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Driftwood Sculptures from America’s Largest Swamp

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The view from Adam Morales’ boat on the water near Pierre Part, on the outskirts of the Atchafalaya Basin. (All photos: Julie Dermansky)

This photo essay is one of a five-part series with Atlas Obscura and Olympus. We asked some of our favorite photographers to take a quest with an Olympus E-M5 Mark II camera, and these are the results of their adventures. All photographs in this story were taken with an Olympus E-M5 Mark II with a 12-40mm Pro lens. To see the full series, go here.

Louisiana-based photographer Julie Dermansky first heard about artist Adam Morales while shooting a report on the Bayou Corne sinkhole. As a photographer who focuses on environmental issues, she was intrigued to meet the artist behind the driftwood creations drawn from the Atchafalaya Basin, the largest wetland and swamp in the United States.

On a sunny day in early November, Dermansky visited Adam’s Cypress Swamp Driftwood Family Museum. Morales took her out onto the water, where he collects his driftwood, and gave her a tour of his property and his art. Pieces of driftwood and sculpture crowded the area around his Museum, some of which is for sale, and some, he prefers not to part with. Here is part one of the Atlas Obscura/Olympus series—a glimpse into the work and environment of one of Louisiana’s most singular artists. 

Adam Morales at the entrance to Adam’s Cypress Swamp Driftwood Family Museum in Pierre Part, Louisiana. 

Loch Ness Monster sculpture across from the Driftwood Museum, damaged by a storm.

Out on the water with Adam Morales, near his museum, among moss-covered cypress trees. The Atchafalaya Basin stretches to almost one million acres.

Adam Morales on his boat. One of the things that makes Morales’ sculptures unique is that none of them are carved. They are all either screwed, nailed or tied together. He adds glass taxidermy to many of the pieces. Others are simply found objects that caught his eye. 

Hollow cypress trees on the water in Bayou Pierre Part. “I have a gift for seeing animals in driftwood,” Morales said, which he attributes to God.

Morales’ masterpiece—a Statue of Liberty from driftwood. It was lent to the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore for a period in 2009, before being returned to its home at the Driftwood Museum. 

Driftwood sculptures of Pierre Part swamp people. Many episodes of the TV series Swamp People are filmed in the Atchafalaya Basin. 

Adam Morales relaxes on his porch. Next to him is some of his equipment, and one of his best selling series of works, his owl sculptures. 

A wooden path leads to the swamp behind the Museum, where Morales has countless sculptures and densely laid out scraps of cypress driftwood he has collected, that are all for sale. The piles of dried driftwood are sorted and labeled, with everything from birds to human body parts to guitars.

Julie’s cat Little Kitty took a shine to the owl sculptures that Julie purchased. She bought five owls and Morales gave her a sixth as a lagniappe, a cajun word for bonus. Morales’ work can only be bought in person as he is not set up digitally to collect payments and make shipments. He is, however, open to visitors.

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