new work…

so i’ve been busy over here in the outdoor studio (otherwise known as my backyard), despite the rollercoaster weather. a few weeks back, i decided i wanted to start doing more stencil portraits, of pop culture icons, local (s)heroes, and yes, even pets. i know it’s crowded field – artists doing paintings of people’s pets – but i frankly don’t know anyone at least in new orleans who is doing stencil spray paint/urban folk-pop art style stuff. so i figured i’d give it a shot.

the above piece is my first attempt at doing a cat. my cat, specifically. sticker is his name, but my friend nita calls him mr. toes because he’s one of those hemingway cats (polydactyl) with extra toes all over the place. he has big mitten feet, and he’s a tubby, not very coordinated, princessy feline with a lot of character. i love him dearly. it was challenging trying to get a good one-color stencil that captures his unique look, but i think i pulled it off. after shooting about a hundred photos of him, i found one that worked well as a stencil, even though it didn’t include his funny feet.

about a year ago on one of my daily walks around the neighborhood, i salvaged four small weathered cabinet doors from a rotting set of cabinets on the curb out for the trash. i just really liked their look, and they’ve been sitting in my shed ever since, waiting for just the right project to come along. so when i did the first portrait in the series – frida kahlo (yes, i know she’s overplayed, but i’ve been a fan of hers since the early 80s and looking back through books of her work actually did help get me out of my funk, so i thought she deserved to be the first portrait i tried in this new style) – after testing it out on a scrap piece of plywood, i just jumped right in on one of these cabinet doors and started to play. i think it turned out pretty cool:

i love how using the cabinet doors makes it look like a readymade, already-framed piece of art. and gives it that folk-art feel. i had originally envisioned making mixed media pieces, putting various paper items as a background that would then be painted over such that parts of the print peeked out of the paint blasts… but i just spontaneously started making this one and decided i didn’t want to wait for all that mod podge to dry (usually takes overnight) so i just went with layering paint and design motifs. and this is what i ended up with.

i also did another rachel maddow piece, because, well, i’m obsessed. clearly. those of you who’ve been following me for a while know that i did a bunch of rachel maddow pieces a year or two ago that were really labor-intense 7-layered stencils. while it was a really good challenge and fun to do, once the stencils started deteriorating, i quickly realized i didn’t really want to keep recutting 7 different layers of facial features over and over again. i was able to make about 4 small canvases and a handful of prints on paper with them, but decided that was it for that particular incarnation of rachel maddow in stencil form. so this time, i chose a different picture to work from that was easy to turn into a one-layer stencil. whew.

so that’s 3 out of the 4 cabinet doors. not sure what i will do with the 4th, though i’m considering doing my other cat, the mighty hunter, stencil. but after playing around with the photos i took of him recently, i’m realizing it’s going to be much harder to do. as an all-black cat, it’s hard to create a one-layer stencil that isn’t just a silhouette – that actually gives him some dimension and features. but i’m going to keep playing with it. he’s already jealous of sticker because he has the extra-toes thing going on – i don’t want to slight him, you know? i love him just as much!

so yeah. that’s what i’ve been up to. i’ve also been making a bunch of love signs and posting up more stuff on my etsy site – valentine’s is coming up soon. but i’m hoping this new direction with the stencil portraits ends up being something i can market and turn into some steady income soon.

let me know what you think.

#kplus5 weekend

while feeling fairly overwhelmed by my own personal soul-searching and introspection that i’ve been engaged in since i got back from michfest, it is of course katrinaversary weekend here in new orleans. and not just any old katrinaversary – as if any of them are less harrowing than any other – but this one seems way more overloaded with media coverage and memorial activity than the last few, being the fifth anniversary.

i had thought the only k+5 type of event i would be partaking in this weekend would be the rising tide conference. i registered for it back in july and have been looking forward to it ever since, and felt like that was probably all i could handle. it’s an all-day event on saturday, plus i’m going to the opening party for it tonight, down at the howling wolf, with my new friend derrick, aka geekandahalf for those of you on twitter. so yeah, seemed like plenty enough for me in and of itself.

but, well, here i am, on friday the 27th, and i started my day listening to the rachel maddow podcast from last night’s show, which was shot live in algiers point and largely concerned itself with the topic of k+5. i always listen to something on my ipod while i’m out for my daily morning walk, and so this morning it somehow seemed appropriate to listen to that show. (it was really good, btw – i highly recommend taking the time to listen to/watch it. i just love her!)

what i wasn’t necessarily expecting was being inexplicably drawn to walk by the new orleans katrina memorial in the cemeteries on canal street. i somehow, even though it’s in my neighborhood and has now been there for two years, had eluded awareness of this until just the other day when i heard something about it on some npr show i was listening to in the car. and suddenly, i wondered why i had never noticed it before. so this morning, as i set out on my walk, i decided to go looking for it, just so i’d know where it was.

