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Cajun Artists

August 19, 2011

There is one Cajun artist everyone is familiar with: George Rodrique, creator of that little blue dog that we see lurking and towering everywhere.

Left: Looming over Canal Street in New Orleans. Right: Lurking behind us off Jackson Square, New Orleans(Left: Looming over Canal Street in New Orleans. Right: Lurking behind us off Jackson Square, New Orleans)

The dog is everywhere, but there are many other artists growing in the swamps and bayous of Louisiana.

Creating Canes - Ray Easley

Creating Canes - Ray EasleyHouma, Louisiana - What do alligator wrestlers do when they can no longer beat the stuffing out of a 12 foot alligator? They become artists. Ray Easley is no exception.

Look at the man! He is a work of art just sitting on a log beside Bayou Blue Road selling his own hand-hewn pyrography - walking canes. Most of his designs are alligator intensive, but some feature nail-heads made from the bases of shotgun shells or cane shafts enveloped with hammered soda pop cans. Owls and snakes also appear.

A smile breaks Ray’s face when he tells stories of his days working an alligator show north of the bayou. The show’s promoters dressed him in a large floppy straw hat, big overalls, and no shirt. (Ray is a BIG man.) He and another wrestler/actor would row out into an alligator infested pond and “fish”  for the paying customers using a dead chicken as bait. Their fishing poles, made to look like bamboo, were actually steel and the “line” was heavy wire.

The  two men would pretend not to notice the large reptilian beasts as they slid into the water and swam towards them... until the chicken was taken from their line (often in  mid-air). At that point they would jump up in down in the boat, yell and threaten the alligators while the crowd on shore cheered wildly. I wish I could have seen Ray do this. Certainly the video lives in my mind as if I really did see him perform.

So now, when it happens that I am having trouble walking, I am ready.  I am the proud owner of an iconic  Ray Easley Cajun Cane with hand drawn and burned creatures crawling up a cyprus shaft.

Furthermore we have hung a soda-pop cane from jeweled hooks in the workroom of the camper. It was a gift from Ray.

Billy Ray Canes

The Cement Garden of Kenny Hill

The Cement Garden of Kenny HillThe artist, Kenny Hill appears to belong to that small group of outsider artists, the Psychotic Artist.

Bayou Petit Caillou, Louisiana, there is a small plot of land, about the size of a Putt-Putt golf course, and there Kenny Hill created his bizarre sculpture garden. A garden filled with flying, crawling, dancing, marching, working and dying oversized black people, white people, red people, naked women, cowboys, god, religious figures, Jesus, horses, babies, musicians, soldiers and multiple self portrait statues of himself... There is even a lighthouse over 45 feet tall covered with cowboys, Indians, calvary riders and horses. Every piece is made of cement, most on wire frames.

No one knows where Kenny Hill got his bizarre and largely religious inspiration or to where he disappeared in 2000 after creating a swirling, whirling jumble of over 100 cement sculptures.

In the Cement Garden
Angel, angels everywhere. Blue angels, nazi eagles on the chests of angels, spread-winged bald eagle angels, shrimper angels in medieval garb, eagle legged, talon footed columns filled with angel faces...

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Adam Morales and Sculpture from the Swamp

Adam Morales and Sculpture from the Swamp“When you  are out in the swamp at night and all dem creatures are all around you and you is all alone...I feel God right there in that moment. I really do. I love that. I got to the point that I could tell what kind of snake it was by they way they hit my legs under de water.”   - AM

Pierre Part, Lousiana - OK, Ewwwwwww.... after seeing what is called a Kong in one of Adam Morales crayfish traps I can only imagine what else is slithering around out there in the swamps of the Atchafalaya Basin. Cyprus, grasses and creatures... plus one man with the eyes and hands to see magic in the natural swamp “drift”wood and feel beings that long to be revealed.  More than just the simple and beautiful form of a piece of wood Adam carries an unique artistic vision into the swamp every time he wades out  into the creature filled waters and weeds.

For Adam, the sculptural pieces of wood find each other. The front end of a jumping rabbit lingered on a shelf for months...and then one evening the back legs leaped out at him from the swamp’s waters... so to speak.

