Wednesday, February 11, 2009

AND YET ANOTHER RENAISSANCE WOMAN


At Christmas I visited with Morris Raphael, his wife Helen, and their daughter Rose Anne who flies in to New Iberia every year from Berkeley, California. I’ve written about Morris several times and have mentioned Rose Anne, but I think she deserves a lot more print space than I’ve formerly given her because she is a member of that group I call “Renaissance persons.” I met Rose Anne back in the late 70’s following a lecture I had given about my sojourn in Iran to the Iberia Cultural Resources Association. At that time, she had just graduated from Mt. Carmel Academy in New Iberia and had been taking art lessons from internationally known artist and wood carver, Chestee Minvielle, as well as Oscar Ortiz (who did the art work for my book, IRAN IN A PERSIAN MARKET).

Rose Anne and another young friend, Jeanne Bernard, a writer now living in Paris, were together at the lecture, and both talented young women began coming over to participate in salon-like soirees at my house on Front Street where artists, writers, and teachers often gathered to chat about art and literary subjects. Rose Anne then went off to the University of California in San Diego and earned a B.A. in English and American Literature. After she graduated, she developed an “envee” to study in Ireland, traveled to Dublin, and enrolled in Trinity College where she received a post graduate degree in literature.

When Rose Anne returned stateside, she often came over for visits to talk about the direction of her life. She had an entire portfolio of drawings and poetry she had done that impressed me as the work of a promising artist. As jobs in Acadiana were scarce, she volunteered to help me do research for my book about Louisiana women, THEIR ADVENTUROUS WILL. But before we could get the project launched, she decided that California beckoned her. She and a friend, Susan Broussard, packed an old VW station wagon and set out for “Diddy Wah Diddy” sans job, sans apartment, but filled with visions of getting work that further developed their artistic talents. Just as they reached San Francisco, the VW coughed and died, but both young women found jobs and an apartment. Rose Anne began her career as a college financial aid administrator, a job in which she used some of her writing skills but hardly touched her visions of artistic work. A few years later, she moved to Berkeley and began a career in public relations, which she says “uses my joy in writing and is diverse and interesting (no two days are alike).” She honed her PR skills by working five years for an international Public Relations firm, and in 1992, she launched her own PR consulting business which she continues today.

The work in Public Relations is only the beginning of Rose Anne’s life work. She had wanted to focus more on visual art and says, “I knew the dot-com bubble would burst at some point, so when it did, I used savings accumulated during the boom time to return to art school.” After taking a few classes, she fell in love with visual art and enrolled in the San Francisco Art Institute, then worked on and completed a B.F.A. in painting and drawing from California College of the Arts in 2004. “I cried on my last day of school,” she writes. "I really loved it, especially painting, drawing, photography, and printmaking.” While she attended art school, she won an award and scholarship for printmaking. After she graduated, she also won an award for photography (I have several of her photographs of old buildings in Acadiana).

While Rose Anne was in art school, she maintained her PR business, and with characteristic pluck and tenacity, began to attract more work after she graduated, more than enough to pay off her student loans. For many years she took voice lessons and once rendered songs a capella in my living room for a select audience. She now sings in the Presbyterian Church two blocks from her apartment.

Rose Anne really becomes enlivened when she talks about her newest interest which involves creating set designs for theatre. “My interests in visual art, literature, and performance come together with set design, and I love it. It also challenges me to learn more about architecture, drafting, and the collaborative process of theater,” she says. Since 2004, she has been designing sets for theater regularly. However, she still operates her PR business and was recently elected Chair of the San Francisco Public Relations Round Table in 2009.

My friend Vickie and I have visited with Rose Anne at Berkeley twice where we sampled the cuisine and, of course, the wonderful bookstores in the university area. Rose Anne still lives in the apartment she first rented when she moved to Berkeley, a warm space filled with art, antiques, and books. We shared the apartment space with her cat, but she writes that she doesn’t have a cat companion at present.

The above sample of Rose Anne’s art work shows the viewer what a Renaissance woman she is. It’s an abstract with an organic feeling, according to Rose Anne. She says she considered the title “Eye” for a time because of the central focal point and the lashes around the form, but that name seemed too literal. “After I created it, I saw the fashion designs of Pucci and felt a connection between my image and the Pucci look (black lines containing swirling color fields). This piece marked a turn in my artwork toward more colorful, playful abstract images.”

For over 30 years, I’ve observed the careers of this talented young woman who once struck out for California in an ailing VW station wagon and found the artistic life she sought, and I can’t wait to read the next chapter in Rose Anne’s life as a Renaissance woman!
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