Maggie Jones Boudreaux
article by STARLA GATSON
photography by KELLY MOORE CLARK
It didn’t take long for Maggie Jones Boudreaux’s artistic vocabulary to begin developing. Given the fact that she grew up under the influence of both a mother and grandmother who were artists and makers, the Ruston native’s appreciation for art likely started blossoming before she even realized it was happening.
Despite being so deeply immersed in art in her youth, both through the influence of her family and their connections to local and out-of-state artists, Boudreaux decided after high school that it wouldn’t be her artistic vocabulary that would carry her into a career. Instead, she would rely on her writing vocabulary to make a living, which is why she enrolled in Louisiana Tech University as a journalism major.
Her time in the journalism department didn’t last long, though. The then-college student went on a university-sanctioned trip to Rome, and she says the minute her eyes floated to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, chills covered her entire body. Seeing Michelangelo’s famous work for herself was enough to convince Boudreaux that she needed to change her major to the subject she’d been informally studying for years: art.
“I had always wanted to do it from the beginning,” she says of her major change. “But I thought, ‘Well, artists don’t make any money.” She laughs before adding, “Not that writers do, so I don’t know why I thought that.”
Boudreaux returned to the United States and switched her field of study to visual art. But she wouldn’t pursue this path at Louisiana Tech. Instead, she transferred to Austin Community College in Texas, believing she had to leave Lincoln parish to see the world. While attending college out of state may not have been the grand adventure she had in mind at the time, the art department at her Austin school would certainly change her life. There, Boudreaux established a firm foundation for the rest of her art education, which would bode well for her when she transferred to Southwest Texas State University and later, after a hiatus from college, back to Louisiana Tech.
After withdrawing from Southwest Texas State for personal reasons, Boudreaux moved out west and stayed there for a while before returning to Ruston to finish her degree. Coming back was difficult, she says, but the decision to finish her education in the same place it began years earlier would quickly prove to be one of the biggest blessings of Boudreaux’s art career.
“I had some of the best professors that I’ve ever had in my life, and I would not be who I am as an artist today if God and life had not pushed me back here,” Boudreaux declares of Louisiana Tech’s art department. “I got to study under Ed Pinkston, Charlie Meades, Peter Jones — they were the Ruston Rat Pack.”
Each of these educators played major roles in the eager artist’s development, and with their guidance, Boudreaux graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting and drawing with an emphasis on printmaking. Then, with a degree in hand and valuable trade knowledge in her mind, she headed back to the western United States, where she would stay for the next 15 years or so. But again, this move was just temporary — Boudreaux would yet again return to the south.
“The art scene out there is not what we have in Ruston, and I think that did pull me home a little bit,” she explains of her time in Colorado, Montana, and California and her decision to leave the region. She believes the northeast Louisiana town has a community like no other and states, “It’s a great place to be an artist. It truly is.”
And being an artist is precisely what Boudreaux has done since returning to the Bayou State — that, and helping a new generation of creators do the same. She earned a Master’s degree in education and headed from the studio to the classroom, where she would work as a teacher for the state’s talented art program for over a decade. “I always felt like painting was my passion, but teaching was my purpose,” she says. “That was how I could make the world a better place: believing individually in each kid.”
Teaching the next generation of artists fed her soul, Boudreaux explains, and despite having been in the classroom for so long, she would have been happy to continue teaching and mentoring for a few more years. Life had other things in store for her, however, and due to unforeseen circumstances, the talented art teacher made the difficult decision to leave the classroom. “It was gut-wrenching. I felt like I’d lost my purpose in a way.”
Though leaving the classroom wasn’t easy, Boudreaux believes it was the right choice to make, explaining, “I miss it, but I’m very much into following the path that the universe and God put in front of you. And you go for it; you don’t fight it.”
The path that God and the universe have put Boudreaux on has led her to paint full-time, and as opportunities and jobs come her way each day, she becomes more and more convinced she is exactly where she is supposed to be. “I’ve never allowed myself to just paint, and that’s pretty special. Now, I’m putting my faith in that,” she says. “I can still make a difference in this world; it just might be in another way.”
Currently, Boudreaux makes a difference in the world mostly through commissions, and while some artists would feel creatively stifled by constantly having to create for others rather than themselves, she feels the opposite; Boudreaux loves being inspired by others’ input, personalities, and preferences.
“It really kind of drives me crazy when I hear a collector or another artist say, ‘Oh, don’t do art that goes with the sofa!’” she says. “Why would you not let the environment of people’s home and their souls and their personality come into the work? I find that to be the most beautiful thing; I’m not really matching the sofa, but people’s homes are a reflection of who they are and their space, and who they are collectively as a family. Every time I do a commission in which I let the client’s environment inspire the piece of artwork, I grow as an artist.”
Boudreaux not only lets herself be inspired by the clients’ environments but by their input, as well. “When I go on a job, I ask every family member — and it’s usually the kids that inspire me the most — ‘What’s your favorite color? What do you want this painting to feel like?’ [The art] is a conglomeration of the people that live in the house; it’s the heartbeat, the soul.”
The artist loves the challenge of commissions and the growth that comes from completing them, but Boudreaux acknowledges she can’t do them nonstop. She is an artist, after all, and creating work for herself is a big part of that.
The pieces she paints for herself are often scenes inspired by vacation, water, land, and sea. “You’ll see a lot of my paintings are named like Bon Voyage or The Great Escape. I love to travel, and I love this earth, and I’m inspired by nature. Greens and blues, those are my soul colors.”
In addition to travel scenes, Boudreaux also finds herself returning to two major series of paintings. The first, which was originally called On the Line, began with a strong horizontal line and was based on the artist’s love of the outdoors. Now, this body of work has evolved; the landscapes she paints aren’t merely random scenes in nature, but depictions of the places she would go to talk to God and connect to the universe. She says the series’ name has even changed — “I call it Between the Light and Me.”
The second series to which the artist often adds is more complex, but it can best be described as portraits of souls. The paintings within this collection mimic Boudreaux’s ponderings on community and connection: how do we end up where we are? How do we end up within our families, towns, and communities?
The series called Compositions from Above was born after a particularly difficult time in Boudreaux’s life and is her attempt at capturing the beauty of love and connection. These paintings depict people and their souls as colorful, blocky shapes. “I know it’s funny to say that blocks of shapes are portraits, but they are to me,” she explains. This series also reflects her belief that nothing is a coincidence, not even how we are arranged on this planet.
Boudreaux’s belief that everything happens for a reason is a big part of the optimistic outlook she hopes to convey through her work. “I think everybody’s freaked out right now thinking, ‘What’s the world coming to?’” she says. “But I seriously believe we’re growing from this. We’re all going to become bigger and better people; you always do through hardship.”
We’re getting better. That is the message the artist hopes to convey through her work, and though she says she’s not sure if she’s reached that goal yet, she will continue to create until she does. “In the end, if somebody can see that by looking at one of my pieces, that would be the icing on the cake.”
According to her artist statement, artistic expression is the most natural way for her to communicate with the world around her, and she says she is grateful and honored that people include her work — her responses to her environments and the universe — in their personal collections. If you’d like to know more about Maggie Jones Boudreaux, purchase one of her paintings, or rent a piece of her work, visit her website: www.maggiejonesboudreauxart.com.