The Thibodeaux sculpture so far (August 2015)

It occurs to me that I’ve been so busy with a project that fell in my lap exactly a year ago that I haven’t written much to indicate that my blog is still alive and well.  It turned into a project so big that it froze all my other projects in their tracks.  To catch up on the Thibodeaux project, you can read about the Thelesphore Thibodeaux house here. I’ve told you a little about it in 2 previous blogs, the family research that turned into an archaeology dig, which in turn turned into a sculpture installation made from the artifacts found on the property.  And I’ve told you about the black Creole French family who owns the land on the Bayou Teche today, great-grandchildren of a white man named Onezime Elizee Thibodeaux and an ex-slave named Isabelle Azor who was born on the Thibodeaux family sugar cane farm in 1842.  After the Civil War, they lived together as man and wife for 30 years, raised 8 children together, and finally, in 1893, been married by a priest beside the 70-yr-old man’s deathbed.  When the man’s white family contested the succession, the St Martinville courts upheld it, granting ownership of the home and farm to the 8 children and their descendants.  To read about this remarkable succession case, read here. So, just to let you know I haven’t abandoned you, here is a glimpse of the sculpture and its evolution so far.

.    _________    .

digging . . .

Thelesphore’s house

The first dig was at the end of September 2014, and I visited about every 6 weeks through the winter and spring, until early June when I shut down for the summer.

Digging . . .

Thelesphore’s back shed

. . . and digging.

In a hazmat suit against poison ivy

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Sylvia and Essie, in Thelesphore's house for the first time in decades

Sylvia and Essie

Not everything I found came from underground.  I found things in Thelesphore’s house . . .

1939 newspaper has Franklin Roosevelt at left, an ad for La Belle Creole coffee at right, and in the center slightly above, Mickey Rooney as Huckleberry Finn

1939 newspaper under wallpaper

main bedroom

main bedroom

.

.

.

.

.

.

my patient guide

my patient guide

Eutha's canning

Eutha’s canning

the oldest shed

.

.

. . . and in Paul Hypolite’s old sheds across the street.

.

.

.

.

.

farther back, one of the sheds that came from the Chauffe plantation

One of the sheds that came from the dismantled Chauffe plantation back in the 1950s.

.

.

.

...

1810 bill of sale for Isabelle’s grandfather, 17-yr-old Azor from Congo, by Onezime’s father and 2 uncles

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Even in the St Martinville courthouse.

.     ______________     .

When I got back home after each trip, I’d unload the car and lay everything out to get hosed off and photo-documented before bringing anything into the house.

late Sept

late Sept

late November

late November

early February

early February

late March

late March

.

.

mid May

mid May

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Then, for the next 6 or 8 weeks until the next trip, I’d take piece at a time and soak/ trim/ cut/ sand/ grind/ hammer/ boil/ oven-cure/ chemical-strip it . . . whatever that piece needed.

oiled and cured . . .

oil and cure . . .

boil . . .

boil . . .

. . . and after

. . . and after

before . . .

before . . .

.

.

.

.

.

(*Tedium for some, but very zen for me.  And the before-and-after effect can’t be beat for instant gratification.*)

.

.    ______________    .

The “materials management” part of the project goes like this after every trip, in a predictable and unproblematic manner.  If only the “design” part were as easy.   Originally, when I first glimpsed the inside of Thelesphore’s long-abandoned, soon-to-collapse house through the windows, I had wanted to make a sculpture, a “found-art assemblage” as they call it in the art world, from a few things I’d seen in the house . . . the end of a worn broom, a pot lid, a shutter slat, pieces of wallpaper and newspaper clippings, etc. . . something that could sit on a table.

sculpture, stage 1

Stage 2, sculpture

. . .

Stage 3, sculpture

But then I found a shed behind the house crammed to the roof with cool old stuff, and the family gave me permission to excavate.

. . .

. . .

So I fiddled and experimented, arranging and rearranging things, searching for interesting groupings.

. . .

.

.

.

.

.

. . .

. . .

. . .

. . .

. . .

cutting implements

. . .

. . .

 

.

.

.

.

.

.

...

Wall assemblage

7aDSCN9499_01 copy copy

Stage 4 . . . .

.

I had no idea how much stuff would come of this as the scope of excavation widened and more and more trips were made.  It wasn’t long before the ‘sculpture’ began to take on the dimensions of a whole wall assemblage.  As the artifacts started sorting themselves into categories, the design of the piece began to take on the boxed feel of a Louise Nevelson.

Louise Nevelson

Louise Nevelson

.

.

.

.

.

BE

Bedroom

WWII

WWII

Coffee

Coffee

.

.

.

.

.

.

.      ______________     .

At this point, I should introduce you to the work space I’m doing all this in.  Here’s a visual of the “L”-shaped studio that has taken shape this past year alongside the evolution of this project.

The layout end

The layout end of the “L”

.

The business end of the “L”, indoor and outdoor

Originally our main kitchen, living room and dining room, this part of the house fell into disuse after we raised the house and fell thoroughly in love with the new downstairs ‘apartment’ and its garden-level, indoor/outdoor lifestyle.  This past year, though, with this project, this quadrant of the house has morphed into a full-service studio . . .

The business (messy) end of the "L", indoor and outdoor (our kitchen and bbq deck before we raised the house)

. . . and the corner sitting area that joins the two.

.

my sleeping sweeties

My sleeping sweeties, the youngest and the oldest

.