Adam Morales

For years he has been looking for the driftwood head of Abraham Lincoln. Perhaps a "Mt. Swamp-more" is in the works here.

Claire... a family becoming artists

Claire... a family becoming artistsClaire put out some of her and her kid’s art work to share.

Claire is the first person ever to see the PlacesandPlatypie sign on the side of our camper and come back after looking at our website and knock on the door.

Claire “I want to be an artist like you,” she announced. Well, you can imagine how hard I had to swallow to accept her kind words.

While Claire is not a Cajun artist, she does live in Cajun Country and is working hard to become an artist. She is teaching herself to draw and paint using books she has been able to obtain. She practices using the How to Draw Disney characters publications as well as other books. Her dedication encourages her three children, as well as many of the "neighborhood" kids, to try hard and respect their own art work.

Food of Louisiana CultureClaire and Juan own their own mobile home in the trailer park on the road into Capri Court Campground where we stayed. Her only paying job is as a part-time English/Spanish translator for the county court system.

She sent an email this past May. She and her family were preparing for the huge floods expected as a result of opening the floodgates on the Morganza Spillway.

"...The flooding has slowed down. I don’t think it will come here. That’s a good thing because I don’t have a boat!! Me, Juan, and the kids went to Gibson (about 30 mins from here) where the flood is supposed come, and helped the elderly families filling up sandbags and putting around their houses. That was Monday (I think) and my whole body still hurts!! I didn’t know I could still work that hard. But I taught the kids a good lesson that if we are ok where we are, than we should not just sit around doing nothing like everyone else does here, we should help old people who need us."


Footnote: Bernie and I just finished cleaning out our storage locker and sent off a box of art supplies to Claire and her family.

LOVE this array of artists and their work that you shared with this post, Peggy and Bernie!  Have long admired the work of folk, outsider, visionary artists and these are fabulous examples.  Would love to meet them too.

Artist patrons are alive and well too - what a great gift to Claire you and Bernie made!!

Sending love from Myrtle Beach, SC - we return home on Saturday


Great stories!  I love the one about Mrs. Claire the most. It made me cry.  That was such a wonderful thing that you did Peg.  Be safe!  We are getting more rain. It is really raining hard in NYC.  We have enough rain to last until Spring. There is so much flooding going on. 


Wow i just read what my mom wrote...AND YES IM CRYING AGAIN!! yall gonna make capri court flood if yall dont stop im writing to say that I am without a doubt the most blessed person in the world right now....I JUST GOT A PACKAGE (im singing that).... HOW do i thank you Mrs. Peg HOW??? With ALL of the supplies that you sent to me, I want you to know that i will be creating many thigs for many years to come... you know when people say "expect the unexpected"???? We'll I definately didnt expect a 33 pound box filled with the best of the best!!!! Thank You and may God bless and keep blessing you, Mr. Bernie, and Sully!!! Have fun on the road!!! And come back soon!!!!


Yep! That's Claire! To go knocking on a stranger's door, to pour life into their pail, to fill their glass, when the glass she holds is only half full. That's who she is. Her heart abounds with compassion. Claire has lived through many trials and tribulations, yet the beauty Claire's heart and soul possess, compare to none. I know, i am her mother. Incidents beyond our control have separated us temporarily, yet our bond remains. I miss her and the children sickly. Thank you so much for the supplies you are sending her. Your kindness and generosity has given here more determination to reach higher, be the best she can be. I hold sincere gratitude for many, Mrs Peg, Mr Bernie, my brother Wayne, his wife Donna, Toni's family, for what all you have done, i couldn't. Many miles away I send my love and encouragement to you Claire, to Jaun, Bryson, Rayven and Cameron. Keep painting, keep drenching your soul into your passion. When your garden has overgrown, my love will weed it out. I miss you all very much and love you even more...Now this one weeps.......

Tammy Sue Estay

WOW!!! i am crying over here. Thank you mrs peg that was beautiful. all i can say is WOW!!!!!! you are exactly who i wanna be...


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