The West Baton Rouge Museum announced a partnership with poet and artist John Lawson for a book combining his famous collage portraits and poetry with the history of local swamp blues musicians and juke joints.
Lawson, a native of Birmingham, England who called New Orleans home for decades, is known for his poetry as well as his artwork using salvaged Mardi Gras beads. After Hurricane Katrina destroyed his home in 2005, he began creating collages using the remnants of his home as a way to “pay homage” to the damage.
Collage is more than sticking paper on top of more paper, he explained during a workshop at the West Baton Rouge Museum, it’s about creating the fourth, fifth and sixth dimensions that people relate to and feel.
His art resonates with survivors of historical disasters and has been displayed in galleries around the United States. He returned to England following Katrina but came back to Louisiana in time for the Great Flood of 2016, and his home was once again destroyed.
He currently lives in Baton Rouge and serves as the artist-in-residence at the Knock Knock Children’s Museum.
During a series of lectures and workshops at the West Baton Rouge Museum last week, he explained the common theme of his art, life, and success: serendipity. His portrait collages are now on display at the West Baton Rouge Museum, a journey he said can only be described as serendipitous.
Upon his return to Louisiana, a small coffee shop in St. Francisville asked to feature his collage portraits of local jazz musicians. The same coffee shop Country Roads writers and editors frequent. Not long after the coffee shop debut, Country Roads wrote an article detailing Lawson’s unique collage portraits of iconic Baton Rouge bluesmen, then suggested he visit the West Baton Rouge Museum.
Now, he is working on portrait collages of local jazz musicians along with poetry that will “tap into their magnificence and individuality.” Meanwhile, the WBRM staff is curating the histories of these influential musicians to create a one-of-a-kind collaboration of art and local history.