Sponsored by Tangipahoa Parish
“Courir de Mardi Gras: j’ai vu le loup, le renard et la belette.”2014. Oil on canvas. By Herb Roe.
“As a figurative artist, I’m always looking for excuses to paint people,” observed Herb Roe, a Lafayette-based painter whose large-scale works in oil open a window to the otherworldly traditions of Mardi Gras on the Cajun prairie. “Strange” is in the eye of the beholder though because as Roe, a Kentucky native, is quick to point out, as an outsider he sees the courir differently from those who have grown up within the culture. “The ones who grew up with it tend to do it somewhat different,” he observed. “They throw out a lot of inhibitions, knowing that it’s one day of the year when they can really let go.”
Working in a classical realist style, the artist makes extensive underdrawings and underpaintings before reaching for his oils, and he might invest upwards of two hundred hours in a single piece before considering it complete. Things move pretty fast during the courir, so Roe takes hundreds—sometimes thousands—of photos, combining multiple elements to reassemble scenes and subjects that match the images in his mind’s eye. The result: Folks from the Lafayette area often look at a Herb Roe painting and are surprised to see themselves staring back. “People sometimes ask, ‘How do I get into one of your paintings?’ ” explained Roe with a smile. “I tell them, ‘If you see me with a camera, do something interesting!’”
Interested in chronicling the ties that bind strong communities together, Roe is currently working on a series about the great plate-lunch places of Acadiana. In February, several of his pieces are part of the Healthcare Gallery’s Southern Futurism exhibit in Baton Rouge. See more at chromesun.com.
This month, the art of Herb Roe will be profiled on LPB’s “Art Rocks,” the weekly showcase of Louisiana’s visual and performing arts hosted by “Country Roads” publisher James Fox-Smith. Tune in on Feb 10 at 8:30 pm, repeating on Feb 11 at 5:30 pm, across the LPB network. lpb.org/artrocks.
Sponsored by Tangipahoa Parish Tourism.