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Monday, Nov. 2, 2020

The Soul of St. Francisville

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Artist and Author Share the Allure of the Felicianas

St. Francisville, La., is home to plantations, gardens, museums and John James Audubon. It's also the subject of a new book by Anne Butler and Darrell Chitty. The two have collaborated on a second coffee table book highlighting the famous and not-so-famous attractions of the Feliciana area. It’s making its debut, appropriately, in St. Francisville at a coming-out party scheduled for the week before Thanksgiving this year.

The new book is called "The Soul of St. Francisville," and Butler describes it as a continuation of the first one, entitled "The Spirit of St. Francisville," published in 2007. “We don't pretend that it's all all-inclusive,” Butler said.

“It’s kind of just to give people a taste and a sampling of what’s here and why we need to appreciate it, and preserve it, and take care of it, and learn from it.”

Chitty fell in love with St. Francisville in the viewfinder of his camera. “I have such an affinity with St. Francisville. I'm an adopted son there. That is one of the most beautiful and unique places in the world. I've traveled all over the world, and there is no other place like it.”

Chitty is a master photographer who made the transition to digital format. He decided to branch out into digital painting, but when he discovered many other digital artists were doing the same thing, he went a step further and blended the digital with fine art.

“I’m transitioning in the way I market and make myself known to the public,” he said. “I'm becoming much more known now because of things like this [book], my traveling exhibits, that I do.”

Butler, who is a prolific writer and has lived a very interesting life, has been a fan of Chitty’s work from the start. “[He] loves it down here, and you know there's just something about that light that's beautiful. And he just works with it and turns out magnificent portraits and images. So, it's going to be a beautiful book.”

The Butler/Chitty team got its start when Chitty took a Colorado friend to St. Francisville to share a taste of Cajun culture. “We went to Anne Butler’s plantation early one morning, and it was so beautiful, I started taking pictures. Later on, I developed them, and I took them back and introduced myself to her. I said, ‘I want to give you these pictures I took.’ She really liked them, and we developed a relationship. Butler-Greenwood Plantation has been in her family since the 1700s.”

The collaboration resulted in the book that combines Butler’s elegant prose and Chitty’s photography and evocative paintings. The artist said the allure of the Felicianas is the pride of the population. “They’ve preserved their heritage so well. The people are so proud of their heritage. And they literally protect it.”

In a similar way, Butler hopes people find something beyond the words and pictures when they open the book. “I hope that they take away the importance of preserving the past as well as looking to the future. It's what we build on. There are a lot of chapters in the book that deal with change. And that's a good thing. For example, the hunting and agriculture chapter shows how interrelated they are. As agriculture changed, then hunting had to change," Butler said.

"When they switched from so many row crops here to these huge conglomerations of soybeans, the little farmer got pushed out and so did the quail. They didn't have the narrow row crop paths to nest in and feed in and stuff. So, there are not any quail here anymore. It's an example of how changes are really interrelated in so many facets of life. You just need to learn how to adapt.”

For more information on "The Soul of St. Francisville" and its premiere, you can contact Anne Butler at ButlerGree@aol.com.

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