“I call this show a love letter to a place where I spent some early boyhood and remember mostly fondly. Although having just moved from New York’s Manhattan Island to the deep south was not the easiest of transitions. It’s not infatuation, nor is it blindness to faults. It’s involved with what The Bitter Southerner calls “the duality of the thing,” the South. I recommend, by the way, reading this literary review, TBS. Their t-shirts say “Have Mercy.” Guinotte Wise wrote a ten-page essay before the show on the subject “An Overdue Love Letter To Tensas Parish” mainly for himself, to solidify some thoughts about his time there and how the place affected him through the years.
Wise says the sculpture is inspired by that time spent in St. Joe, Louisiana and the surrounding Tensas Parish. It “opened me up in certain ways, an appreciation of the natural world, but it also imbued me with caution. Snakes. Gators. Saying the wrong thing in the wrong accent. Cracking the code of my contemporaries.”
“Memory is a deft liar and a trickster, so the assemblages are not to be taken literally as such. They are in the spirit of memento vivere affected by those times as I assemble them, almost automatically, directed by a dreamlike past. I thank Tensas Parish, but I was there in the Forties, so there’s some slippage in the pulleys.”
Wise contacted people in the parish, the St. Joseph mayor, a poet, a young entrepreneur, all male, and though he tried to profile some women as well, they were not as forthcoming. Mayor Elvadus Fields came to the parish in 1962, as “Supervisor of agricultural affairs for the negro.” Garland Strother, poet/librarian, was born there on the Mayflower Plantation where his father was a straw boss. Joel Brannan, a young LSU grad,is building a distillery in the parish, for his premium Magnolia Vodka, using only area corn.There are other stories but these propelled Wise to begin putting together a show.
Wise attended Westminster College in Fulton, MO, The University of Arkansas and The Kansas City Art Institute. He is the author of two collections of short stories, two books of poetry, a collection of essays and a novel. He is working on a second novel. He writes and welds steel sculpture on a farm in Southeast Kansas. His wife works at an advertising agency and is an accomplished silversmith.