Rosemary Bernard already had a bachelor's degree in upper elementary education and a master's in creative writing when she retired in the early 1980s, but she decided to go back to school for painting at UL Lafayette. During a time when Bill Moreland, Herman Mhire and John Geldersma were in UL's art department, Bernard received an education in color. "My paintings are very colorful and very bright and very happy," she says. "Everyone says they smile, and it makes them feel good to look at my paintings."

Great-great-grandmother Bernard is now in her 90s, still drives around New Iberia and hosts the town's "Art Group" at her home once a month. This week, she'll host the opening of her own exhibit, Sunrises, Sunsets & Tygers, in Jefferson Street Market's Galerie Lafayette. It's not her debut show, but it will be the first time her paintings are offered for sale. "I've decided I should have a show and sell my paintings because my house is overloaded with them," she says.

Bernard is currently working on Spanish Lake Spirit Poles in the style of Geldersma, using driftwood from the lake around her house and plenty of bright color. Her exhibit title comes from the lake's sunrises and sunsets and the William Blake poem, "The Tyger."

New Iberia artist Paul Schexnayder says Bernard has inspired him and other local artists to use more color and take their works to another level. "She's like the grandmother of all theses artists here," he says. "She's progressive. She's pretty hip." Schexnayder predicts Bernard's exhibit will serve as a retrospective and colorful pictorial history of New Iberia. "Her family owned Bernard Wagon Works, Bernard Syrup Mill, these old, old things in New Iberia's past," he says. "It's like electric colors, all those pinks and purples. Every painting has to have red. She's a colorful person just like her paintings."


Sunrises, Sunsets & Tygers opens Saturday, Aug. 12 at Jefferson Street Market in a reception from 5-8 p.m. and will be on display through Sept. 2. For more info or to purchase Bernard's work, call 364-0825.

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