but then when i got there, i couldn’t not go in. i felt pulled in. it’s pretty intense, i have to say. from first noticing the awesome fleur-de-lis-with-swirling-water-below-it design that repeats itself in the iron fencing, to reading the marble marker that sits at the center of its overall hurricane-shaped layout, the memorial is certainly designed for introspection and reflection… and the blank marble vaults that house the unidentified victims of the storm and floods are a solemn reminder of the real human loss that occurred.

i obviously took a few pics on my smart phone while continuing to listen to rachel maddow, pausing for a moment to take it all in, and then i was off on a one-hour walk around my neighborhood that i love (mid-city).

i’ve then spent most of my day listening in on the tedxnola event happening down in the french quarter. i’d considered going to it, but in my present state of unemployment and dwindling funds, i didn’t feel like i could give up the $35 to attend. much to my surprise and delight, i discovered this morning there is a live feed of the proceedings online, so i’ve been selectively tuning in and out as my interest level dictates throughout the day.

the topic of this event is not exactly katrina nor is it a memorial – it is focused on creativity in crisis, or what good and creative things have come out of the disaster. so there have been some interesting speakers – james carville being my favorite thus far, and i loved kimberly rivers roberts (trouble the water) – but on the whole, i think i’m glad i did not give up my $35. i’ll just say… it ain’t no rising tide! (holla!)

i still don’t really have any plans for sunday. (guess i didn’t win tickets to see obama speak at xavier – oh well.) perhaps i’ll take the day off and just spend it at home, hanging out with fae. or maybe i’ll feel pulled out to one of the dozens of events happening around town on the actual anniversary day. who knows. i guess i’ll just have to wait and see.

lundi gras is for catching up…

wow, what a whirlwind it’s been.

when last i wrote, it was a few days before the mayoral election and the superbowl, and much anticipation was in the air. well, obviously, a lot has happened since then in new orleans.

first, rachel maddow came to town do a live broadcast of her show from the french quarter, the friday before the superbowl. i went down with d to check out the scene, only to find there really wasn’t much of a scene at all. when we arrived, there were about 20-25 folks hanging out on the corner of iberville and dauphine, chillin. there was a big boom camera in the middle of the street, the traffic was blocked at the corner so only iberville was passable, a big flat screen tv was set up showing the live programming on msnbc, and a small table was set up in the entrance of the ritz-carlton with many cocktail fixins on it. it took us a while to figure out that the majority of the show was actually to be shot on a balcony above us; they were shooting out the balcony doors with an msnbc logo projected onto the building across the street as the backdrop.

rachel did come out to take some photos and check out the set downstairs before the show went live, but she didn’t really address the audience. she is, however, just as dorky and cute as she appears to be on tv. when the show started above us, the crowd had grown a bit, and we all began chanting “who dat” and screaming rachel’s name; at the beginning of the show you can see she is amused and bewildered by our revelry below. every now and then they’d cut to live shots of the crowd down below via the camera on the street. i did manage to make it onto the screen a few times, as i was standing up on a ledge in front of the hotel across the street. (my friend diane in atlanta made this cute, silly video where you can see me and some of our other friends!)

rachel maddow show in the french quarter

at the end of the show, rachel came downstairs and did a segment with ti martin, proprietor of commander’s palace, on how to make a sazerac. that’s them above, in the pic. that was my view of the segment from the back of the crowd. i’m glad i made it down there for it, though it didn’t turn out to be what i expected at all. i got nowhere near rachel herself, but it was still fun to hang out with all the other dorky rachel fans and drink beer while watching the show. it was a great kickoff to superbowl/mardi gras weekend.

BERG in adonis

saturday of that weekend, fae rollerskated with the big easy rollergirls in adonis, a parade on the west bank. i had to drop her off at 9:30am way the hell down general de gaulle, and then kill a few hours before going back to watch the parade later in the afternoon. poor thing – it ended up being an eleven mile slog on a cold, windy, sunny day. she was so exhausted by the end, and got incredibly sunburnt. but it was fun to take in a west bank parade, something i’d never done in all my years here.

saturday was also our mayoral election, which largely got lost in all the superbowl/mardi gras hoopla. as everyone now knows, mitch landrieu won with a commanding 66% of the vote, winning all precincts except one in the city. though i knew my progressive candidate, james perry, wouldn’t probably win, i was sad and a little disappointed he didn’t get more votes. (he came in fifth.) but i am happy to know mitch is looking to bring james in to his administration. though i didn’t vote for him this time (i did the last two times he ran!), i am happy with mitch being our new mayor. i think it signifies a new era in the city’s political landscape, and i look forward to seeing what he can accomplish.

