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Shreveport exhibit cultivates wisdom of age, documents stories of elders

Brian Lewis

Retired Shreveport pathologist Bennett Sewell will unveil his exhibition Sunday that is a departure from his found-object dog sculptures. The display of life lessons in northwest Louisiana features the photos and stories of 24 people who are older than 75. They've shared their personal stories and wisdom.

The exhibit highlights a broad range of human experience: from Gisela Lozada who grew up in Nazi Germany to bricklayer Mike Guastella who traveled with his family in a station wagon searching for work. Sewell listened to and documented their stories for the exhibit, and was uplifted by the project.

“I picked people that had had good times and bad times, faced adversity, that were raised without problems or that were reared with problems. I went across the spectrum that people told me about," Sewell said, during an interview at his Shreveport home that doubles as his studio and gallery.

The 81-year-old physician has captured the essence of each person with their portraits – past and present – to accompany their written history. He also compiled a book of photos and biographies on his subjects. Sewell knew when he started the project two years ago that the world is filled with upstanding people. But, he said, this brought him face-to-face with humanity and how people try hard to do good.

"Since we live in a contentious society, I wanted to counter the negative -- the stuff that’s going on in the media -- with what happens to ordinary people who get up in the morning, raise their kids, go to work, take care of their community," Sewell said.

The exhibit, “It’s What You Make of it, A Celebration of Life,” opens Sunday, Nov. 17, at the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum in Shreveport. It runs through Dec. 27. A reception is set for Sunday from 2 - 4 p.m.

Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' broadcast and media experience to Red River Radio. He began his career as a radio news reporter and transitioned to television journalism and newsmagazine production. Chuck studied mass communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.