Ruston artist survived Nepal earthquake & it shook him to his core

On April 25, 2015, Ruston artist M Douglas Walton was in Nepal with 14 art students when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck. The group was stranded for six days and


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The Gorkha earthquake on April 25, 2015, was one of the worst natural disasters to ever strike Nepal.

The 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck northwest of the capital of Kathmandu, killing 8,967 people, injuring 21,952 and leaving 3.5 million homeless. It caused an estimated $10 billion in damage.

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Images of crumbled historic temples, avalanches on Mt. Everest, villages destroyed and decimated terraced farms and livestock dominated television screens and front pages of major news agencies across the world.

For thousands of innocent victims, it was a life ending experience. But for northwest Louisiana artist M Douglas Walton, the “quake in paradise” was a life altering one — an experience that literally shook him to his soul.

On Thursday,  Walton, of Ruston, will unveil a profoundly different set of images than those shown by news media in 2015.

His solo exhibit "Quake in Paradise: Echoes of Nepal" will showcase artful images created by putting Benjamin Moore latex interior paint, vinyl, duct tape and tissue paper on canvas at artspace, 708 Texas St. in downtown Shreveport. Walton purposefully chose these materials because he felt the elevated spiritual quality he hoped to achieve with his art couldn’t happen without something tough enough to echo the moment when everything changed for him.

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M. Douglas Walton's exhibit A sneak peek at artspace

M. Douglas Walton's exhibit 'Quake in Paradise: Echoes of Nepal' will be Aug. 31-Sept. 30 at artspace, 708 Texas St. in downtown Shreveport. (Photo: Courtesy of SRAC)

Collectively, the exhibition tells a story of beauty and light as only someone who has been transformed after surviving a catastrophic incident can illustrate it.

Among some of the works in the exhibition: 

  • “Moment” is a stark painting of a bridge seeming to span vast white space to connect darkness. It depicts the exact moment on April 25, 2015, when Walton and his group of 14 American and Canadian artists started across the Friendship Bridge into Tibet and their world began to shake violently.
  • “Haven” surreally represents the five days Walton spent in a rainy blue tarp safe haven on a terraced hilltop. The work seems to ascend into the very nightmare of the catastrophe with intense ethereal energy.
  • “Pathways" is the piece Walton considers the centerpiece of the exhibit. It's a scattering of rose petals mimicking rose petals that were placed on the steps outside of the blue tarp refugee village each morning in the days after the quake. The rose petals were carefully and lovingly placed on the path by the Nepalese children to provide a way of hope for the artists and to remind them that beauty and light can overpower the bleak grey of dust and destruction.

M. Douglas Walton's exhibit 'Quake in Paradise: Echoes

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M. Douglas Walton's exhibit 'Quake in Paradise: Echoes of Nepal' will be Aug. 31-Sept. 30 at artspace, 708 Texas St. in downtown Shreveport. (Photo: Courtesy of SRAC)

“It is through "Quake in Paradise: Echoes of Nepal" that I am now scattering my own rose petals — to tell the story of the Nepalese people and their spiritual triumphs,” Walton said. “As I was preparing to leave Nepal, a village elder looked at my sketches from the earthquake and told me that Nepal needed my voice to speak the truth and to tell their story through my paintings. When I returned home, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, also urged me to use my art to give voice to the story of what happened in Nepal. I know it is my obligation to this beautiful culture and its gentle people to continue to scatter the rose petals."

At the same time that Walton’s art is featured in artspace's MainSpace, fellow Ruston artist Raluca Iancu will exhibit “Vicarious Trauma” in CoolSpace. 

Iancu’s art, similar to Walton’s, explores disaster, tragedy, memory and vulnerability.

M. Douglas Walton's exhibit 'Quake in Paradise: Echoes

M. Douglas Walton's exhibit 'Quake in Paradise: Echoes of Nepal' will be Aug. 31-Sept. 30 at artspace, 708 Texas St. in downtown Shreveport. (Photo: Courtesy of SRAC)

The focus of her artspace exhibition will be the installation piece, “It’s Not Easy to Stop a Train.” This is immersive art that presents the viewer with a chance to “step into” one compartment of a crashed long distance passenger train and experience catharsis. Iancu hopes the audience will view the installation from the perspective of both spectator and victim, with attraction and repulsion, as one in control and one forced to submit, as someone wanting to forget versus one who is unable to get the scene out of her mind. Iancu is an international artist who has had residencies in Newfoundland, New York City, Poland and Romania. She is an assistant professor of drawing and printmaking at Louisiana Tech University.

“artspace is Shreveport’s place where the public connects to the arts in wonderful, new and exciting ways, and the Shreveport Regional Arts Council is excited to offer northwest Louisiana the chance to connect to Ruston artist Douglas Walton and his powerful images of recovery, hope and beauty,” said Pam Atchison, SRAC executive director. “This is an exhibition full of the inner echoes of life, and one I think takes us to the Nepal tragedy through the visual trajectory of Doug’s inspiring artistry."

M. Douglas Walton's exhibit 'Quake in Paradise: Echoes

M. Douglas Walton's exhibit 'Quake in Paradise: Echoes of Nepal' will be Aug. 31-Sept. 30 at artspace, 708 Texas St. in downtown Shreveport. (Photo: Courtesy of SRAC)

Walton and lancu's exhibitions open at 5 p.m. Thursday Aug. 31. "Quake in Paradise: Echoes of Nepal" will run through Sept. 30 in the MainSpace gallery. 

Walton will meet, greet and share his experiences during a free opening reception on Thursday. On Friday, join him for a Nepalese-inspired luncheon catered by Southern Fork Catering and hear more about his work. The luncheon is 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. at artspace. Tickets are $30 and are available online at artspaceshreveport.com or by calling 673-6535.

For more information, visit www.artspaceshreveport.com.

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Ruston artist survived Nepal earthquake & it shook him to his core

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