. . . and my dear husband has become a sculpture widow.  Though he is, very sensibly, not comfortable in such a no-man’s-land of breakables, he does nevertheless visit upon occasion, perching in front of the tv while I flit about.

.

.   ___________   .

just one of many phases

Stage 5, wall assemblage

About the same time as I realized the sculpture was no longer small enough to fit in anyone’s house, I heard that Breaux Bridge was just about to open their new library and wondered whether they might like to have a wall of archaeological art devoted to the history of a local family.  The director’s reply of  “Sure, why not” over the phone surprised and delighted me, and sent me happily off again to the races with design, stretching out across every inch of the studio, the sitting room a blizzard of styrofoam bits everywhere from the foam-core-board mock-up I’d been needing to build to help my mind’s eye keep up.

Stage 6

Stage 6, self-standing installation

And then the next trip, when I went to the library and called on the director in person and reminded him of what I had told him about the rough size and dimensions of the piece, he said, understandabl, that he couldn’t forfeit that much wall space, since it was needed for books, and could I possibly make it self standing, so he could put it in the middle of the floor somewhere.  So I did alot of rethinking and started over, coming up with the basic strategy of folding the wall piece back on itself like a taco. Then, at the same time, an idea hit me that was going to complicate matters even further, an idea that set me on fire.

Acadian house foundation excavation

Girouard house foundation, Annapolis River, Port Royal

Looking through my archaeology reports from the Nova Scotia museum, I found the diagram of the Acadian house excavation that had provided the most thorough view of an Acadian home found so far, coincidentally belonging to the neighbor directly across the river from our original Thibodeaux ancestor in Nova Scotia in the mid-1600s.

Benue Congo

Diy-Gi’d-Biy compound, site 1, Mandara Mountains, northern Cameroon

Soon after, I found a Benue-Congo counterpart to represent what Azor’s community would have been like (Isabelle’s grandfather).

.

. .

Tel Burna, Israel, 9th cent. BC – Aerial shots like this fascinate me, and make the artist in me twitch.

Incorporating these into the piece served another purpose, a personal one, expressing to the students of Breaux Bridge both the wonder I feel when archaeology reveals the past just a foot or so below the present and the artistic inspiration that is often sparked by it.

.

.

.

.

So . . . the beginnings of Stage 7, which brings us up to the present, look something like this.   Won’t last long, though.  I head to Breaux Bridge in a few days, the first week of September.

. .

Cameroon site outlined in cement chips (new)

. .

Nova Scotia site in pottery shards and tar ball chips found onsite (Breaux Bridge).

.

.

Talk to you later.

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit my little world for a while. As with all of my photos and text, all rights to the material in this post are reserved. © postkatrinastella.com

Comments

  1. Nicole Blaisdell Ivey says:

    What a wonderful site to find. You’ve made my day. I couldn’t read it all today but I will be back when I figure out how we are related. My name is Nicole and I am researching my “good French Catholic” ancestors, Heberts from St. Martins. This is not yet crystal clear but so far it appears that my third great grandfather Charles Hebert married Anne Thibodeaux. They had twelve children. My great great grandfather Edgar J. Hebert Sr. married (Marie) Belzire Ledoux and they had thirteen children. I came to New Orleans for the first time and I visited Belzire and Edgar’s graves in the St Bernard cemetery right next to the church in Breaux Bridge in January of this year. I wish I’d found your site before I’d visited. Odds that were related?Thank you again.

    • dorothy moreau says:

      Nicole, you are in my tree thur my mother side Dorothy Thibodeaux, her father Lionel Thibodeaux, father Leon Thibodeaux father Felix, father August’s Leon Thibodeaux, father Pierre Thibodeaux, father LAine, father,daughter Anne Marie, daughter Anne Marie Boudrot, son Charles Hebert 1750, son Charles Hebert 1779-1825, son Charles Hebert son 1803- marry Anne. If you are with this line you are related to Onezine Thibodeaux. This almost the same tree as mine.

    • dorothy moreau says:

      I think you after to go thru Marie Philomene Richard. I am not sure. Part me know.

    • dorothy moreau says:

      Nicole, you are in my tree thur my mother side Dorothy Thibodeaux, her father Lionel Thibodeaux, father Leon Thibodeaux father Felix, father August’s Leon Thibodeaux, father Pierre Thibodeaux, father LAine, father,daughter Anne Marie, daughter Anne Marie Boudrot, son Charles Hebert 1750, son Charles Hebert 1779-1825, son Charles Hebert son 1803- marry Anne. If you are with this line you are related to Onezine Thibodeaux. This almost the same tree as mine. Here are Onezine Thibodeaux children, Oneziphore 1850-1909 died at the age of 59, Telesphore 1868, Felicia 1868 died at the age of 33, Telestia 1872, Paul Hypolite 1875-1950, Clarisse 1877, E.Charles 1881 Thibodeaux. I hope this help you. All of them from Breaux Bridge, St.Martin Louisiana.

  2. dorothy moreau says:

    Onezine Thibodeaux is in my family tree thgru my mother Dorothy Thibodeaux her Lionel Thibodeaux, his father Leon Thibodeaux, mother Marie Philomene Richard, her father Julie Babineau, mother Anne Guilbeau, her mother Madeleine Michel, her daughter Marie Anne Guilbault, her daughter Felicite Bernard, her daughter Marie Thibodeaux, then Onesime Thibodeaux.Onezine Thibodeaux father Elisee Paul Thibodeaux.

Speak Your Mind

*