July 26, 2007

February 15, 2006

buy a piece of
Cajun Christmas at


a Mardi Gras Gala to showcase and benefit Louisiana artists
curated by Beth Baldwin in cooperation with Warehouse Gallery

live jazz
live artists
King Cake
cash bar
no cover but bring your check book!

Gala and opening reception
Mardi Gras -- February 28, 2006
7:30 pm – 11 pm
Warehouse 1017- 21 7th Street NW
Washington DC 20001

February 28 – March 19

gallery hours
Monday – Friday 5pm – 9pm
Saturday 10am – 9pm
Sunday 12pm – 5pm

Arty Gras proceeds will go to the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and the Habitat for Humanity Gulf Coast Recovery Efforts to benefit Louisiana artists. All Cajun Christmas proceeds go to BRAF

scroll to the bottom of the page to reserve your piece of Cajun Christmas

February 09, 2006

Baton Rouge ADVOCATE

Washington Watch for Jan. 29

Ex-La. artist tells about storm in paint

Published: Jan 29, 2006

Laura Elkins wanted to do something different when decorating her Washington home for Christmas. Then the former north Louisiana resident came up with a two-word idea: Hurricane Katrina.

The 53-year-old mother of two was visiting the National Gallery of Art when the inspiration came.

She saw the John Singleton Copley painting titled “Watson and the Shark.” The painting’s swirling design depicts a Cuban fisherman under attack.

“It was just something about water flowing through Watson’s hair and I wanted to do something about Katrina,” Elkins said. “I wanted to do a painting as if my house was flooded.”

The result was a two-story painting titled “A Cajun Christmas” that Elkins attached to the front of her Capitol Hill home.
Elkins, who has a degree in architecture, used 9-foot-wide strips of Tyvek house wrap.

She fastened the insulation material to her home as her canvas.

Elkins accomplished the drowning effect she was looking for by painting green and blue swirls mixed with red circles and anguished faces to depict Katrina’s devastation. Then she added a political touch, scrawling the following words down the front of her house:

“They placed the rich on high, the poor and middlin’ they laid low.”

“It almost seems Biblical,” Elkins said of the storm. “The people who were down low really suffered.”

The words, however, served another purpose, Elkins said.

“It’s a way to incorporate sound,” she said. “You read it and it puts sound in your head.”
Christmas lights were installed behind Elkins’ work, giving off a haunting green glow at night.
“It’s a way to share my work with the public who may not go to a gallery,” Elkins said.

The work stands out on a red-brick block of Civil War-era homes in the shadow of the Capitol building.

“The reaction has been positive,” Elkins said. “The neighbors who object haven’t spoken to me in years so the people who respond have been positive.”

Elkins has received support on her Web site from people like Beth B., who has seen the piece.

“I think it’s so amazingly powerful to see how one house would have been affected,” Beth wrote. “It is really just so stunning.”

Elkins and her brother were born in Alabama to musician parents and grew up in Mississippi. By day, her dad was a salesman, her mother a homemaker. She received her architecture degree from the University of Virginia, where she also took art classes.

“I’ve been working with this idea of integrating painting and architecture for some time,” she said.

What has resulted is what Elkins calls “private home as public art” or “HOME wRAP.”

The Katrina piece wasn’t her first project.

When she and her husband lived in Natchitoches for six years, Elkins created in her front yard “The Children’s Room: Why There Are No Great Woman Artists.”

The work included paintings, sculptures and landscaping.

Elkins’ goal is to make commentary about the influence of politics on domesticity.

Elkins will take down her Katrina piece this weekend and plans to sell off pieces to raise money for the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. She is hoping to get $100 per square foot or $25 for 6-inch squares at a Mardi Gras reception she is holding at a local gallery, The Warehouse Theater.

Elkins theorizes that she could probably make more money selling off the piece than she could contribute personally.
Foundation leaders were delighted by the idea.

“It’s wonderful that artists like Laura Elkins are finding creative ways to raise awareness and contribute to Hurricane Katrina relief,” Foundation President John Davies said. “I hope that her example inspires other people to develop unique ways to express their generosity and compassion.”

Elkins’ work can be seen at http://cajunchristmas.blogspot.com.

Elkins sees the eventual breaking up of her Katrina work as poignant.

“It’s kind of a metaphor for the Gulf Coast,” she said. “Everything was torn up.”

