Cameron exhibit sings praises of Connell's love of nature

A new exhibit, 'Clyde Connell: Swamp Songs' features a wide range of work from the celebrated Louisana artist at the Cameron Art Museum.

Louisiana's Lake Bistineau sings with the prattle of wildlife.

"It's amazing," said Clyde C. Ent, daughter of the late artist Clyde Connell, whose totemic sculptures and paintings are on exhibit at Wilmington's Cameron Art Museum. "You go out and sit on the pier, and you hear birds. Herons squawking. Insects. Fish jumping in the water around the cypress. And you would hear frogs. Sometimes, especially in the evening, it gets really loud."

"Clyde Connell: Swamp Songs," is more than a memorial for Connell, who passed away in 1998 at the age of 96. It's a musical score to the soundscape of the Louisiana wetlands, and Connell's rune-like drawings, wall reliefs, woodprints and sculptures are a visual representation of the natural rhythm and hum of the bayou, and of the wails and moans of its people.

Connell was born in Belcher, La., in 1901. She grew up on a large cotton plantation, an experience that influenced her involvement with the Civil Rights Movement and left her with a lasting sympathy for Southern blacks and an affinity for their art and culture.

"She felt that people just had to learn to live together," Ent said.

On constant loop in the CAM exhibition is a film documenting Connell and her work made by Robert Simon in 1985 in completion of his honors thesis at Harvard. At the heart of the film is Connell's description of an elderly African-American nurse, grieving at the news of a nearby lynching.

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