Courtesy Caroline Youngblood

On exhibit: ‘Riverton, 1937: Part II’

Old State Capitol, April 24-June 30

On a sunny lawn in 1937, women with tightly curled hair and men in ties gather around a long table, smiling and talking as they share a meal. It is a fleeting moment of life, yet it is captured forever on grainy 8 mm film.

Courtesy Caroline Youngblood

To north Louisiana artist Caroline Youngblood, this is more than an old home movie. It is a link to her ancestors, and it has become the inspiration for a compelling body of work that captures this gathering on canvas. The second of two collections Youngblood has created based on the film will be on display at the Old State Capitol beginning April 24. Included in the show will be 19 framed watercolors, close to a dozen oil paintings, and the projected 8 mm film loop itself.

Youngblood was moved to make her paintings when she took a closer look at still images from the film and saw that the scenes, combined with the film’s faded appearance, evoked French Impressionist works—think Renoir’s famed Luncheon of the Boating Party. Her fluid grayscale brushstrokes capture conversations, laughs and motion in a way that gives the viewer a sense of being there during that afternoon on her family’s centuries-old farm in the small community of Riverton.

“Growing up in their home, I felt their presence, but through this I found a tool to bring their spirits to life,” Youngblood says. “I must have a strong connection with any object I paint. The connection is what gets my creative energy flowing.”

The Old State Capitol team was drawn to Youngblood’s work because of her Louisiana references and “effortless but dimensional composition,” says Old State Capitol curator Lauren Davis.

“This exhibit focuses on a single time and place in our history, providing a snapshot of life during the Great Depression,” Davis says. “Despite the difficulties Louisianans faced, the paintings evoke the familial love and joie de vivre that so many Louisiana people possess. Because many of the subjects’ faces are hazy … the viewer can essentially see themselves or their own family in the scenes, enjoying the outdoor meal together.”