Official Artist


Meet 2019 Poster Artist Melissa Bonin


New Iberia native and leading contemporary Louisiana landscape painter and poet Melissa Bonin has been named the Festivals Acadiens et Créoles Official Poster Artist for 2019. With the idea of a visual celebration and tribute to the lyrical legacy of the feminine in Cajun and Creole music, Bonin's original artwork depicts birds in flight, a symbol of freedom for women finding their voice.
Titled “Songbirds,” the festival poster image was selected from a series of works on paper called “Forced Migration I” that Bonin created in the wake of Hurricane Katrina but has never shown in public before.
“Because they are able to exist in water, on land and in the air, birds have long been recognized as symbols of the human soul, eternal life and the link between heaven and Earth,” Bonin explains. “Their flight has been a powerful metaphor for freedom and for the soul’s journey in pursuit of higher knowledge. The word 'songbird' appeared in 1774 and was associated with the bird’s ability as messengers and forecasters of omens. Their cry is particularly refined, as they notedly have better vocal control than ordinary birds.”
A recorded interview of Creole singer Alma Barthelemy in which she talks about where she learned her songs, also supported the image selection.
Avec maman, oui, avec ma maman. Et ben j'apprenais ça avec ma maman. Ma maman, c'était une femme qui chantait réglé. Et la tante de ma maman, elle prenait son panier d'ouvrage. Elle allait s'asseoir en dessous des arbres, et le z-oiseau qui passait, qui sifflait, elle faisait une chanson là-dessus.
Translated from French, Barthelemy's response is:
“From my mother, yes, from my mother. Well, I learned them from my mother. My mother was a woman who sang often. And my mother's aunt, who would take her basket of needlework. She would sit under the trees, and the birds that passed, that whistled, she would make a song on that.”
Bonin's original artwork, which will be adapted into the poster by graphic artist Megan Barra, represents a confluence of her interests and her past experiences as an artist and poet. She has co-written and released four songs in French and also been published in a book of French poetry called Relever this year. She recently received the Trailblazer Award from Acadiana Profile, the “Women Who Mean Business Award” in 2014 and the Bunk Johnson Award for Visual Arts in 2009. She earned her BA in French cum laude from UL Lafayette, which included studies from the Universite Catholique de l'Ouest in Angers, France, in 1984, and her BFA in Painting cum laude from UL Lafayette.


She will have an exhibition in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, opening August 9, in conjunction with Le Congres Mondial Acadien 2019. Titled "L'Ombre d'oree: Nature as Metaphor," the exhibit will feature her paintings at the Aberdeen Cultural Center. 

Bonin will also be exhibiting a series of paintings in an exhibition titled “Songbirds: Nature as Metaphor” at the A. Hays Town Building at the Hilliard University Art Museum Sept. 6-Oct. 13. The Festivals Acadiens et Créoles 2019 poster art will be unveiled during a reception at the museum Friday, Sept. 13, from 6-8 p.m. (with the unveiling at 6:45 p.m.) The event is open to the public and free to attend.


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