January 25, 2006


Katrina Inspires Art
Capitol Hill Home Is Canvas for 'Cajun Christmas' Project
By Kathrine Schmidt
Roll Call Staff
January 18, 2006

"They placed the rich on high, the poor and middlin' they laid low."
These words weave among the painted swirls of murky colors and the
anguished faces in local artist Laura Elkins' depiction of Hurricane
Katrina's devastation.

Elkins is certainly not the first to put brush to canvas over a
natural disaster, but her project does hit closer to home.
Elkins' own Capitol Hill row house is the literal canvas for her
recent work, "A Cajun Christmas." For it, Tyvek house wrap - a common
insulation material - is painted with waves of color, intending to
make the Civil-War era home appear as though it had sustained the
wrath of Katrina's floods.
Elkins and her family are former residents of northern Louisiana, but
they all moved to Washington, D.C., six years ago with the work of her
husband, John Robbins, who now works as a deputy administrator for the
National Gallery of Art.
Elkins, now a full-time artist, has used her architecture degree from
the University of Virginia to develop a variety of hybrid art and
architecture projects.
She was in search of a new project late last year when she happened on
a John Singleton Copley painting in the National Gallery titled
"Watson and the Shark."
The painting's muddy, swirling depiction of a young Cuban fisherman
under attack by a shark made her realize she "had to do something with
water." When she heard about Katrina's devastation, she decided to
help, by transforming her house with her painting and then planning to
eventually sell the work to benefit New Orleans charities.
Elkins took about a week in her backyard studio to paint her own
rendition of the devastation in acrylics onto 9-foot-wide strips of
Tyvek house wrap. The strips were then fastened to the house for
display, and an explanatory card was fixed to the cast-iron fence in
front of her house.
Loss is made acute during the holidays' time of plenty, hence the
Christmas theme that runs through the piece.
According to Elkins, those unfamiliar with Louisiana must know that
"Christmas lights are just so important there, it's just carpeted in
Christmas lights during the holiday season."
Christmas lights are also installed behind Elkins' canvas to give off
a gloomy green nighttime glow, giving the impression of a holiday
display submerged.
Holiday colors are also incorporated throughout the picture: Bright
red globes rise through the muddy green waves that rise halfway up the
second-floor windows and past the ghostly alligator lurking in the
Elkins soon intends to sell the canvas away in pieces - 1-foot square
or 6-inch square, which she sees as appropriate to the brokenness that
survivors faced. "To me, that's a metaphor of what happened to the
people. Everybody gets a piece, nobody sees the whole thing," she
The exact arrangements for the painting's division and sale are still
pending, but Elkins has been in dialogue with the Baton Rouge Area
Foundation about donating the proceeds to their cause.
Elkins said she has received mainly positive feedback on her home's
unusual holiday getup. "It's a way to share with the public, a way to
share it with people who might never go into a gallery or a museum,"
she said.
She called her projects "private home as public art."
The ubiquitous presence of politics in Washington, Elkins said, made
her "more aware of the effect of political actions on the domestic
This notion of private home as a public display, she said, was also a
reflection of the increasingly entwined nature of home and working
"Cajun Christmas" is the latest in a series of Elkins' works titled
HOME wRAP, which incorporates elements from both painting and
architecture to address the "the politization of private life and the
demise of domesticity," according to a statement on her Web site.
Other paintings in this series including another Tyvek House Wrap
painting she attached to the front of her home in October 2005 and an
exhibition currently on display at Washington's Warehouse Gallery.
Elkins' Home - and its Cajun Christmas display, which can be viewed
through Jan. 28 - is located at 20 Ninth St. NE. Learn more about the
project at Elkins' Web log, http://cajunchristmas.blogspot.com .

December 15, 2005

Cajun Christmas
private home as public art

they placed the rich on high and the poor and middlin’ they laid low

Cajun Christmas is a seasonal work painted as if the devastation of the floodwaters in New Orleans has extended to my house on Capitol Hill. This work uses the house as painting support and is the latest piece in HOME wRAP, a group of monumental paintings that addresses the politicization of private life and the demise of domesticity.

All funds from the sale of Cajun Christmas will go to the Baton Rouge Area Foundation to provide grants for visual artists

Cajun Christmas
acrylic on tyvek
approx 180" x 216"

Price: $100/square foot plus $10 shipping
$50 triangles and $25 six-inch squares are also options
copy and paste to reserve your piece of Cajun Christmas
__________square feet x $100 per square foot = _$___________
plus $5 shipping
total _$____________________

make check payable to Laura Elkins and earmark for Baton Rouge Area Foundation (BRAF) --

Laura Elkins
20 Ninth Street NE
Washington DC 20002