Herb Roe, “Courir de Mardi Gras – Valse du Vacher”, oil on canvas, 24″ x 36″, 2012, photograph courtesy of the artist
Herb Roe, “Courir de Mardi Gras – McGee’s Medley”, oil on canvas, 30″ x 40″, 2013, photograph courtesy of the artist
Herb Roe, “Tee Courir – Number 27″, oil on canvas, 5″ x 7”, 2013, photograph courtesy of the artist
Herb Roe, “Tee Courir – Number 29″, oil on canvas, 7” x 5″‘, 2013, photograph courtesy of the artist
Herb Roe, “Danse a’ Cheval II”, graphite on paper, 18″ x 24″, 2012, photograph courtesy of the artist
Herb Roe, “Cajun Fiddler I”, hand-painted lino block print, 10″ x 12″, 2012, photograph courtesy of the artist
Herb Roe, “Cajun Fiddler II”, hand-painted lino block print, 10″ x 12″, 2012, photograph courtesy of the artist
by Reggie Rodrigue
It’s late April, and Mardi Gras is just a memory in our collective rearview mirror in Louisiana. However, the bon temps keep rolling! Festival International de Louisiane is about to kick off this Wednesday, April 24, 2013 in Lafayette, LA. This 5-day world music festival juggernaut,”featuring six music stages, food court areas, street musicians and animators, arts and crafts boutiques, art galleries, beverage stands, cultural workshops, international cooking demonstrations and a world music store,” (www.festivalinternational.com) will take over Downtown Lafayette for another year.
In the midst of all of the international frivolity will be Lafayette artist Herb Roe. For this year’s installment of Festival International de Louisiane, Roe has decided to open an exhibition of his “Courir de Mardi Gras” paintings, drawings and prints in the Garage, located at 205B West Vermillion St., Lafayette, LA, which is – surprise, surprise – a former garage. The location itself will be ideal for viewing Roe’s work as the Garage will be right beside the Vermilion St. Open Market once Festival begins.
To anyone from outside South Louisiana, Roe’s “Courir de Mardi Gras” works may seem like something out of a Surrealist phantasmagoria, with their grotesque depictions of otherworldly protagonists running amok in a bucolic setting. However, Roe is a died-in-the-wool realist painter, and his “Courir de Mardi Gras” works faithfully depict what the celebration of Mardi Gras in rural South Louisiana actually looks like in real life – minus the occasional post-apocalyptically red sky (You can’t keep it real all the time – as any Dave Chappelle fan knows). In Roe’s work, one comes face-to-face with the bizarre yet rich tradition of the rural Mardi Gras.
Participants in the celebration make their own costumes, replete with homemade mesh masks and conical dunce caps. They ride on horseback through the small towns of Acadiana, creating mischief, teasing young children, performing feats of daring and chasing chickens donated by locals for the communal gumbo pot to be shared at the end of the day. In rural Acadiana, Mardi Gras is a day when the natural order of things is overturned and mayhem and merriment rule before the Catholic fasting season of Lent begins.
What’s especially engaging about Roe’s work is the perspective he has on this Louisiana tradition – for Roe isn’t originally from Louisiana. He was born in Ohio, and spent his childhood and adolescence between that state and Kentucky. Roe’s work with Lafayette, LA muralist Robert Dafford lead him to the Hub City and the subject of his current work. Certainly, he has spent a great deal of time living and working in Louisiana – enough to be considered a local by our standards. Yet, in his paintings of the Courir de Mardi Gras, one begins to understand his unique perspective of being an outsider on the inside track to one of Louisiana’s most mysterious and mystifying cultural experiences. Roe’s application of paint is almost clinical and diagnostic in it’s realism, and points toward his status as an observer outside of the scenarios which he is depicting. However, the scenarios are so removed from the daily currents of normal life that Roe’s realism is swallowed up in the tidal flow of color, pattern and pageantry that he is depicting. In this way, the wall between observer and participant breaks down in much the same way that the Mardi Gras celebration breaks down societal inhibitions and hierarchies. When viewing Roe’s “Courir de Mardi Gras” works, one succumbs to the ecstatic, drunkenness of the images in all of their obsessively detailed, hyperrealistic, stranger-than-fiction glory. They are a profound visual treat for anyone, whether you’re from Mamou, LA, Moscow or Madagascar, and the perfect visual accompaniment for the joyous celebration that is Festival International de Louisiane.
Herb Roe’s “Courir de Mardi Gras” exhibition at the Garage (205B West Vermillion St., Lafayette, LA) will be open during Festival International’s officially scheduled hours. For further information on Festival times and other Festival related information, visit its website, http://festivalinternational.com/site.php.
To visit Herb Roe’s artist website, follow this link: http://www.chromesun.com/