Greatest Hit: Joycelyn Boudreaux

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Life swirls around Joycelyn Boudreaux, 45-year-old mother of four, like it swirls around all, delivering painful blows amid its joys.

In the past year Boudreaux has twice channeled loss and despair into some of the more grandiose art projects she has undertaken.

First it was “A Piece of My Heart,” a mirror mosaic pieced together in the shape of a heart and suspended on a 30-inch by 30-inch red wooden backdrop. Spurring the time-consuming project was a romantic breakup, and effecting it led Boudreaux to ruminate on her emotional pain, which she shared with her followers upon making the piece public on Valentine’s Day.

“I saw it exactly like it came out,” Boudreaux said. “I was obsessive, working on it,” and it proved to be therapeutic in both activating her mind and calibrating her emotions. “It wasn’t (the breakup),” she found, “it was all of these other heartbreaks that I just hadn’t dealt with.”

It is Joycelyn Boudreaux in its ambition, its intricacies and, most of all, its glimmer. She pointed out that the nouveau techniques incorporated in the cut and placement of various pieces were done intentionally, as art nouveau is the style that “drives” her. Gone, though, is the medium so often linked with one of the most-famed and -respected local artists – copper.

She returned to metal for “Broken Free,” a piece she conceived following her mother’s passing. Boudreaux described her mother as larger than life, a “force,” and the phoenix soaring beyond a small cage is an acceptance of her loss, a way to acknowedge death as inevitable but not The End. She released it in October.

These projects have provided a boost to Boudreaux’s profile. Each was made public with messages detailing their meaning to Boudreaux’s life and the themes she grappled with while creating them – heartache and loss.

Primarily a copper patina artist, Boudreaux’s methods are esoteric. She begins with a copper backdrop and a sketch, using iron paint to base her designs atop it. Then, with time, temperature, humidity, chemicals and etching techniques, she forces the iron to rust, drawing her color from the metals’ transformations.

Boudreaux has long harbored a fascination with metals – holding it in such esteem that she lied about being a metal manipulator to strangers before she learned the craft – stemming from her father’s work as a welder. So when given the opportunity to apprentice with renowned copper-sink maker Dino Rachiele in Florida, the Terrebonne native moved to the Sunshine State. Under Rachiele for about 18 months, she began to tarnish copper and find her way as an artist and, she says, as a person.

But a longing for the bayou, its cypress trees and her family and friends enticed her back home. So she put up at her Sunset Avenue studio and has become engrossed in her art. For a while now Copperhead Studios has served as a magnet for artists, friends, family, the curious-at-large and travelers who come to Houma strictly to meet the maker of the works they’ve discovered online, often through Facebook.

Increasingly, however, Boudreaux is isolating herself in the studio and binge working. She admits to hiding her truck around the corner, locking the doors and attending her art until exhaustion.

Boudreaux made her debut at Covington’s Three Rivers Art Festival last month. It represented an elevation in stature, considering how fearful she was to show with some of the fine artists listed alongside her on the roster. But she found success.

Also last month she was trying to decide her next showing, primarily contemplating whether she should submit her work to show at Jazz Fest next year. She holds the venue and those who grace it with great esteem, and commercially, she has heard the testimonies that a weekend showing at the event can make an artist’s financial year.

Still, she may have opted not to apply this time. That Jazz Fest artists are judged and selected for showing based on pictures of their work does a disservice to her copper productions, which lose a dimension when viewed from an encumbered lens. For all the grit that metal work connotes, Boudreaux’s work is known for glitter, for how this light strikes that piece at this angle and the fleeting shimmer that springs before roaming eyes. She worries that this would hurt her chances.

Should Jazz Fest not work out – either by her choice or the jury’s – Boudreaux may finally take the first “Copperhead Road Trip” she has long considered. After rounding up some friends, the plan is to pick a destination and make random stops along the way, sharing art with fans who have only seen her pictures online and meeting new people.

Beyond figuring out her next step, Boudreaux will have to face the question of where to do it. Myriad issues, including some that don’t deal at all with her work, will have to be considered. She said she holds a love for Houma, and technology makes it possible for an artist to achieve recognition from a small town but left open the possibility that she may one day leave.

In her studio Boudreaux plans to soon apply her specialized skillset to the production of furniture. She intends to collaborate with her boyfriend and start with bar tops and headboards, she said.

To view Boudreaux’s work online, visit Copperhead Studios on Facebook or her website

2012: N/A

Joycelyn Boudreaux, a self-described “Metro Cajun,” works on jewelry in her Houma studio. She plans to soon begin creating furniture with in her unique style.