New Orleans organization brings pastel to Hammond

Jacob Summerville, Staff Reporter

Along with its French influence, New Orleans is home to an organization dedicated to honoring the art of pastel painting.

Formed in 1984, the Degas Pastel Society connects pastel artists on an international level through the appreciation of the art medium and one of its prominent painters, Edgar Degas.

Treasurer of the Degas Pastel Society Marcia Holmes shared that the society formed because its founders wanted a pastel-only exhibit in the New Orleans area.

“The purpose is to present the pastel medium to the public because it was not that well-recognized for a long time, even though it’s been around since the 1700s,” said Holmes. “It’s just not as popular of a medium, but the last 10-15 years, it’s just gone crazy. It’s extremely well respected now.”

Holmes explained the difference between pastel and other forms of painting, saying that pastel is the “purest medium.”

“All paint is made from pure pigment, but they all have additives,” said Holmes. “Paints, watercolors, all of them have whatever’s added to them. But pastel has the least amount of additives. It only has a tiny amount of that binder, and it can even be held together with just water. So, it’s the purest, the closest thing to pure color because it’s not reduced.”

 

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On Oct. 12, the society held its juried exhibition’s opening reception at the Hammond Regional Arts Center. Holmes said that the society was trying to find a place where “people go to see art on a regular basis” when searching for a venue.

Media coordinator at the HRAC Tara Bennett expressed her gratefulness for showcasing the society.

“The Degas Pastel Society hosts a biennial exhibition showcasing some of the best pastels that are being painted throughout the United States and abroad,” said Bennett. “The HRAC is honored and privileged to host these nationally recognized and celebrated artists with the hope to inspire the continued exploration of expression through the pastel medium.”

The Degas Pastel Society has caught the attention of painters throughout the nation, and non-members have the opportunity to display and sell their art through the society. Members of the society are informed about art showings and are allowed to submit pictures of three works through an online form. However, only one work is allowed a spot from each artist per exhibition.

“Anyone internationally can enter the show through this online process,” said Holmes. “So, we have specifications, and you pay a fee to enter, and members of Degas get a slightly lesser fee. And then the jurors, they have to go and look at all the entries, and from that, he has to select the number that will fit into the building.”

According to Holmes, there were about 80 paintings at the opening reception, which the society’s board of directors was responsible for choosing and arranging. Most of the paintings were submitted for attendees to purchase. Any unsold paintings will be shipped back to the artist.

Bennett shared that one painting in particular caught her eye.

“One of the pieces that really sticks out to me is a Cinderella-inspired piece,” said Bennett. “At first glance, you see two pumpkins, but at a closer look, you see the glass slipper as well as several mice. There were new surprises each time I really looked at it.”

The society also awards some of their outstanding submissions. According to Holmes, the pecuniary prizes can range from $2,000 to $100.

Being featured by the society should be a compliment to any aspiring artist, according to Holmes.

“If you get into the show, it’s very prestigious because our pastel group is one of the oldest in the country,” said Holmes.

 

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