It's been said New Orleans is the "northernmost city of the Caribbean," but that also may be the only reasonable explanation for much of south Louisiana as well. It's only appropriate that Lafayette artist Francis X. Pavy's paintings, inspired by 200 years of Louisiana statehood, turned up next door to Cuba native Jose Bedia's paintings, at Arthur Roger and Heriard-Cimino galleries respectively. Pavy's imagery is more outwardly colorful, as we see in his exotic Birds of North America painting, a visual reminder of Louisiana's placement as a major flyway for migrating wild fowl. Red Raft (pictured) is a schematic arrangement of such symbolic forms as Captain Shreve's steamboat, swamp grass and dark rain, snakes and sailor's knots amid logs burning as brightly as a biblical portent, all united by a sense of looming epiphany. In Modern Times, the landscape is studded with broken chains and streamlined trains, the sun, stars and the Huey P. Long Bridge arranged like an old-time Catholic miracle in the form of an improbable vision of progress. Pavy is good at this.
A singular aesthetic miracle worker, Bedia cuts to the quick with swashbuckling earth-toned paintings that depict a variety of Caribbean spirits and, occasionally, his wife. Raised in the Palo Monte tradition of Afro-Cuban Santeria, Bedia has dedicated his life to the art of shamanic wisdom wherever he may find it. Tata Ngombe depicts a seer who has taken the form of a forest creature bristling with weird energies. Makishi is like a Central African spirit mask come to life. But Mato Inyan is a stylized rendition of Lakota chief Rocky Bear as a skull-shaped landscape representing Wounded Knee, the scene of the infamous massacre of Native Americans by federal troops too frightened to see the Lakotas were only seeking safe passage. They passed as spirits arising from carnage, commemorated here in Bedia's stark tribute. — D. Eric Bookhardt