Tag Archives: art

Exploring Art at Whitney Plantation

Georges Braque, a famous French artist who helped develop Cubism said, “Art is a wound turned into light.” That quote describes the Whitney Children perfectly: 40 life-sized terracotta statues of enslaved African-American children created by sculptor Woodrow Nash. The haunting boys and girls in ragged clothes are scattered around the grounds of Whitney Plantation, in Wallace, Louisiana. Most are placed in Antioch Baptist Church, the location where guided tours begin. As you move throughout the church, the statues pull at your heart and make you question what they are thinking. If these pieces of art don’t touch your soul, I dare say nothing will. 

Exterior view of Antioch Baptist Church moved to Whitney Plantation.
Antioch Baptist Church now on Whitney Plantation

The compelling children are the work of Ohio-based sculptor Woodrow Nash, commissioned by Jim Cummings, Whitney Plantation’s owner. Nash, who describes his style as African Nouveau, has a consuming passion for elevating the human spirit. He builds a sense of mystery and charisma into each piece, clearly evident in the Whitney statues. 

Terracotta statues of the children of slaves at Whitney Plantation.
Whitney Children sitting on a church pew.

When approached while working on the Children of Whitney, Nash said: “I want these pieces to be as genuine to true slave life as possible. This project has been a challenge that I’ve looked forward to for a long time. My pieces will breathe life into the whole plantation.” And, indeed they do.

Art by Woodrow Nash, the Whitney Children as seen in the Antioch Church.
Sculptures by Woodrow Nash, the Whitney Children as seen in the Antioch Church.

Whitney Plantation opened in December 2014 as the first plantation museum in Louisiana to focus exclusively on the lives of the slaves, and one of very few in the country. Many of the famous Louisiana River Plantations, like Oak Alley, have finally begun to include slave stories and slave cabins on tours. However, most estates in the Old South continue to focus on the grandeur of the big house and lives of the wealthy landowners. Whitney Plantation portrays the opposite. 

Whitney focuses the point of view on children because the collected oral histories from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in the 1930s came from former slaves. These people were children at the time of emancipation in 1865, so their stories came from their youth. Whitney presents their recollections as told in their own words.

Terracotta statues of children are scattered around Whitney Plantation.
You’ll find some of the statues scattered around the plantation.
Two boys on the porch of a slave cabin.

To accomplish this, each visitor receives a lanyard with a card imprinted with a photo and name associated with an individual sculpture. The flip side of the card contains a brief narrative—in the original dialect and vernacular as told to the WPA. These snippets are among the 2,200 collected by the Federal Writers’ Project during the Great Depression. The museum thus brings the past to life when visitors search for the child on their card, find the replica and make a connection.

John Cummings, a wealthy New Orleans lawyer, bought the plantation property about 16 years ago. Originally German immigrants, the Heidels (also spelled “Haydel”), were the landowners. They grew indigo and then the more profitable sugar cane from 1752 to 1867. Its second owner named it Whitney, after his grandson.

Cummings came to the realization that Americans knew little about the lives of slaves. He developed plans to educate them through visits to the plantation. He spent over $8 million of his own money to establish Whitney, a work still in progress. Especially noteworthy are the church and seven slave cabins, purchased and moved to the site to help tell the tales. 

The art of Woodrow Nash in the Big House on Whitney Plantation.
Statue of slave girl inside the Big House.

Guides move tours through Whitney in a specific order. After leaving the church, visitors encounter The Field of Angels, a circular courtyard, featuring a poignant bronze statue by Rod Moorhead of a black angel holding a baby. The area is dedicated to the 2,200 slave children who died before their third birthdays in St. John the Baptist Parish. 

Statue of a mother and child in the Field of Angels, Whitney Plantation.
Statue in the Field of Angles, Whitney Plantation

Further along, a Wall of Honor, similar to war memorial walls, recognizes the 354 people who were enslaved at Whitney. 

Then, the most shocking part of the tour is the memorial to an 1811 slave uprising. Dozens of black, life-sized men’s heads stand on sticks in the ground. This is a brutal display, but unforgettable art. About 500 slaves participated in the uprising with the aim of escaping to New Orleans. Most never made it that far. Many of the captured were killed — and their decapitated heads were put on sticks along the river to terrify others. 

Terracotta statue heads on stakes tell the story of the Slave Rebellion, Whitney Plantation.
Slave Rebellion Heads at Whitney Plantation

The tour continues toward the slave quarters where guests discover a few more Whitney Children, one sitting on the front porch. Stepping into the cramped cabin provides a perspective on the bare-bones accommodations provided for the slave population. At one time, Whitney had 22 slave cabins, each serving at least two families. Nearby sits the kitchen, the oldest in Louisiana, where typically female slaves toiled over burning fires. 

n authentic slave cabin moved to Whitney Plantation.
A slave cabin at Whitney Plantation for hold two families.

Last stop is the French-Creole-style Big House built in the late 18th century. A few children worked in the house along with other servants. Therefore, another statue of a little girl rests there, in opposition to the fine antique furnishings and artworks. Guides use her to talk about the lives of the house slaves, the long hours they kept and the pallets where they slept on the floor. By the end of the tour, most visitors fall silent. Whitney is an attention-grabbing and moving place. 

