Making Music On Canvas

Lafayette artist Bryant Benoit creates collages inspired by South Louisiana’s African-American culture
Art 01

Family Tyme

On the cover of zydeco musician Keith Frank’s 2021 album “The Resurrection of the Creole Connection” is a painted scene of an African-American Creole family sitting out in the front yard. The woman has a bowl of okra in her lap and other family members are playing various musical instruments. The painting “Passin Time” by Lafayette artist Bryant Benoit is telling a universal story about family and a way of life in South Louisiana’s Acadian parishes. It’s a story about Benoit’s life, too.

Benoit is a storyteller and natural artist who sees and interprets African-American life, culture and music in South Louisiana through his mixed media paintings. His collages are visual memories on canvas that emerge from his life-story and imagination as he listens to the chords, riffs, vibrations and rhythms of jazz, zydeco and the blues.

“To me, music is the storytelling of one’s culture,” he says. “My subject matter is music. My subject matter is my life. When we play that music that’s when you hear our stories. That’s when you hear about making pies, you hear about the gumbo, you hear about the étouffée. That’s when you hear about the ‘fais do-do.’ My paintings come out of that music. They tell our life stories.”

Born and raised in Lafayette, the 52-year-old Benoit’s love of art and music began as a child. Because he constantly drew, his mother bought him pencils and sketchbooks. Because his father was a musician, the young Bryant took up trumpet lessons in the fifth grade. The two art forms eventually came together to create the artist-storyteller. As he listens to the music, he hears the stories embedded in the lyrics. Those stories work their way through his imagination to the canvas.

In recent years, Benoit has developed an interesting style of creating collages. He first paints his initial concept on canvas then applies photographs he cuts out of magazines as accents to enhance the total composition. Look carefully at each painting and you’ll see those cut out collaged images blended into the paint.

“The images I place in my collages are random,” he says. “Once the photographs are on the canvas, I might paint around them and even alter the photo a little bit and blend it into the painting. The collages are small details that enhance the bigger image of what I’m painting.”

Now a successful artist, Benoit didn’t start off to be one. Initially, he studied architecture at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Though he didn’t finish the program, he says it was excellent training in transforming ideas to paper and three-dimensional forms. In one class exercise he had to create collages after interpreting a stanza of poetry. It was a skill he took with him into his art.

“My collages come from interpreting words, styles and colors and all those things that make a shape and form,” says Benoit. “Architecture and collage, art and music combined all of those aspects. It’s kind of like jazz, organized chaos.”

After leaving college, Benoit worked in construction but got laid up in 2009 after knee surgery. He lost his job but all the while he kept painting. His wife, Joey, placed them on Facebook and they began to sell. A new career was born.

Through his gallery in North Lafayette, Benoit continues to sell his work to collectors across the United States and world from Canada and Europe to West Africa, New Zealand and Asia. His growing list of credits and awards is impressive. He also has participated in various cultural festivals, including the Festivals Acadiens et Créoles and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. His commissioned work includes, among others, official posters for the Lafayette-based African American Heritage Foundation and for the 2018 and 2019 Zydeco Extravaganza.

Whether creating posters or interpreting music through his paintings, Benoit says his art is an expression of “his inner voice.” It’s a “symphony” and he is the conductor bringing together on canvas all those improvisations, rhythms and vibrations.


Meet the Artist

Art 04

Bryant Benoit

Hometown Lafayette
Age 52
Artistic goal Artist-storyteller
Inspiration African-American culture and music in Acadiana
Painting style Visual memories on canvas


Categories: Homepage