We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Tina Girouard, an experimental artist, activist, and dear friend of the CAC.
A pioneer in performing art installations, dance, decorative art and video, Girouard was a collaborator whose work ushered in the conceptual post-minimalist world of the late 60’s & 70’s SoHo art scene. With fellow Louisianian artists Lynda Beglis, Richard Landry and Keith Sonnier, Tina pushed boundaries with colorful, fluid lines in contrast to the structured stark minimalism that had come before. Tina was also an important influence on the Pattern and Design movement that utilized found fabrics, wall-coverings, and other detritus.
“I want [art] to be still breathing.”
Born in the rural town of DeQuincy, Louisiana in 1946, Tina graduated from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette before moving to New York City. With fellow artists Gordon Matta Clark and Carol Goodden, Tina co-founded FOOD, an artist-run eatery where all aspects of preparing and eating food were considered art and the experimental gallery 112 Greene Street. In 1971 in a group show beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, Tina presented Swept House, a performance art piece where she shuffled dust into lines creating a house floor plan.
An early pioneer of video technology, Tina incorporated video content into live performances and installations. In 1977, Tina was a part of Five From Louisiana,a seminal exhibition at the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) that featured new work by five notable contemporary artists from Louisiana who had gained national and international reputations including Tina Girourard, Lynda Benglis, Richard Landry, Keith Sonnier, and Robert Rauschenberg.
As a celebration of New Orleans' Bicentennial, NOMA Chief Curator William Fageley decided to honor the achievements of Louisiana artists. Three weeks before the opening at NOMA in front of video cameras, Tina executed her major work, Pinwheel, a performance art piece featuring four performers, including Girouard, who created a stage-like environment in four quadrants using yards of silk fabric Each performer activated the space, enacting a ritual that involves base objects and elements all connected to their given persona of animal, vegetable, mineral, and other. The videotaped performance was re-broadcasted as part of her performance at the opening night of Five From Louisiana. In 2019, Pinwheel was recreated at Art Basel Miami by Anat Ebgi, Los Angeles, at Art Basel Miami Beach Meridians.
Tina enjoyed a successful 40-year visual art career, opening studios in Louisiana, New York, and Haiti. Her work has been featured in Documenta 6, the Venice Biennale, the Paris Biennale, with a mid-career retrospective at the Museo Rufino Tamayo in Mexico City. For years, Tina proudly served as Director and President of Festival International de Louisiane in Lafayette, Louisiana, which continues to attract thousands of world-music lovers every spring.
"I lost my head and heart in Haiti."
Tina returned to Louisiana in 1978 with her then husband Richard Landry after a fire destroyed her studio. Soon after, Girouard began traveling to Haiti in the late 80’s where she was drawn to the cultural similarities between Haiti and Louisiana and the “vodou drapeau” or vodou prayer flag tradition. The prayer flags display elaborate beading and sequins that honor the unseen spirits or loa of Haitian Vodou. Used in ceremonial traditions, the loa stiched onto the flags act as intermediaries between the human and spirit worlds. Girouard began hand-stiching and collaborating with accomplished sequin artists including Antoine Oleyant. Tina lived in Haiti from 1990-1995 where she established a workshop and wrote the seminal 1994 book Sequin Artists of Haiti.
In February 2019, the New Orleans Museum of Art presented Girouard’s Bondye: Between and Beyond, an exhibition of a series of sequined prayer flags in collaboration with Haitian artists in Port-au-Prince. Bondye: Between and Beyond was co-curated by Nicolas Brierre Aziz, Curator of the Haitian Cultural Legacy Collection, and Katie A. Pfohl, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at NOMA. More recently, Tina's work was included in With Pleasure: Pattern and Decoration in American Art, 1972-1985” which opened last fall at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.
“Something within us all is unknowable and unchangeable ... Life and death form a whole as we flow along our mystical voyage—a delicate, solo dance.”
Tina's support of the CAC over the years was immense, and her work was regularly featured in exhibitions throughout our history. In 1991, Tina was commissioned by the CAC to create "Light Riding Shaft Skin," a massive work that would adorn our Atrium elevator shaft for nearly 30 years. Ever-supportive of artists, activists and leaders in New Orleans, Tina contributed a number of her Haitian Voduo-inspired pieces as gifts to CAC SweetArts nominees; works that were inspired by her love of Haitian culture that became a focal point of her artistic practice throughout the 90s.
Through all of her diverse work, Tina was a master storyteller, infusing imagery with symbolism to create a language with which to share her message. In her own words: "[I'm] making the ordinary extraordinary, the extraordinary ordinary ... I want [art] to be still breathing."