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30 x 24"

acrylic on canvas

American Fine Art & Frame, Dallas, TX

SOLD (available as print)

Melrose Plantation (circa 1796)

It has been sixth months since hurricane Katrina tore through this stretch of land and to this day, homes remain broken in half over fallen trees, trucks and telephone poles. Oak trees are littered with clothes, trash and even mattresses. New Orleans looks as if it has experienced a nuclear warfare. However, despite this devastation, the French Quarter decorates for Mardi Gras.  

In bayou country, at Boudreau & Thibodeau’s Cajun Cookin’, we taste our first gumbo and fried gator. A stuffed alligator greets visitors at the door, and the atmosphere is kept lively with large, southern speaking servers. The next day, we bravely try to find frog legs in Rayne, which happens to be the frog capital of the world. Unfortunately, we can’t find a single restaurant that serves frog. We do enjoy meeting three friendly ladies who direct us to the town’s many murals, which by no surprise, depict frogs in human settings.

When arriving in Natchitoches, we pick up a meat pie and learn a little bit about this oldest Louisiana town, by creating a self-guided plantation tour. Each estate has its own, unique story, but I find myself drawn to one in particular. As I step up to the iron gate, a veil is lifted from stories of the old south. Within the walls of Melrose Plantation lays timeless themes of hardship, freedom, and hope.

The Melrose Estate tells of its founder, a woman named Marie Therese Coincoin. She was forced into a life of slavery and sold to the Frenchmen, Claude Thomas Pierre Metoyer. Metoyer eventually freed Ms. Coincoin and her ten Franco-African children. Marie Therese and her son, Louis Metoyer received large grants of land, and it was here that Marie Therese and her sons would eventually build the early Louisiana plantation called Melrose. 

I am surprised to discover that Marie Therese Coincoin, freed after forty years of slavery, purchased slaves of her own to run her plantation. By 1810, her seven sons owned fifty-eight slaves. Could it be possible that back then, the issue of slavery was not so black and white? 

When it came time to respond to our experiences in Louisiana, I felt compelled to unveil one of Melrose Estate’s many inhabitants, as well as its controversial history. The plantation is known to have housed the famous Clementine Hunter’s, who began painting here. This cook and field hand found some old brushes and, upon experimentation, later became one of Louisiana’s most famous folk artists.