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Keith Sonnier

KEITH SONNIER IS 28 AND WAS BORN in Mamou, a French-and-English-speaking town in Louisiana. The unassimilated Frenchness of Sonnier’s background—he speaks with no Southern accent—partly made for an unregretted childhood, and one which was open to the arts; at least it was not hostile to personal eccentricity. His father ran an hardware and electrical supply store. At 12 he drove. He went to Mamou High between 1955 and 1959. Nothing deeply disrupted this Southern rural picture except when, at 15, he had an inkling that “there had to be something else.”

From high school, Sonnier went to the University of Southwestern Louisiana, 1959 to 1963, where he became the central figure of a small body of art majors.1

Color slides of Sonnier’s student works indicate that they were paintings of high quality revealing an awareness of the 20th-century European tradition. They are marked by a heady sensuality

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