Chestee Harrington

Featured Work


Louisiana Folk Cabin

11.5 x 15 inches, Wood Polychromatic bas-relief, 1969

“Louisiana Folk Cabin” is currently exhibited at the Hilliard University Art Museum as part of the exhibit Spiritual Journeys: Homemade Art from the Becky and Wyatt Collins Collection . The exhibit will be shown through August 12th.

Although we don’t see any people in this scene, we do know something about them. The exterior chimney on this little house tells us it was likely built by English, rather than French settlers. The people who lived here didn’t have indoor plumbing, but they did have fresh eggs for breakfast!

From the start, my work has been based in storytelling. I have always been drawn to people and their personal histories: their day-to-day lives and relationships.

Many of my works are remembrances of my childhood, of the people and places I knew and loved best. I grew up in New Iberia. But every summer, I stayed with my aunt, Venie Hoffpauir, in Indian Bayou, a very rural community in Vermilion Parish. (To this day, it only has one traffic light.)

One of the defining qualities of an artist is curiosity. I was intensely curious about the world around me, the places I went and the people I encountered. I watched farmers harvesting rice with hand tools, women pinning wet laundry on the clothesline and I listened to musicians who gathered regularly to play Cajun tunes and Irish jigs beneath an old oak tree.

In the late 1960s and early ’70s, I got very interested in folk housing. I traveled across the state, documenting vernacular architecture with photographs and sketches. I felt it had to be done because those old places were already beginning to disappear.

Then in 1980, I found my own “old place,” a 200-year old, two-room cabin on the banks of the Bayou Teche near Arnaudville. When I found it, it was pretty close to falling down, but I restored and renovated it, making it into my home. I transformed another old building, a corn crib, into my studio.

I will be forever grateful to my neighbors: the Leger family, Mr. Birch, Ms. Alice and Mr. Warren. They were a constant source of information and inspiration. During the four years I lived there, they taught me first-hand how some of our people made their way, living off the land.”

I hope you enjoy the work!