Some painters develop their skills at art schools, academies or community workshops. But Bekye Fargason earned her chops with the brush and palette on walls and ceilings.
Fargason’s background is in decorative painting, a craft she practices today for clients in New Orleans and around the world. Her work transforms blank walls into unique expressions that set scenes, conjure moods and create singular personal spaces. Along the way, she has also developed a skill and style that inform her more recent passion for fine art painting, especially of Louisiana landscapes and Rocky Mountain scenes.
“I take everything I’ve learned in decorative painting, what works with what materials, textures, layering, and I apply that to my canvases,” she says. “That experience is the key to what I do.”
A native of Laurel, Miss., she moved to New York City at age 19 with a modeling contract but later discovered the field of decorative painting. She took classes and soon was apprenticing with a decorative painter in the city. The full potential of the craft didn’t become clear, however, until she moved to New Orleans in 1993.
“That’s when things really blossomed,” Fargason says. “I knew I was supposed to be in New Orleans. Once I moved here, I knew that artistically I had found my home. I found people who would allow me to grow here.”
Indeed, it was a New Orleans friend’s description of a specific painting she envisioned that sparked what Fargason today calls her epiphany as an artist.
“I knew I could do exactly what she was describing, so I went ahead and painted it,” she says. “My friend was thrilled with how it came out, and I just haven’t stopped.”
Techniques from the decorative painting field such as rubbing, layering, pooling and puddling all go into her paintings, which might also use combinations of oil paint, wax, gold leaf and shells. Many are highly responsive to changing light. Some of her works appear quite dark, but as soon as a room brightens, they seem to come to life, shining luminous reflections like traces of dawn. Others give a close, candlelit, womblike feel. She also has begun painting on panes of glass, which adds tangible depth to the intricate textures she builds.
Fargason is traveling to Colorado for shows this summer, and she also plans to complete a series of nudes. Back home in New Orleans, her work is shown at Fischer-Gambino on Royal Street. Reach her at email@example.com.