Whitney Plantation kitchen remains, the oldest kitchen in Louisiana.
Whitney Plantation Kitchen is the oldest kitchen in Louisiana.

Plantation owner Jim Cummings said, “You can’t rewrite history but you can right many of the wrongs—primarily with education.” Whitney Plantation makes significant strides in that direction. 

The Big House on Whitney Plantation belonged to the owners.
The Big House on Whitney Plantation

If you go: Whitney Plantation is about 32 miles from the New Orleans airport, 5099 Highway 18, Wallace, Louisiana. (225) 265-3300. Open daily 9:30 a.m to 4:30 p.m. Closed Tuesdays and major holidays. Tours are on the hour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Advance reservations are recommended. Tours cost $25; $23 for students with ID, military, those age 65 and older; $11 children 7-18 ; free for children 6 and under. They are 90 minutes, all on foot and mostly on gravel paths. Those with special needs should call in advance. www.whitneyplantation.org. Exhibits in the visitor center are free to the public and are open from 9:30am to 4:15pm, Wednesday through Monday.  

Picasso Exhibition Opens in St. Augustine, FL

The PICASSO Art & Arena exhibition opened yesterday in St. Augustine. The show celebrates the 500th anniversary of the discovery of Florida by Juan Ponce de León. The show is also the first of many exhibitions planned as part of the St. Augustine’s 450th Commemoration.

Previewing the Picasso Bull Series
Previewing the Picasso Bull Series

The PICASSO collection includes 39 original pieces created between 1929 and 1961, on loan from the Picasso Foundation in Malaga, Spain.  They provide insights into one of the artist’s main themes: bullfighting. Bullfighting was a revered tradition in Spain, Picasso’s home country. Curator Maria D’Adamo told of Picasso’s fascination with the sport’s trilogy: the matador, picador and the bull.

The exhibition in the Visitor’s Center is set in the round, like a bullfighting ring, with two large photographic reproductions of spectators defining the space.

Faces in the crowd watch a bullfight.
Faces in the crowd watch a bullfight.

One of the highlights is a series of 11 lithographs, created between December 1945 and January 1946. They begin with a realistic drawing of the animal and succeeding works gradually reduce the strokes into a cave like primitive drawing. The final lithograph is only a few lines, but still recognizable as the animal.


The Bull
The Bull

I believe the bull series will appeal to both adults and children because they can clearly trace the transformation. Picasso said, “It took me four years to learn to paint like Raphael, and a lifetime to paint like a child.”

An intriguing 20-minute video is displayed on the rear wall showing Picasso painting on glass. The viewer gets to watch a work of art come to life right in front of their eyes.

In addition, the show includes some of the prolific artist’s ceramic pieces and illustrations composed for books. A timeline of Picasso’s life helps the visitor understand the stages of his artistic lifestyle.

St. Augustine Visitor Center

February 1 to May 11, 2013

www.staugustine-450.com and www.picassoartandarena.com

Picasso Banner hangs  in St. Augustine
Picasso Banner hangs in St. Augustine

View from the Balcony
View from the Balcony

Chocolate Art at Four Seasons Prague

Believe it or not, DNA was the topic of the conversation around the candlelit dining table at the exclusive Allegro Italian restaurant located within the Four Seasons Prague. A decadent orgy of multiple courses, each one a scrumptious blending of the finest, fresh ingredients with a masters touch unfolded. When dessert time arrived, an insatiable desire for chocolate teased our genes. Chef Andrea Accordi, under whose direction the kitchen became the first in the former Eastern Block to be awarded a Michelin star, and his staff arranged a chocolate art presentation at our table. How exotically fabulous.

A white cloth was positioned upon the table amidst an array of nugget-filled containers. An enthusiastic chef drizzled a sweet red liquid in an abstract design which I am told was beetroot sauce, but I would never have guessed. Then, he scattered candied orange and lemon rind around the delicacy, followed by candied kumquats. Rolled pieces of whiskey truffle bonbons were strategically placed as we witnessed awestruck an edible masterpiece sculptured before our eyes.

A small rectangular slice of frozen chocolate mousse was added near the center along with a triangular Earl Gray gelato, further garnished by seductive frozen jasmine foam dollops. Delectable spoonfuls of a chocolate hazelnut blend known as a croccantino adorned the whole along with sprinkled pistachio nuts. Lastly, the lively artistic creation was topped off with warm and heavenly chocolate sauce.

Then, each of us leered at each other, laughed, picked up our spoons and scooped to our hearts desire. A fusion of the finest chocolatier and ice cream shoppe enveloped our palate. An indulgence over the top, but wicked fun and a delightfully interactive way to end an elegant evening.

Read this and other food blog articles posted on Wanderfood Wednesdays.

If You Go

Four Seasons Hotel Prague

Rooms with a View — The Four Seasons rests on what many call prime real estate- the location with the best views of the city.  (I agree!) Some rooms offer the awe inspiring sight of the Charles Bridge and Prague castle, a scene that’s stood the test of time and one that will never lose its magnificence.