I’m so happy to have finally made it back to New Orleans last month! Once before, I visited this magical place, but my memories of it were bleak and brief as I was only 16 and it was simply a day visit. This time, however, we indulged in a well-rounded, mufti-day New Orleans experience.
And what can I say? The rumors are true: this city, indeed, is filled with life, bright colors, crooked houses, great food, loud people, fabulous art, hot sauce, street music, muddy river water, creole cottages, iron balconies, humidity and wonderful Louisiana hospitality.
But I was mostly here for architecture. My goal was to capture “the essence” of this city with my camera lens, which then hopefully, would be translated into some new paintings. Because when customers ask me, over and over, to “PLEASE paint some New Orleans already!” – I do eventually give in and listen.
What I found here though, was much more than a collection of photographs of funky streets and bright colored buildings. Because that special energy of a place can not be stored on a camera’s memory card. The way it FEELS to walk into a crowded intersection dancing to a jazz street orchestra, or have beautiful abandoned houses eerily surround you like ghosts as you veer away from French Quarter, or get to know the styles of local folk artists, or take your first bite of the best shrimp-and-grits you will ever try – all that can be only experienced first-hand and not through a camera lens.
And so we walked, for miles and miles. From the Garden District, to the end of Uptown, through Lafayette Cemetery, onward to French Quarter, evenings on Frenchman Street, and then Bywater, all the way to the end. Then back to the Garden District, where was our hotel. Never bothered with a cab or streetcar, only on foot.
But we also made it out to the bayou for some lovely “swamp exploring”. And seeing how life goes on and houses get built outside the levees (all while hearing numerous Katrina stories), and how catfish traps are set, and how swamp trees grow, and how alligators live, and how everything feeds on everything – that was nothing short of fascinating.
I think NOW I’m ready to paint New Orleans. Actually, here is my first piece. It is titled “New Orleans Quilt” – because the city is such a patchwork of styles and senses. I look forward to painting more Big Easy scenes. And also – definitely to returning here someday.