The Labat Project began with an invitation from a friend to attend a luncheon of the Hancock County Historical Society, where the speaker was to be a 102 year old woman. I attended the luncheon, and got my first sight of the most incredible human being I have ever met. Completely captivated by the grace, composure and presence of Ms. Celestine Labat, I went home and immediately began making phone calls in order to arrange an introduction. Later that week, I made what was to be the first of many visits to her family home.
As our friendship developed, Ms. Labat began telling me stories of her life, and graciously allowed me to take dozens of photographs. I began doing portraits of her in both pencil and acrylic, and I also started recording her stories on audio cassettes. After a time, Ms. Labat brought out her family photograph albums, and as I began putting the faces with the stories, the idea for “Labat, A Creole Legacy” was born.
Over the next year and a half, I continued taping Ms. Labat’s stories, and began the long process of transcribing the tapes. I scanned her photos into my computer, digitally manipulated them, and printed them out on specialty paper. The resulting images were then transferred to cloth, and each one was individually hand hemmed and hand sewn on to a backing cloth. The same process was used with selected stories, and the 274 pieces were then secured onto a canvas support which I painted with geometric designs that echo the artistic traditions of both African and Native American cultures. After 1300 hours of effort the collage came together with a finished size of 7 ½ x 9 ½ feet.