Thursday, November 8, 2012

Moon over Mermentau Cove - Istre Cemetery, Louisiana

Last week, I spent the night in a cemetery.  And no, it was not for the sake of the World Tour.  It was as an accompaniment for my talented artist-of-all-trades friend, Amy Woodruff.  Amy staged an all night  candlelit vigil, dubbed "Toussaint A Thon",  from 2pm to 10am on All Saints Day/All Souls Day (La Toussaint in France)  at her family's resting place, Istre Cemetery,  to raise funds and awareness for the cemetery and her upcoming performance,  Moon Cove.  

 Moon Cove, a Louisiana Tale of Horror from the Cajun Prairie,  is a "fictional ghost story about her non-fictional Acadiana ancestors".  I first met Amy back in 2008 when I was transitioning my music Nattie act to a theatrical setting and she was first staging Moon Cove.  Her family's history is deeply rooted in Acadiana, and to hear her tell stories of her lineage is fascinating.  I knew I should jump at the chance to go on this journey, though i did spend a while pondering scheduling snafus before I said yes. I'm so very glad I did.

And so my World Tour has traveled to a different kind of world, more of a Spirit World, though it should be noted that "Istre" is a town in France, and my World Tour has had spiritual undertones all along,  so technically this does count as a World Tour blog...  :)

Soooo.....I've never spent the night in a cemetery before, much less a remote one that sits on a bayou named for turtles and overlooks a leveled rice field.  You might picture an overnight stay at a rural cemetery to look and feel something like this:

..And you would be correct.
But first...the beginning:

We started La Toussaint off the traditional way, attending an All Saints Day mass at St. John's Cathedral in Lafayette.  (Fun fact:  former governor Kathleen Blanco was in attendance as well).  

We then stopped in Scott, Louisiana for some cemetery camping staples:  boudin and quail eggs.

Istre Cemetery is a historic cemetery located in Mermentau Cove, in Acadia Parish.  I'd say its about 10 or 15 miles southwest of China.   It sits along Bayou Queue de Tortue, and is home to some fascinating structures called "Grave Houses", little wooden houses that sit atop the graves. There are only 3 left of what was once 40.  In 2008, the little houses were listed on the National Historic Register. 

I was prepared to sit in a cemetery in a rice field for 20 hours.  Well, as prepared as one can be, but I was not prepared for the overwhelming beauty of the landscape.  Driving across miles of flat plains, I didnt expect that we would be in an area so lush, so green.  It was truly breathtaking. 

 Once we got there,  we had a little bit of time to acquaint ourselves with our new surroundings, and then Amy got busy with arranging flowers alongside the graves of her father, grandparents, and great-grandparents. 

And I went exploring..

We were joined by our third companion, Amy's friend Kevin who lives in the area, as the sun started to set.  

Then, the candlelight vigil began.

The event was publicized in area newspapers and brought out many local residents.  Some were there because it was All Saints Day and they were tending to their families graves.  Others came out of curiosity and interest for Amy's vigil. From the time we got there, at about 2pm Thursday until sometime in the wee hours of the morning, (not exactly sure what time the interested crew "from the bar" left, they arrived around 1am..)  we had a steady stream of visitors.  Somehow, it wasn't all that strange to greet these people at all hours of the night in the dark, amongst the dead.  They arrived with a handshake and pleasant introductions, they departed with a hug and meaningful salutations. 

In keeping with the La Toussaint tradition, the candles remained lit throughout the night.  


The sun rose in the morning, drenching the darkness with light.  

I took quite a few walks during this time, relishing the lighting and..photographing spider webs...

If there were a common theme to this experience, I would have to say it was - validation.  This was an incredible adventure and I am grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of it.  Amy revived an old, historic tradition that seems to have faded with time in these parts.  Keeping an all night candlelit watch over her family, she brought together a whole lot of other people who embraced the honor she was bestowing on not just her family, but on others as well - on life.  The power of the reverence for life is truly amazing. After all, we are the future past... 

At 10am All Souls Day, we said goodbye to the last visitor to the cemetery, blew out the candles, packed up and headed back home.  (Okay, first we had a nap in Jennings, shrimp po-boys in Mermentau, and beer in Lafayette...but then we went home)

You can get more info on the art of Amy Woodruff here:
and on her Facebook: 

Info on Moon Cove:


**Being a passenger on this trip allowed me one of my fave pasttimes, reading maps.  Found bunches of new towns to visit...stay tuned!  **

All content (c) Natasha Sanchez

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

My World in Black & White: Out with the Old, In with the New

This week I listed quite a few prints on Etsy.  It’s been  a while since I have done art markets on a regular basis, and last week I thought it was time to do some inventory and clear some space for more world travels and new works.  I didn’t realize what or how much that inventory would reveal.  For starters, I had much more stock than I realized.  My only intention was just to see what I had and then maybe try and do a market or two this holiday season.  But as I documented each print, I felt like I was reading a visual diary of my life over the past 6 years.

 ** click on the photos to view on Etsy or to purchase **

Being in Texas after Katrina:

Texas Road         2005

In New Orleans after Katrina:

Happy Mardi Gras      December 2005

And Baton Rouge:  

Crosscurrent(cy)   2006
 I started doing art markets at the end of 2006.  This Walmart photo became my top market seller. I’d say it was for obvious reasons, but though I gave it my own slant with the title “Crosscurrent(cy)”, I always tell people that its up for open interpretation.  I’ve had people buy it for many reasons...

