BBR Proudly Celebrates the Lives of Early Cajuns and Creoles with Local Artist Ceci Neustrom
“Some may find it curious that a woman of Irish heritage (married to a Swede) would find her artistic calling in painting the Acadians. But as any transplant can attest to, Cajun culture quickly becomes embodied in us all, whether through DNA or adoption,” states Cecilia “Ceci” OKeefe Neustrom when questioned about her latest art series, “The Acadian Heritage Series.” A quick glance at the portraits you see women, men and children in authentic period attire, eyes full of heart and stories of a life lived.
The “Acadian Heritage Series” is a woman-led initiative art exhibition that showcases the work of Ceci Neustrom and provides a deeper look into Cajun heritage and history. The exhibit was on display at 413 South Pierce Street, in BBR Creative’s Collaboration Space, The Morgan-Anders House and opened as a kick-off to Festivals Acadiens et Créoles during a private exhibit. The women, men and children depicted in this collection are descendants and/or representatives of the original Acadian families who settled in South Louisiana and are dressed in attire authentic to the period that the Acadian expulsion occurred. This is an on-going series that currently features representations of the Babineaux, Breaux, Broussard, Comeaux, Guidry, Hebert, LeBlanc and Prejean families. The portraits seek to reflect the strength of character of the Acadian families and their resilience in the face of misfortune.
“These paintings reflect the lifeblood that flows through our Acadian culture. Books have been written, poetry and plays have been performed, but it has been my artistic pleasure to share some up-close and personal portraits of present day descendants of the original Acadian settlers,” commented Ceci.
Ceci first discovered her love of Acadian culture when she moved from Biloxi, Mississippi to Lafayette, Louisiana in 1965 to attend school. Being one of thirteen children, she already knew the meaning of family; she knew what community, culture and custom entailed. But learning of the Acadian experience and journey was captivating and intriguing to her. Following school, Ceci began her career in the oil and gas industry where she researched the lineage of Acadian families and the lands they owned. Her work required travel to courthouses across south Louisiana and gave her a deep appreciation of the heritage and stories of the families. When her “formal” career entered its final years, Ceci began exploring her artistic side – she studied oil painting with local artists Pat Soper and Gwen Voorhies. She then expanded her skills and techniques at workshops and classes around the country, culminating with the Arts Student League of New York. Ceci had awakened her passion for art and portraits.
When asked about the exhibit, Cherie Hebert, CEO and Founder of BBR Creative, stated, “I wanted to help Ceci show her work because I knew her concept was interesting and unique. The Cajun and Creole people are what makes us the fascinating cultural hub that we are here in Acadiana. Her interest in honoring the heritage of these founding families by painting their descendants really struck a chord with me. As the owner of a company that celebrates creativity, women and culture, I was certain we were the natural fit to give her a platform to showcase her work.”
The “Acadian Heritage Series” is the result of almost a decade of work. It brings together several of Ceci’s passions: the Acadian stories; the love of family history and genealogy; and her unrelenting desire to paint. The merging of her interests is what gave Ceci the inspiration. Rather than focus on group scenes of the expulsion and arrival of the Acadians in Louisiana, she preferred to focus on individual representatives of those families, many of whom are bloodline descendants.
About the Artist
Cecilia “Ceci” OKeefe Neustrom is a Lafayette, LA artist. Her classic, representational art style leans toward impressionism and expressionism. Her oil paintings cross several genres; however, Ceci’s truest passion generally rests with figurative and portraiture. “There’s nothing more captivating than studying someone’s eyes and attempting to capture their spirit on canvas.” Ceci is a member of the Arts Student League of New York, the Portrait Society of America, Oil Painters of America, American Impressionist Society, and the Lafayette Art Association. She has participated in numerous group exhibits and has paintings placed in homes across the South and beyond.
Visit her website for more information: www.cecineustrom.com.
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