Painting the Undesirables

June 2019

The two artists at H-D Art couldn’t be more alike, yet polar opposites in many aspects. Observing the New Orleans studio, their spaces are definitely delineated: one, neat and orderly, the other, haphazard and messy. As narrative painters, they are perfectly in sync; their spaces eerily reflected in much of their art.

Both painters have a lifelong affinity for birds, but where Stephanie loves each of them for their unique qualities, Alaine her definite favorites and also those she ignores. Sometimes she even hurls curse words at particular breeds (blue jays, for instance). Having owned several macaws through the years, Stephanie talks to them and usually gets a response. A believer in portends and signs, Alaine collects feathers, looking for messages and secret symbols. “Birds are like humans—each are different, and all of them have good hearts, though you might have to look hard to find it,” says Huye. DiBenedetto disagrees, “No they don’t, Stephanie. Some are bad, and some are good.” Alaine didn’t want to elaborate, but it’s clear birds are important to these collaborative artists.

“When I went to buy food for the crows, the salesman told me I shouldn’t feed them because crows were undesirable. Since I wasn’t growing a crop of corn, I ignored him and bought a sack of peanuts anyway.” Knowing how soft-hearted Stephanie is, one can see the thought of them going hungry bothers her. She assigns them human qualities, while Alaine doesn’t feed them, but does leave beer caps and Mardi Gras trinkets for them on the fence posts.

“The first day here, a crow flew over with a chicken bone in its beak, and they follow us everywhere we go,” Alaine did add. Though she just shrugged when asked what that meant, one can tell it had made an impact on her. A number of bird books, feathers, and Native American items are scattered among the tubes of oil paints. “Alaine has Choctaw blood, so that’s part of the bird attraction for her. I love all birds. Their colors and languages are so different and interesting. Just like people! I have a collection of feathers that will be part of an upcoming series,” Huye elaborates. When asked if she’s planning on painting a bird series, “Crows,” is all DiBenedetto would say.

It’s an exciting new direction for the pair who have done several ‘shoes & chair’ collaborative shows together, if in fact there is a series in the works. And whatever these two have planned—portraits, abstracts, or some other narrative genre, it’s sure to be as fascinating as the two opposite, psychically linked painting partners. Birds of a distinctly different feather……