sunday was, of course, the superbowl. two weeks of raucous anticipation all came down to this day. after a quick (and cold!) scooter ride out to old metairie to eat some etouffe at my friend theresa’s tailgating party, fae and i headed to ponce de leon stadium to get our places for the big game. we arrived two hours before kickoff, so the game is a bit blurry to me, frankly, except the bigger plays and the last few minutes. when tracy porter intercepted manning for the touchdown that sealed the deal, i think we were all in shock. the last few minutes of play i was in disbelief, and then, it was over. we won!

it really happened!

after screaming and running around outside for ten or fifteen minutes, we finally managed to collect everyone in the back of my friend heather’s truck and we followed mac in her convertible, also filled with friends, downtown to join all the crazy who dats. we started down canal but soon turned around because traffic was at a standstill, heading back to claiborne and winding through the treme to get to the marigny. it was so much fun to drive through all the neighborhoods and see everyone out on their porches and in the streets, screaming “who dat!” and high-fiving and hugging. folks kept running up to the truck to high-five all of us, sometimes hanging on to the tailgate of the truck, riding with us for a while.

who dat!

that pic above was actually on our way out of the quarter, but was pretty representative of our night. i shot some really short videos of us on canal street, on bourbon street, and when we were leaving the marigny that night, that do a decent job of capturing the energy. it was magical and beautiful and i’m so glad i was here and able to witness it all.

amidst all this chaos, the new orleans craft mafia was afforded an amazing opportunity to do a one-week pop-up shop at 2038 magazine street (former home of winky’s, which abruptly went out of business and pulled out of that space). nocm members unique products have their permanent shop in the upstairs loft of that building, and so offered to the rest of us to do the one-week market in that space for mardi gras/valentine’s shopping, as the new tenants wouldn’t be coming in until the 1st. so monday morning, after the superbowl win, with hangovers, of course, we all schlepped our stuff down and set up in the space.

new orleans craft mafia's mardi gras market

today is actually the last day we’ll be open there, 12pm – 5pm. i’m heading over there in just a bit to help out. i was there a lot at the beginning of last week but haven’t been back since thursday so not sure how it’s been through the busy mardi gras/valentine’s weekend, but the beginning of the week was slow but steady. makes me wish we had a retail outlet all the time.

back to the recap: tuesday night was the saints superbowl parade, which was absolutely crazy. i went with our friend dave who was in town from louisville for a few days; he got to be here for the superbowl and the saints parade, but missed out on muses due to the weather-induced rescheduling. he and i had to park on canal street at galvez and WALK down to girod at st. charles in the cbd to watch the parade. the traffic was insane (estimated at 800,000 in the downtown area for the parade), but i was sure glad on the way out that we had done that. as parades go, the saint parade wasn’t much to speak of – not many throws, nothing exciting, borrowed floats from all the other crews. but it was exciting to welcome our football heroes back to town after gracing us with that spectacular win, and it was just yet one more magical moment in a season of magical moments that i was glad to be part of. (i forgot my camera that night, and cell phone pics didn’t come out, so no photos.)

we skipped the wednesday night parade due to exhaustion, and then everything was cancelled on thursday due to the bad weather. i was actually relieved to have a night off from the cold and some down time at home. but then friday night was a marathon. four parades! i dropped fae off uptown, as she was walking with BERG again in muses, early around 6pm; came back home for a while to kill time and then headed back down when the parade tracker told me the first parade was nearing our girod street location. the parking gods smiled on me and i got a spot two blocks from our viewing spot. despite the biting cold, it was a fun evening of parades, with hermes and d’etat being great lead-ins to muses. (morpheus kinda sucked, but three outta four ain’t bad.)

endymion captain's float

saturday was endymion. it’s been a long time since i watched endymion over on orleans, but this year, thanks to d, we had a private yard that was fenced in to hang out in, on the corner of david street. so fae scootered and heather and i rode bicycles and we had our lawn chairs and some adult beverages and a port-o-let and it was all very civilized. i didn’t catch a whole lot but it was still fun and nice to not be stepped on by the crazy mobs of parade-watchers and bead-catchers.

we skipped parades on sunday in favor of a relaxing valentine’s day devoid of mardi gras.

and that brings me up to date. today i must go work a bit in the shop and then break down my stuff and bring it home, and also figure out if i’m to have a costume for tomorrow. (it’s not looking like it – no time!)

thanks for reading, and i’m sure i’ll have a post-mardi gras update in a few days. happy mardi gras everyone!