New Orleans is one of those places that is unlike any other. It is unique in it’s history, traditions and way of life. Artists of all kinds, writers, musicians, painters, are attracted to its vibrancy and joie de vivre. In this most European of American cities, the arts are not just a weekend hobby of the 1%. Creativity is an ingrained part of daily life. Each day is touched by artists in some way. And today, as the town celebrates the most New Orleansish day of Mardi Gras, I thought we’d explore NOLA through the eyes of its artists.
As I was thinking about what makes New Orleans such an extraordinary place, six characteristics kept coming to mind..
No doubt New Orleans is famous for its cuisine.. a bit French, a bit Southern.. totally deliciously unique. Jambalaya, po’ boys, beignets, shrimp creole.. I would be perfectly happy to eat my way through the city! Artist Carlos Lopez celebrates the simplicity and purity of New Orleans cuisine in his still lifes of oysters found in the city’s gulf waters.
New Orleans Jazz is the soundtrack for the Delta. The horns, the banjo, the bass.. you can’t help but tap your feet. NOLA artists George Schmidt and Frank Kelley, jr., capture the energy that flows from the melodious sounds of Dixieland jazz. Though currently living in Florida, artist Yvonne Lozano’s Delta roots still show through.
The city’s architecture reflects the diversity of its history and inhabitants.. from grand antebellum mansions to the European-influenced ironwork of the French Quarter to humble shotgun houses, each illustrates a facet of the city’s rich culture and history. And, of course, each has been a source of inspiration for artists such as Grant Schexnider, whose Shotgun Series celebrates the spiritual wealth found in these humble abodes.
New Orleanians have a style all their own. Unfailingly friendly and hospitable, but direct and unafraid to tell it like it is. But always with charm and high style. The stylishly cheeky work of NOLA artist Sarah Ashley Longshore fits the city like beads on Mardi Gras.
Joyful. Exuberant. Even in the face of darkness and destruction, every day in New Orleans is a celebration of life. Ally Burguieres’ work shines brightly with the fire of the people of New Orleans.
The final and most enduring characteristic of New Orleans is the strength of its community and culture. Poverty, disease, disaster, destruction. The city has seen it all, yet through each trial, comes out on the other end that much stronger. Cory Willingham’s work explores the inner strength found when a community is called upon to rebuild.
New Orleans isn’t just party central at Mardi Gras. It is a community filled with artists who are serious about preserving the city’s history and not just persevering, but thriving into the city’s future. It is a city that loves its artists and they return that devotion a hundredfold. We’ll continue the NOLA love tomorrow, when Artsy Forager features a NOLA gallery bringing a fresh and contemporary, yet uniquely New Orleans style to the French Quarter!
All images are via the artist’s websites linked above, unless otherwise indicated. Images by Carlos Lopez and Sarah Ashley Longshore are via Gallery Orange.