Writing my feelings on New Orleans as we step into 2022. ←- Working title.
Returning from a trip to New Orleans, it takes a lot to step back into any reality. The spice and smoke from rich andouille sausages leave a lingering taste in one’s mouth. The even sidewalks and city blocks with uniform colors, unadorned with bright purple, green, and gold decor at home, seem drab by comparison. When the clothes have been washed, and the bed has been slept in, I think back to the lessons that cast a long shadow from this recent trip.
New Orleans is a city that embraces artists of all stripes. The journey of being an artist can be highly introspective; a long process of evaluation and revaluation. The resulting pieces of art are a direct result of these internal value structures we create. This was evident during a recent visit to The Mint, home to the New Orleans Jazz museum and a small permanent installation about currency on the ground floor, our ultimate destination.
There, we viewed an installation that was part of the Prospect Triennial, a city-wide festival whose 2021-22 theme is “Yesterday We said Tomorrow.” The show was curated by Generic Art Solutions partners, Tony Campbell and Matt Viz. Their exhibition “Face Value: The Illusions of Power and Money” was neatly folded into the permanent mint exhibition space. Artwork designed around a critique of money’s outsized role in our culture intermixed with old coins and other currency-related artifacts, forcing viewers to reconsider monetary history.
(Alternate) Wandering the French Quarter is always a delight to the senses, as the dominant music shifts every few yards, new and interesting artwork adorns storefronts, and sweet and savory scents pull in many directions. You might find yourself subconsciously dancing along to brassy music or 5-gallon barrel drums, or coughing from the powdered sugar on a beignet that was too alluring to eat slowly. (Tie it in with the medical field and the interview with MTS.
The French Quarter is wild, photogenic, and historic. It is filled with memories and has been the source of countless inspirations. The kind that causes a person to change every aspect of their lives. At a time where large swaths of the population have left their original jobs in search of better paying opportunities, many of them were energizing entrepreneurial pursuits in the artistic realm. When passing 830 Charters St, I felt compelled to visit what could only be described as the “physical manifestation of the mind of an artist”. This studio was covered in broad paint strokes, and felt impassioned. The story of its artist, Mary T. Scinto provided plentiful material for a wonderful and insightful podcast and video interview.
In late 2019, we were launching our documentary exploring the history of the New Orleans art scene at the Zeitgeist theater in Arabi. We enjoyed so many aspects of the city, including White Linen night on Julia St, the outdoor artist marketplaces on Frenchman, and the new exhibition space at 507 Frenchman. It seemed like a converted space, and exuded a DIY vibe that was hard to shake. Its few rooms were painted floor to ceiling in bright vivid colors. What made this space plainly not a DIY space was the caliber of art represented, and totally out the window when a few Ron English pieces were seen hanging in one room.
The magic of 507 Frenchman was short lived, but the gallery did manage to find its forever home at 940 Royal St. Oddly enough, this was the location of one of my favorite galleries in New Orleans: Red Truck. The name was familiar to me, due to our previous visits and their active work participating in various art fairs. It was fantastic luck that brought me into communication with one of Mortal Machine’s owners, Gabriel Shaffer, where I could produce something of value.
New Orleans looms large in the immediate rear view mirror. The work involved in rebuilding is ever present, and a short walk to our bungalow in the Treme requires a daily crossing of Rampart street, and full view of Louis Armstrong Park. The rolling hills, and the well preserved houses that have survived many beatings serve as a constant reminder of the rebuilding of this fair city, and the transience of our existence on earth. This, plus dinner at Emeril’s, is enough to reinvigorate our dance on life's 2nd Line.