That Walmart photo, as it has come to be called, brought me to New York in 2006, when the Big Top Gallery here in NOLA was producing a show of New Orleans artists at the Brooklyn Lyceum.  That was a great weekend of photography for me. I spent my time wandering around and taking classic photos of iconic landmarks, shooting only one roll of my beloved 3200 speed film in the middle of a rainy day. The film choice and the weather gave amazing texture to these photos.  I feel like my photographic style was validated there.   I like to take timeless shots, because what we experience is just that. 

NYC - Central Park Bridge    2006

Central Park Lamppost   2006

When I did my first art market at the end of the year,  I displayed about 10 framed black & white 8x10 images, representing the world I saw. 

NOLA Love     2006

French Quarter House    2008

I continued to photograph & print, mixing in lasting images of the environment around me with social commentary & splashes o' humor here & there.

The Audacity     2008

 Eventually, I started making “PhotoSpaces”, the 10x20 triptychs that became a gallery of more documentation of the world around me. 

NOLA Potholes

Betty the Bullhorn added a nice touch to the art markets, she really found her niche there.  Now she has an Etsy shop of her own!

You Go Betty!    2008

I actually see no difference between my lumens, black and white prints, Betty the Bullhorn, the World Tour, or a Nattie tune.  To me, they all represent one moment of time that I wanted to preserve and ultimately, share.  

Princess & Stars    2011

In 2011, as you know, I daydreamed, planned, and embarked on the World Tour, continuing into 2012. I also made lumen prints with feathers and stars.  I wrote songs, played gigs, in other words : I have lots more work to produce.  Now I am currently daydreaming about my next batch of snazzy new World Tour darkroom prints.  So to make room for said Snazzy New World Tour darkroom prints, 
I'm letting go of the past - at really great prices, I might add  ;) - to make room for the now new.  

The 5x7 and 8x10 images I have listed are printed and ready to bring joy and/or a chuckle to someones home, office, or business  :)  These images are open editions,  but now is the time to get the handmade darkroom prints at these - did I mention - really great prices.  It's store of like a Nattie Concepts Clearance Sale.  (Cute!  I should put that on my site..)
Feel free to take a look and browse through my world in black and white.  And as always, feel free to share...there's more to come...


Faithful to her Trust     2007

Visit  to view more images and more of my world in black & white 
World Tour triptychs available too! 

all content (c) Natasha Sanchez

In case you missed it, check out last weeks blog from Aloha!  

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Aloha, Bag(h)dad; Helloooo Bermuda - Louisiana

Aloha, Louisiana

 Seriously, I always thought that the World Tour was over - give or take a town or two - but that was before I discovered Aloha, Louisiana near the Kitsatchie Forest in North Central Louisiana.  True, not an international place, but much like Welsh,  Louisiana, I decided its close enough to fit in.   I wasn't quite sure how to photograph Aloha, Louisiana,  but then I realized I keep a plastic lei around my rearview mirror. It made for some delightful foreground framing.

Aloha Forest

Aloha wasn't hard to find,  it's just a few miles north of Bagdad Community on Highway 71.

In Bag(h)dad, I found a lil bit o' cotton..

..and this sign: 

The reason I was in these parts of Louisiana, was to give a presentation of my World Tour at the Louisiana Studies Conference at NSU in Natchitoches.  I had dutifully checked the map before leaving, thus discovering Aloha.  En route to Natchitoches on Hwy 71, I stopped to take a few photos of the grounds of a church along the side of the road in Montgomery.  The church was very elaborately decorated in folk art fashion, and these signs caught my eye:

What I didnt realize at the time was that the woman who created them, folk artist Juanita Leonard, was going to deliver the Keynote Address at the conference I was attending!  ....Synchronicity.....

I continued on my way, enjoying the cotton fields of the region..

..and the nice:

change of pace

After the conference, I had some time to drop by Bermuda before heading back home. 

Bermuda is situated along the Cane River and is home to Oakland Plantation, part of the Cane River Creole National Historical Park. 

Oakland Plantation

P. Phanor Prudhomme General Store for Bermuda area

 There are other plantations in the area including Melrose Plantation, where Clementine Hunter lived.  I had previously visited this locale in January after photographing Athens, Lisbon, &  Vienna.  
During that trip, my friend and I stopped off at St. Augustine Church, the first Catholic Church in the US to be built by free people of color.  It was established in 1803 by Nicolas Augustin Metoyer and Louis Metoyer, who also founded Melrose Plantation.  The Metoyers were the sons of Marie Therese Coincoin, the free woman of color and noted businesswoman of the Cane River region.  

St Augustine Church, Isle Brevelle
Driving through Bermuda this go around, I came across the St. Charles Catholic Church, which I later read was a mission church for St. Augustine.

St. Charles Catholic Church, Bermuda

Still, what caught my eye the most on this trip was....the cotton (and it was right next to the church).  

Bermuda Cottonfields

Seeing new places, meeting new faces, sharing my own artwork with others, made this World Tour road trip more than fulfilling.  Plus,  I think I found my dream house, placed amongst the cottonfields, or as I like to think of them.. terrestrial clouds..

Dreamy Cottonfield

'Twas a nice way to spend the Fall Equinox.

(c) Natasha Sanchez