‘Life on Canvas’
New Orleans transplant stakes claim on Shreveport art scene
Like many other New Orleanians during Hurricane Katrina, Karen La Beau and her family joined the migration to settle in the Shreveport area.
As a New Orleans native, La Beau had attended the private St. Mary’s Academy before going on to a community college, where she studied drafting.
La Beau had a historic family connection to art and the New Orleans culture as her grandfather on her mother’s side had been a renowned sign painter known as “Abbey the Sign Painter.”
Though a number of her family has exhibited artistic talent, La Beau is the first in her family to become a professional artist.
“I think I got a little depressed while acclimating to my new life in Shreveport, just from loss of known surroundings and being distanced from some family and friends,” La Beau said.
During that time, she started doing some jewelry design and became a vendor at the Shreveport Farmers Market downtown in Festival Plaza.
Her painting evolved from reflecting on her grandfather’s art on which she has worked to put her own personal spin.
“Sign painting seems to have become a lost art since my grandfather’s time, so that intrigues me to try and breathe some new life into something my grandfather loved. I actually started observing him work when I was only 6 years old. Other artists may cite the masters as their primary inspiration, but mine was definitely my grandfather,” La Beau said.
Acrylic is La Beau’s primary medium of expression representing about 80 to 90 percent of her work. “I’m a bit high energy, so oil, for me, takes a little too long to dry,” La Beau said.
Still she does occasionally work in both oil and watercolor.
“I feel my work represents a view of my life. Much of my work is a piece of my soul and is better understood when one can hear the story behind the piece,” La Beau said.
“My husband, Darrel, is my partner in crime. He goes way over and beyond to help me in my pursuit of my art. He is the one who came up with the idea of turning the front room of our home into a gallery so I wouldn’t have to move my art around so much to show it to collectors and galleries,” La Beau said.
She said he also makes frames for her art and helps mount the shows when she has an exhibit.
Her studio is also located at home, making it easier to work and still stay connected to her family.
La Beau acknowledges Darrel and her parents as her biggest fans and supporters.
Her recent work is a part of a two-woman show at the Norsworthy Gallery in downtown Shreveport that opened Aug. 1. That show will be in collaboration with fellow artist Lynn Laird and will run through Aug. 29.
“Lynn and I were running in the same circles and just gravitated to a bonding that has brought us together for this show. Though Lynn and I overlap in certain in areas, I feel we still maintain our own identity and style in the work,” La Beau said.
The Norsworthy show is titled “Vaudoux and Southern Folk Lore: Tempting Love and Fate,” and it is a show La Beau envisioned as far back as five years ago, and she has been working on it for the past year.
“I do love creating. It allows me to be on another plain. I call my work overall ‘My Life on Canvas.’” –Karl Hasten
Want to go?
See La Beau’s art along with the work of Lynn Laird, at Norsworthy Gallery, 214 Texas St., Shreveport. For information, call 424-6474.