A Visit with a Prairie Painter

May 27, 2005
Rhea's Journal 20

One of the greater joys of the Marsh Mission project has been spending engaging time with other artists who also paint the wetlands. Elemore Morgan and I had a joint show in 2001 at the Alexandria Museum of Art, in Alexandria, (central) Louisiana. Because he is one of my favorite Louisiana artists, it was a delightful treat to visit with him recently at his rural, coastal southwestern Louisiana studio.

Although he has traveled the world painting, he is now content to paint locally in one small section of the fast-disappearing wetland Louisiana prairie grass region. Part of this area lies just outside the doors of his studio, on a piece of land where he and his wife are now building a home.

Elemore is known for his colorful, loose paintings of the local prairie with its associated rice fields. He paints on masonite panels cut into different shapes. The meticulous construction of one of those panels is a work of art in and of itself.

Born in 1931, he grew up in Baton Rouge. His love for the Louisiana prairie grew out of frequent visits to his grandmother's home in Abbeville, Louisiana (15 miles south-southwest of Lafayette). Even as a child, he felt a strong connection to the area. He charmingly tells of his fond memories of visiting Abbeville when there were still only gravel roads traversed by horse and buggies.

His father, Elemore Morgan, Sr., was a well-known photographer and one of the first to photograph extensively in rural Louisiana. Since his parents encouraged his art, it was natural for him to pursue an art degree at Louisiana State University. He studied there with another great Louisiana artist, Caroline Durier. After graduation and spending time abroad in the service, Elemore took advantage of the GI Bill that allowed him to further his academic studies at the University of Oxford, Ruskin School of Fine Arts, in England. His travels took him all over Europe and Asia, but eventually it was the Louisiana prairie that successfully called him home.

While he taught at the University of Southwestern Louisiana, in the city of Lafayette, for many years, he always kept his summers free for his own painting quality time toward Abbeville. The months he spent painting outdoors always seemed to coincide with the peak of the local rice growing cycle. His fascination with the prairie and its rice fields continues to inspire him through today. All Louisianians and others who have been fortunate enough to see his remarkable works have been visually rewarded because of his deep love for this area.