New studio to open with artist showcase Thursday

Published 5:47 pm Monday, June 7, 2021

NATCHEZ — A new studio and event space at 107 Commerce St. will open with its first art exhibition on Thursday.

Beau Deshotel,  founder of Arts District Studio, said the exhibition titled “Flora & Fauna” will showcase all of the things people love about the south in an immersive experience that takes viewers from the swamps to the farmland to the city.

The exhibit will have an opening reception Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m. and will continue to be open to viewers through July 31. Admission is free and open to the public.

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To bring this exhibit to life, Deshotel is showcasing the work of painter Esther Carpenter and photographer Debbie Willson. Each artist expresses their work with unique mediums.

Carpenter, a Natchez native, studied fine art at Hollins College in Virginia and has enjoyed successful careers as a chef, decorative painter and fine artist.

This exhibit will display her collection of “silent companions” — freestanding animal figures painted in the trompe l’oeil style. Literally meaning ‘trick of the eye,’ trompe l’oeil is a technique using shadows and detail to give a two-dimensional image a three-dimensional, lifelike impression. Deshotel describes her work as being “refined and whimsical and plays with the observer’s sense of what is fact and what is fiction.”

Willson, a native Concordia Parish, also immerses her viewers into her native bayous and swamps with her photographs. The pictures as displayed at the Arts District Studio, are printed onto mirrors and other glass surfaces through a complex process involving acid, mercury, stripper and gold leaf. They are then mounted in unique frames. Enough of the mirror’s reflective surface is exposed so that it literally brings the observer and their environment into the portrait without taking away from the image itself, Deshotel said.

“It’s like nothing else you will ever see,” he said of the exhibit.

After Thursday’s grand opening, Deshotel said Arts District Studio will have regular hours Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. or by appointment. Almost all of the art displayed will be for sale, he said.

In addition to the artwork and visual aspects, Deshotel said he plans to bring tastes and smells and sounds into the studio’s regular popup shows so that attendees get the full Natchez experience. The building will also adapt from an art gallery into an event and class space, he said.

Deshotel said he grew up in Louisiana and made many visits to Natchez throughout his childhood before living in New York. A little less than a year ago, Deshotel said he moved back to Natchez and began leasing the building for the studio in February 2020. Since then, it has been renovated with fresh walls and lighting, perfect for showcasing the work talented artists in Natchez, he said.

“(While living in New York) I love and missed the south,” he said. “There are a lot of talented people here that I really believe in.”