ART SHOW: Portraits and Landscapes on Display in New Exhibit – Mississippi’s Best Community Newspaper

BY MAIA BRONFMAN

Debbie Willson, a local artist, photographs the bayous of Louisiana and Mississippi. After printing and framing, the glassy depth of his favorite medium is darkened with gold and silver leaf, suspended above a scene that has been injected and leaked tint, according to the Willson’s vision.

She is exhibiting her pieces for the second time in Beau Deshotel’s gallery, Arts District Studio at 107 Commerce St. The show started June 30 and will run through the summer.

With Willson, Forrest Germany, Esther Carpenter and Mark Coffey the four artists on display, Deshotel said the pendulum was swinging back in the right direction for Natchez. Local artists, and current artists, have a showcase downtown.

Like Hemingway’s café in Paris or Warhol’s “Factory” in New York, where books and serigraphs accumulate, so do people.

One Thursday morning, Willson walked into Deshotel’s gallery and the back office space that Deshotel uses as an interior design studio.

She sat down at a table and began to read an ancient textbook on nudism. Opposite her, Deshotel was describing his plans for dollhouses lined up on a ledge near the ceiling: kitsch light fixtures.

“With silhouettes of naked people,” Willson added, stepping away from his book for a moment.

Some of Willson’s artwork, reversion photography prints on glass, was propped up behind her.

“She’s like a hunter,” Deshotel said of Willson, “she gets in her boat with a camera and shoots the waterways up close and personal.”

The technique is rare and Willson was the first, 12 years ago.

Forrest Germany, another exhibiting photographer, never officially became an “artist”.

His family once owned the Eola Hotel, and although he went to art school, he ended up working for his family’s oil company.

“It’s a classic Natchez story,” Deshotel said. Deshotel only heard of the black-and-white portraits of Germany when he saw them hanging in his home.

Asking Germany to display them, Deshotel said, “was like pulling teeth.”

But there will be an upcoming exhibition of work from Germany, for his current project of photographing the remaining large beauties of Natchez.

Esther Carpenter’s paintings face German photographs. Carpenter grew up in Dunleith and was a renowned chef in New Orleans before returning to Natchez and Elms.

The carpenter pieces are mostly oils on canvas, with a few oils on plywood. Its plywood subjects are formed through curved edges of wood but flattened by its half-inch depth.

They reference Carpenter’s last show at Arts District Studio, “Silent Companions,” a Streisand-esque ode to pets.

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