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Melissa Blackburn Sarat
CARNIVAL: Celebrating Myth, Fantasy and the Renewal of the Spirit
FEATURING PAINTINGS BY MELISSA SARAT, PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARTHA LEINROTH AND PHOTOGRAPHS AND VIDEO BY CARLOS RICON
June 4 – July 15, 2005
"Melissa Sarat was raised in Louisiana and her large scale paintings celebrate life and its complexities. Sarat’s paintings abound with detail, each square inch commanding attention, like a puzzle, populated by fish, frogs, birds, flora and fauna, Mardi Gras masks, voodoo totems, dishes and dolls. Melissa considers her work painted narratives. Melissa is a very talented storyteller, costumer, and she also has published a series of wildly illustrated greeting cards and festive cookbooks."
David Kwasigroh, Curator

~Exhibition Review~
Art Museum Hosts 'Carnivale' Exhibit
By Tim Brouk, Lafayette Journal and Courier
POSTED: 06-02-2005 12:49 AM EST
Lafayette Journal and Courier
Art museum hosts 'Carnivale' exhibit
By Tim Brouk, Journal and Courier

It's party time at the Art Museum of Greater Lafayette.

"Carnivale: Celebrating Myth, Fantasy and the Renewal of Spirit" features three artists who focus
on the celebration of Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.
While Melissa Sarat's paintings touch on the familiarity of Mardis Gras celebrations
in New Orleans, photographs by Carlos Ricon and Martha Leinroth take a look at
Carnivale. The celebration that boasts dancing and garish costumes is celebrated differently
all over the world. Ricon took a look at Carnivale in his native Brazil while Leinroth
traveled to Venice, Italy, to look at its Carnivale celebration. The result is three artists' work
s coming together in an explosion of color.

"There's a real joyousness about all of the pieces," said Michael Atwell, interim curator
of the art museum. "Carnivale" opens at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and runs through
July 15 at the art museum, 102 S. Tenth St.

Sarat uses an entire color palette in her large, busy paintings. The upstate
New York artist, who grew up in Jackson, La., uses practically every inch of canvas for her
collage of images that create a sense of celebration and a crash course in Cajun culture.
The gigantic Father God, Momma and the Holy Sprit was too big to fit in the museum's galleries
so it hangs over the reception desk on the building's ground floor. It features several portraits
of women (some with gold teeth), frogs, fruit, cake and, for some reason, a bag of Nutrageous candy bars.
"All of this sounds crazy, but in the South, Mexico and South America, it's not," said Sarat.
The piece was inspired by her mother's death.

The collection of paintings have the recurring theme of birds, feathers and frogs
due to Sarat's interest in environmental activism. She believes wildlife are seriously affected
by pollution and act like the canaries of an ecosystem. If the balance is disrupted,
birds and frogs are the first to suffer. Frogs are turning up with deformities in polluted
streams," said Sarat, who helped stop the construction of a truck stop over her area's main
water source. Sarat's paintings always feature bright and warm reds. She attributes the
color use to being a Southerner living in bone-chilling New York.

While Brazil's Carnivale is about movement, parades and thong underwear, Venice's
is much more sedate and subdued. The one thing the two celebrations have in common is an
emphasis on costumes. "People get in costume and walk around," said Leinroth.
"They really parade in costume. Some go to balls, but mostly they just walk around in costume."
Leinroth was one of numerous photographers shooting Carnivale celebrators in
Piazza San Marco. She said her subjects were more than willing to pose for her.
Some would hand her slips of paper with their names and addresses so she could mail them some pictures.
Leinroth said the thick masks made communicating with her subjects impossible. Looking like extras from
Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, the Carnivale participants' bright costumes really pop
against the centuries-old buildings and cobblestone streets of Venice. In one piece, a couple
of white-costumed participants sit down for lunch at an old cafe. The costumes, based on
medieval designs, give a timeless look to the photo, save for the Coca-Cola bottle on the table.
Leinroth shot with a panoramic camera and printed digitally at Nash Productions in California.
Nash productions is owned by Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills and Nash fame.
Leinroth opted for the cinematic look to include more objects and people in the background.
"You can really create a narrative," Leinroth said.

Born and raised in Brazil, Carlos Ricon has celebrated Carnivale for as long as he
can remember. American media loves Carnivale footage for the gyrating dancing, epic
parade floats and wild costumes, but Ricon's collection of behind-the-scenes photographs
show the work of each float designer. Ricon said schools compete for the best float,
music, costumes and dancing. "The floats have to be more beautiful, and the costumes
have to have very strong colors and be very light," said Ricon via telephone from Sao Paulo.
Ricon's work shows dancers rehearsing, crews hoisting huge Styrofoam lion and alligator
heads on to floats, and elaborate costumes being repaired. There are also plenty of shots of
the big show as thousands of participants see the Carnivale parade slowly roll by.
Witnessing Carnivale for the first time is a feeling that is hard to describe.
"It's like an opera and each float is like a scene going by," Ricon said.
"The music is the background for this opera. ... It's an
incredible experience."

On the Net: www.artlafayette.org, www.inverleith.com, www.leinroth.com, www.ricon.com
Gannett Indiana Network


Annabel ~ oil on canvas ~ 2005
Sarat Painting in GLMART Exhibiton
In the Collection of Kevin Daniels,
California