Artscape: North Shore talent on display at Julia Street galleries

Mary Monk

LeMieux Galleries

Photo courtesy of


The North Shore came to New Orleans on November’s first Saturday, with three prominent artists having receptions for their solo exhibitions during the New Orleans Arts District’s First Saturday Gallery Openings.

George Dunbar’s “Alluvion” opened at Callan Contemporary, his fourth show at the gallery. “Cote d’Azur-Reflections,” Marcia Holmes latest solo exhibition, opened at Degas Gallery. An encore reception of Mary Monk’s solo show, “Painting the Truth,” took place at LeMieux Galleries.

Each exhibition revealed how each artist takes nature inspirations to create pieces that draw viewers in, whether through a light-filled landscape, a reflection of water or an expert use of materials such as clay and canvas.

Dunbar’s “Alluvion” represents “a whole new body of work” for the world-renown, Slidell-based artist whose career has spanned seven decades, said Borislava Callan, owner of Callan Contemporary. “George is remarkable. At 91, he continues to create pieces that are very elegant.”

That elegance can be seen in the standout work entitled “Lespedeza-Alluvion Series.” At 98-by-88 inches, it shows layers of Elaegnus-green and black clay with palladium leaf that was applied with a water gilding technique. This application allowed Dunbar “to give up control, but get something else, as he is known for saying,” Callan said.

“Alluvion, by definition, can be the wash or flow of water against a shore or an accession to land by the gradual deposit of alluvium, another word for clay. It becomes a fitting title for an exhibition with pieces that feature layers and layers of clay whose surfaces reveal metal leaf.

Yet the exhibition also includes a pieces that are reinterpretations of Dunbar’s Rag series. Those pieces stood out in gallery, including “Cyperius-Alluvion Series” and “Lobella-Alluvion Series,” 19-by-25 inch piece combining canvas bundles, with Palladium and blue and black clay.

“Across his broad spectrum of periods, processes, and materials, George Dunbar balances perfectionist technique with an appreciation for the inspired and random, turning the elements of the earth—clay, pigment, metal, and the human hand that shapes them—into objects of unparalleled sophistication, complexity, and beauty,” according to the exhibition statement by Richard Speer.

In “Côte d’Azur Reflections,” Holmes unveiled 20 new abstract impressionist works, including large-scale oil paintings, mixed media works and pastel pieces, that “are my interpretation of frequented visits to France including Giverny,” she said.

This is the third exhibition at Degas Gallery for Holmes, who is known for her use of oil and pastels, and whose piece “Improv III” was included in the Ogden Museum of Southern Art’s “Louisiana Contemporary” this year.

This exhibition continues to reveal the Mandeville artist’s attraction to water reflections. “Being a wanderlust, I returned to France in June,” she said of her travels to the Côte d’Azur, Nice, and Saint-Jean -Cap-Ferrat, where she visited the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild.

The chic early 20th-century villa’s nine separately themed gardens with their “musical fountains were filled with water lilies, reflecting the brilliant summer sky,” Holmes said. Those water lilies served as inspiration in pieces “Côte d’Azur Reflections” and “Côte d’Azur Reflections II,” as well as “Villa Water Lilies.”

The show in a way serves as a statement about the influence of places and traveled paths in Holmes’ life, including not only her trips to France but also to New York City and San Miguel de Allende in Mexico. Traveled paths close to home are represented through pieces such as “Echo the Running River” and “Around the Pond.”

“I hope my viewers will recognize some of these ‘Frequented Paths’ (the subtitle for this series) as they also include water landscapes from home on the Tchefuncte River and the pond at St. Joseph’s Abbey, our local frequented paths,” said Holmes, who also will show pieces during Three Rivers Art Festival, Nov. 10 and 11 at Armbruster Artworks, 502 N. Columbia St. in Covington. That will precede the raffling of her painting “Koi” during the “Men Who Cook” fundraiser for Children’s Advocacy Center-Hope House Nov. 11 in Covington.

“Painting the Truth” is the first solo show for Monk at LeMieux Galleries, which has represented the Abita Springs artist for the past two years. An award-winning professional artist for the past 20 years, Monk’s work has been published in Plein Air Magazine, Pastel Magazine and Louisiana Life Magazine.

“The way she represents landscapes is breathtaking. She transports you there,” said Jordan Blanton, who owns LeMieux Galleries with Christy Wood. “They are all pastels, which she works so successfully with. What is also impressive is that she works in plein air and judiciously crops the scene.”

Each of the 30 landscapes captured by Monk is more beautiful than the last, with luminous colors that capture the way light affects the scene. Most show Big Branch Marsh and other areas of Lacombe, while some were done in New Iberia and on Horn Island.

While Monk usually paints the marsh and other landscapes when the sun is located behind the particular scene, in this exhibition she also wanted to capture the sun’s reflection on it. “The part where (the sun) reflects on, I tend to avoid because it’s such bright, bright colors. It just seems so unbelievable. For this show, I decided I was going to paint the truth. I was going to paint it all,” she said.

Those vivid reflective colors can be seen in “Lake Pontchartrain, Evening Light,” which features a brilliant blue, and “Marsh Color,” a landscape of blues, greens, pinks and soft browns. Others like “Dunes, Horn Island” take on a softer palette.

The journey to paint the truth of nature has been a “battle of time, light and patience,” as Monk explains in her artist statement. “As plein air artists, we are so often racing to beat the limitations nature imposes on us. I really wanted to slow down and appreciate each experience. I wanted to savor the realization that the view before me will never be exactly the same again. I wanted to experience the truth, not just paint what I see but paint what I feel as well. I wanted to paint the truth. There is value in painting the truth. It is real and sincere and that is what I want most for my art.”

“Alluvian” will be on display until Dec. 23 at Callan Contemporary, 518 Julia St. Gallery hours are Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment. For more information, visit For more information on Dunbar, visit

“Côte d’Azur Reflections” continues until Nov. 30 at Degas Gallery, 604 Julia Street (Suite 101). Gallery hours are Mondays to Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays by appointment only. For more information, visit For more information on Holmes, visit

“Painting the Truth” continues until Nov. 24 at Lemieux Galleries, 332 Julia St. Gallery hours are Mondays to Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. or by appointment. For more information, visit For more information on Monk, visit

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