Lafitte’s eye in the miniature.

After being referred to as “Charlie’s lake” for a long time, it later became known as Charleston. In 1867, it was reincorporated as the city of Lake Charles. The frame is made from a single oak beam that cured for over 75 years and harkens to Lake Charles’ lumber town era and the symbolism of our current dedication to Mr. Charles, the Sallier oak tree. 

Lover’s Eye, 2020 by Matthew DuplichanClick Image to Enlarge

Charles Sallier

Lake Charles, Louisiana was named for Charles Sallier, a pioneer settler of the area. Sallier came to this area sometime after 1781 and married Catherine LeBleu. Catherine was the daughter of the first settlers near Lake Charles, Martin, and Dela LeBleu. Charles and Catherine settled near the lake and had six children. As legend tells it, Charles thought that Catherine was having an affair with Pirate Jean Lafitte. In a rage, he shot at his wife, assumed she was dead and left town never to be seen again. Catherine survived the attempted murder thanks to her brooch, which deflected the bullet. She lived out her life in Lake Charles raising the six children. She was interred in Sallier Cemetery.

Homage to Clarence John Laughlin, 2020

By Lynn Reynolds

Medium: digital photograph, archival inkjet print
Dimensions: 19 x 20 inches

Tracing a direct path back to the distinctive content selections as well as the unconventional stylistic approaches indicative to Clarence John Laughlin’s unique visual aesthetic provided me with ample creative inspiration for my Homage to Clarence John Laughlin, 2020

Widely recognized for his black and white photographic masterpiece Ghosts Along the Mississippi, 1948 Clarence John Laughlin’s personal creative sensibilities distinguished his photographic works from those of his contemporaries by embracing an overtly symbolic, visually poetic dialogue of realist photographic expression.  

While the primary image in Homage to Clarence John Laughlin, 2020 was clearly inspired by his boldly unique photographic aesthetic the secondary vignettes  ( below ) directly reference era-specific photographic equipment (4 x 5-inch film holder) and innovative technical approaches (zone system exposure method) utilized by Clarence John Laughlin throughout his career.

*note: repeated in each secondary vignette is (self) Portrait of the Photographer as a Metaphysician, 1941.

Homage to Clarence John Laughlin, 2020 by Lynn RenoldsClick Image to Enlarge

Clarence John Laughlin

Photographer Clarence John Laughlin was best known for his surrealist work of the American South. He was born in Lake Charles and grew up in New Orleans. His photography career spanned over fifty years, and he is often thought of as the first true surrealist photographer in the United States. Laughlin died in 1985 in New Orleans and was buried in Paris’s Père Lachaise Cemetery in grave 18223.

Ida, 2020

By Sajeela Siddiq

Medium: digital illustration 
Dimensions: 16 x 20 inches

Music and visual art both have the power to evoke strong emotional response in their respective audience. At Queen Ida’s performances around the world, concertgoers would get to their feet and dance to the music. My goal for Ida is to visually portray the rhythm that inspired movement in her listeners. As a medium, illustration lends itself well to the cadenced repetition of shapes and lines, which in turn mimic the repetition of notes in music. This particular color scheme and the bold use of color-blocking aims to convey Queen Ida’s independent spirit and the sureness of her melodies. Anchoring the composition, the ever-present straps of the accordion appear as iconic as the instrument itself, embracing the performer’s body for the better half of a century. It felt quite natural to capture her profile, in a moment of performance, as ingrained in the minds of her fans throughout the world.

Ida, 2020 by Sajeela SiddiqClick Image to Enlarge

Queen Ida Guillory

Queen Ida Guillory was the first female accordion player to lead a zydeco band. Ida was born to a musical family of rice farmers in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Her first language was French. At the age of eighteen she moved to San Francisco. Queen Ida learned to play the accordion from her brother Al Lewis, later known as Al Rapone. At that time, women were not encouraged to play in public, even though her mother was also an accomplished accordion player. She was dubbed “Queen Ida” after being chosen queen of a Mardi Gras celebration. A year after her first performance on stage she and the Bon Temp Band signed with the record label GNP.

A Pharmacist’s Palette, 2020

By Lindsey K. Johnson

Medium: acrylic on wood panel
Dimensions: 12 x 12 inches

In my research as an artist, the true difficultly was encapsulating a man so great on to canvas.  In creating this work, I wanted to represent his accomplishments in the pharmaceutical community with a technique known as Tromp-lòeil.  In this style of painting, the work is given the appearance of the pills stuck to the panel.  I wanted to give a possible view of what Dr. Pryce may have looked at every day, as I do my paint palette.

A Pharmacist’s Palette, 2020 by Lindsey K. JohnsonClick Image to Enlarge

George Pryce

George Pryce, a physician and pharmacist, founded Pryce’s Pharmacy in 1908. He was a Jamaican immigrant who received a college education prior to moving around the South providing medical services for people of color. After arriving in Lake Charles he opened the city’s first minority-owned pharmacy. His son, Dr. Ulric Pryce and grandson, Dr. Frank Pryce, continued the business. Dr. Pryce moved his family to Los Angeles where he operated two drugstores until his death in 1979 at age 96.