SHOWCASING LOUISIANA: Swamp Scenes
MAUREPAS, La. (WAFB) - Still waters reflect the greens of palmettos and the blue Louisiana sky. A lone egret fishes for lunch at the base of bald cypress. Autumn in the swamps is as quiet as a painting.
The whine of a saw blade breaks the silence. Yancey Ernest smiles at the yellow and pink shavings fly from the throat of his home sawmill.
“It’s a piece of cedar that was blown down in the storm,” Yancey said. “I don’t cut much of that. It’s hard as rock. Nothing like cypress.” He smiled at the thought of slicing slabs of coarse yellow timbers. Yancey doesn’t sell what he mills. He gives it away . . . to his mother.
Just out of earshot of Yancey’s racket, Lynette Ernest takes a deep breath and listens to the sound of her windchimes signaling another peaceful day in her yard. She sits at an artist’s easel, paintbrush poised for its next stroke.
“The blues and the greens have been speaking to me,” Lynette said. When they do, she speaks back, splashing color across a canvass made long before she was born.
With the flick of her brush, the silhouette of another palmetto appears on the slab of cypress resting on her easel. “We’ve lived her for 44 years.” Lynette said. “The swamp is in my backyard. We played in the swamp.”
She’s been painting swamp scenes for six years. But Lynette paints more than swamps. Her pelicans, egrets, churches, and Christmas scenes sell in gift shops and boutiques across the state. All of them on painted on cypress dug from the mud of her backyard swamp.
She paints slices of her life on slices of the swamp she grew up in. “Ninety-nine percent of this wood has been in the mud,” she said. “In the swamp, or the river, or sunk somewhere for a hundred years.”
It’s Yancey’s job to find the sunken treasure, bring it to the surface, and mill it into something suitable for a swampscape.
“I know what I want to paint as soon as I see it,” Lynette said. One of her latest, a tribute to all the parishes impacted by Hurricane Ida. “When I saw this, I went, ‘There’s a hurricane,” she said. “We’re still functioning. It’s a remembrance, but a good one. We can go through something like that, and we survived. I’m still painting!”
Survived. Just like the palmettos, the sweet gums, and the cypress in Lynette’s back yard, and the ones one on her cavass. The ones she calls a work of heart.
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