Beautiful oil paintings preserve pre-Katrina coast

Artist Laurent Smith created art in his Bay St. Louis home from the late 1960's until the mid 90's.

His oil paintings captured southern landscapes of New Orleans, rural Louisiana, Mississippi and throughout the south.

Smith passed away in 2003 and his son Gary Spencer Smith is maintaining his father's collection.

Laurent Smith painted with impeccable attention to detail.

" These landscapes are flawless perspectives. There is great use of light and shadow. The colors are rich. You really have to look at them for a long time to appreciate the detail" said Smith.

Gary says many of the subjects are gone, wiped away by Katrina "Katrina did take away culture from our coast. It took away older architecture."

One piece features a spectacular sunset with downtown Gulfport as the focal point.

Today churches and buildings on highway 90 are remnants of the past.

Scenic Drive in Pass Christian comes to life in a Laurent Smith painting.

A series of empty lots now occupy the location chosen by the artist.

"To remember the history of these cities is important. It's part of our heritage" Smith says.

You can see Laurent Smiths brilliant paintings and here Gary Spencer Smiths stories at the Katrina Research Center on the USM Gulf Coast campus Thursday at 11:45.

Smith says it's amazing how art can preserve history "He was not aware of all the changes that would occur in the future regarding Katrina. He nonetheless captured a lot of history."