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Jean Despujols

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Life is what happens to you, while you’re busy making other plans. John Lennon is credited with that quote, though according to the Yale Book of Quotations, we ought to attribute it to the cartoonist Allan Saunders who coined it in 1957 in an edition of Readers Digest, when Lennon was only 17. And yet I seem to recollect that someone once told me that it was part of some sort of ancient Eastern philosophy.

Whatever, speaking of Lennon, reminds me that I had to meet an artist recently, a very unusual artist for he also owns an Irish pub, I kid you not. Now there’s a man who must struggle between the real and the surreal and sometimes not knowing which is which. The artist was Doyle Jeter, he owns Enoch’s pub out there in Minden. He used to have the Enoch’s pub in Shreveport. Do you remember it? You do? Ah, you too must be menopausal then. So Doyle and I have to meet because he’s mounting an exhibition on John Lennon at the Meadows Museum of Art, Centenary College in Shreveport. And while I’m there waiting for him, life happens to me.

Brian headshotThere’s an exhibition of paintings there and a story to go with it, which immediately has me fascinated and intrigued. Luckily for me, I get to also bump into Lisa Nicolett, and Bruce Allen, the co-directors of the museum. Naturally, yours truly, the slope-headed neanderthal is doing his best to look suitably impressed while standing in front of certain paintings but before I tell you all about the portraits of the topless ladies, I want to give you some background on the exhibition. It’s a series of paintings from the French artist Jean Despujols, a man who’d lived just outside of Paris, spent some time in Indochina and eventually settled in Shreveport – of all places. The exhibition features the paintings he did while in Vietnam and Cambodia just before the war in Vietnam, hence the title of the exhibition, The Calm Before The Storm. And so, while waiting for Doyle, I ambled about the museum and was enthralled at the beautiful portraits, the landscapes, and the magnificent costumes. All of the works on display were actually part of a National Geographic article that appeared in April of 1951. In fact, Despujols was invited by the Smithsonion no less, to take the exhibition on tour all over the US, but he declined. And what’s fascinating is the that the letters of correspondence on this are on display too. And, while he lived in Indochina, Despujols, must have seen himself as some sort of Gaugin, who as you know spent time in Tahiti. Despujols, ‘went native’, by which I mean it appears he had several concubines – well, he would now wouldn’t he, being French I mean.

Look, head on over to the Meadows Museum to see all this for yourself. You won’t be disappointed. The exhibition only runs until April 20th, so move it. They give you this really nice brochure too which has questions for you to ponder as you study some of the paintings. I found the paintings and the story behind them to be fascinating and I’ve no doubt you will too. Finally, incorrigible clown that I am, I asked Lisa, the director, how long the Meadows Museum had been the suppository of these works of art. Ever the lady, she simply assumed I meant repository of these works of art and replied without missing a beat.

 

Brian O’ Nuanain runs “Across The Pond And Beyond”, a company that organizes international vacations. You can reach him at acrossthepondandbeyond.com