The Thibodeaux assemblage sculpture; progress through 3 years of upheaval

Last I wrote of the Thibodeaux sculpture, in the summer of 2015, I focused on the studio that had formed around this ever-growing sculpture I was building, itself formed from the quantity of artifacts that was coming out of an excavation site at the late 1800s sugar cane farm of Onésime Elisée Thibodeaux in Breaux Bridge on Bayou Teche, deep in the heart of Louisiana’s Cajun country.  This parcel of land was part of a mid-1700s land grant to a Thibodeaux family who’d lost their home in the French colony of Acadia to the British in the French & Indian War in 1763.  Adjacent to the north of Onesime’s land was the sugar cane farm I inherited from my grandmother, her gr-grandmother Phelonise Thibodeaux Hebert being Onesime’s older sister.

With great sadness, I must report that the writing of this story and the progress on the sculpture itself, as well as my visits to my friends in Breaux Bridge whose history and land I was researching, came to a halt a year later, in the summer of 2016, when the crash of the oil and gas business that was my husband’s livelihood caught up to us.  My studio space was needed for other purposes and got dismantled, and for two years, the sculpture sat packed and stored. I’d packed it away, though, in such a way as to be able to access segments of it, as well as the materials and tools needed to work on it.  Through 3 years of physical labor, renovation, and injuries, heartbreaks, betrayals and the inevitable disintegration of our marriage and my future in New Orleans, sanity periodically dictated that I take respite in my beloved sculpture and the memories of a magical time that fell into my lap so unexpectedly.  And I managed to bring it further along.

An American Tribute to the British People, Louise Nevelson
Sky Cathedral, Louise Nevelson

In order to better ‘get’ the visual I had in my mind, I’ll show you some of Louise Nevelson’s pieces that informed the overall shape and structure of the Thibodeaux assemblage sculpture.  Nevelson(1899-1988) was a Ukrainian American artist, a pioneer of the found-art (objet trouvé) movement and assemblage sculpture.

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Below is a rough idea of how it looks so far, not in position.  In position, the two big, multi-box walls would be placed back-to-back, joined at one end by the self-standing center column, and standing about 6′ apart at the other end, like a “V”, allowing people to walk inside through the top of the “V” and read, on the back of each box, the identity and significance of the artifacts inside it.

Sections represent categories of findings; sometimes by location (which room it represented) or occupation (farmer, soldier, cook) or signature cultural feature (coffee, garconniere) or gender/age identity (man, woman, child), but sometimes just because of artistic shape or color grouping (spigots, sugar cane).

Left wall
Left wall: porch, dining room, war, living room, map, Sylvia’s God, spigots, man, and Elizabeth and her enslavement (only partly built).

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Right wall
Right wall: woman, doors, bedroom, marriage, top right section as yet unnamed, coffee, kitchen.  [not yet positioned]: garçonniere, [not yet built]: child, chicken & corn
Center column
Center column (joining the two walls of the “V”): sugar cane

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In the summer of 2019, the sculpture was carefully packed, and along with my 3 cats, some 40 bushes transplanted from my wonderful garden, and everything I own, including family pieces, heirlooms, photos and documents chronicling my family’s 250 years in French and Spanish Louisiana, I said goodbye to New Orleans and moved to Oregon where the last of my remaining family is.

Now, summer of 2020, it sits in storage.  It’s quite possible it may never see its intended public destination, in the Breaux Bridge library where the Creole people of St Martin Parish, with their uniquely mixed racial and cultural heritage, could enjoy this tribute to one of their own, Thelesphore Thibodeaux and his parents Onesime and Elizabeth Thibodeaux.  But before the Thibodeaux assemblage was packed, a photo portrait was done of each section, and in that form, at the very least, I can put it online where far more Thibodeauxs and Louisiana Creoles, no matter where they are, can see it than if it were in a single physical location.

Several posts will follow that explain each section.  To the steadfast readers of this remarkable story, it’s been a bumpy ride waiting for it, I know.  Your patience has meant more than you know.

1 thought on “The Thibodeaux assemblage sculpture; progress through 3 years of upheaval”

  1. Dear Laura,
    It is fantastic. A beautiful tribute. I hope to visit your Thibodeaux sculpture one day in the Breaux Bridge library. Thank you so much for sharing all your hard work, good research, and fine writings. Keep shining your lovely light in this world.
    Cheers to you!

    Reply

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