Anyone who grew up here in New Orleans should remember watching our beloved Morgus the Magnificent. For over half a century, Morgus prefaced the weekend horror movies with his own New Orleans style horror vignettes. Morgus, along with his sidekick Chopsley would entertain us with his weekly scientific experiments gone wrong, dissecting and poking and prodding […]
Category Archives: Artists
Received via email earlier today in response to my requesting confirmation of what I’d heard from a reliable source:
“The administration pulled the ordinances from the GA [Governmental Affairs] Committee agenda and they plan to withdraw the ordinances. If they don’t, Cmbr Palmer will withdraw them.”
(Source: Email from Nicole Webre, J.D., Legislative Director for District C Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer)
First and foremost, I thank Councilmember Palmer and her staff for their responsiveness (in this case, taking the time to communicate promptly and directly with this constituent during a budget meeting). I also applaud their willingness to reconsider this matter in general — I can’t imagine that choosing to withdraw these ordinances was an easy decision to make. And I’m grateful a matter that could only be described as contentious from its inception will not turn into yet another bitter and ugly fight.
That being said, it is clear that this matter is one of distinct concern to the citizens of our community. While it would be easy to declare the withdrawal of these ordinances a victory, it really isn’t. Concerns regarding public safety, maintenance, and sanitation must be addressed more effectively — that hasn’t changed.
In order to move forward, those who supported the proposed ordinances and those who opposed them need to find a way to work together to improve the safety and general condition of the Jackson Square pedestrian mall. I’m hoping, too, that our city’s administration and Councilmember Palmer’s office can facilitate a meaningful and long-term strategy to address the areas where all would like to see consistent improvement.
Finally, I’m hoping that this becomes an opportunity for an inclusive and collaborative effort. These repeated skirmishes are tiresome for everyone; can we please move on, into new territory?
Let this be a benchmark moment for our citizens, the artists and performers who make the Jackson Square pedestrian mall (as well as our city’s so-called “cultural economy”) live and breathe, and our elected officials to begin working together to create solutions.
If not now, then when?
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Call for action: on Monday, 12/3/12, New Orleans City Council’s Government Affairs Committee will vote on the Jackson Square loitering ban & changed vendor ordinances.
Recently, Lunanola and I went to see Beasts of the Southern Wild which, as most of you know, is a locally produced film with local actors. This is not so much a review of the film as just an assortment of my thoughts during the movie and in the days following. Indeed, Beasts is a grand over-the-top gothic fairy tale as told by a child called Hushpuppy whose imagination runs wild with the stories told to her by her alcoholic father, Wink. They live on a mythical swath of land off the Louisiana coast called The Bathtub by its inhabitants, a small community of people living on the edge of civilization.
Beasts reminds me of poetry in that the poet tells her story in such a personal way that the reader may never grasp its deepest meaning. The reader reads the poem, or story, through the lens of their own life experiences, often completely missing the poet’s intent. And that’s ok – it doesn’t negate the meaning of the work but enhances it by expanding and challenging the reader. The same can be said of this film and how I feel about it. I didn’t read any reviews before seeing the film because I didn’t want any other opinions influencing, even subconsciously, what I was going to see on the screen.
Having said that, I found myself wincing through much of the film; reacting to the squalor of Hushpuppy’s existence, the harshness and obvious mental illness of her father and the rampant alcoholism of most of The Bathtub residents we met. I didn’t see this isolated community largely as a celebration of a self-sustaining culture as much as the smaller stories of a few delusional souls, who’ve long since forgotten the real meaning of community, compassion and care, barely hanging on by their fingernails to a dysfunctional life. There was more about Beasts that bothered me than delighted or awed me and maybe that’s the film makers intention. In any case, it gives the viewer much to ponder.
I felt sad for Hushpuppy and the absence of a positive adult figure in her life except for an apparently cursory relationship with Little Jo (played by Pamela Harper), the resident Shaman, who taught the local kids about medicinal herbs, the flora and animal life in The Bathtub and the importance of being good stewards of the land and water. (Thank you for portraying her as a real three-dimensional healer instead of the stereotypical Voodoo queen!) She was the only positive, grounded character in the film and the only adult who attempted to prepare the kids for a real life instead of encouraging a life based on fantasy.
The interaction of people with each other, and the cause and effect of that interaction, has always fascinated me. I suppose that’s why I focused so much more on this aspect of the movie, while I was actually watching it, over the surrealism and symbolism the film was obviously pushing. In retrospect, though, the symbolism and subsequent cautionary tale is a vital part of what makes this movie unique. For instance, although I found the glacier avalanches jarring and somewhat disruptive I can acknowledge the part they played in the tale and beauty of the cinematography.
Generally, I thought the acting by all of the actors to be just about perfect. There’s a lot of Oscar buzz around this film and Quvenzhane’ Wallice, who plays Hushpuppy, and it appears she’s the darling of the Indie film set this year. There’s no disputing the child has a beautiful and expressive face but I always felt like someone was just out of view saying, “Now look fierce; now cry; now act crazy”. For me, Dwight Henry, who played the dad, was pretty incredible. I felt like he WAS the person he portrayed with all the nuances and warts of his character’s personality played completely naturally and believably. Children are so close and open to their emotions that I think most of them can act simply by following directions. But adults have to peel away layers of their own experiences and feelings to find the place where a character can come out. For this reason, I think Dwight was the better actor in this film and it’s a shame his achievement is being overshadowed when it should be equally acclaimed.
The cinematography was magical and pleasured us with torridly beautiful landscapes and seascapes. The manipulation of ordinary pigs into the hulking, mythical aurochs was nothing short of genius.
This movie had parts that I loved (Miss Jo with the kids) and parts that I hated (mamma shooting a gator while naked except for huge white diaper-like panties – WTF?). It made me laugh (the joyous fireworks scene) and cry (the death scene). In the end, I still can’t say if I “liked” it or not; I can only say it was a wild and interesting ride.
However, the most amazing aspect of Beasts is that it was made at all on the hand-to-mouth budget that produced it. The creativity of the film makers and the ingenuity required to make it is impressive and showcases the best this city has to offer artistically. That makes me proud to be a New Orleanian and, ultimately, happy I watched the film.
(And I’m still processing it.)
Since 2009, Bombay Sapphire and the Rush Philanthropic Art Foundation have
celebrated the ingenuity and insight of emerging artists with the Artisan Series. Last year, San Francisco and New York ranked top in local artist participation; this year, our goal is to put New Orleans in the lead.
Our city is unique in its rich history and diverse modern landscape, something that
definitely shows in the work of the thousands of talented artists that make their
homes here. We’re inviting all local 2D and 3D visual artists to submit original
artwork of any theme before August 24th, 2012. Submission is free, and you can submit one piece a day until the end of the competition. This is New Orleans’
opportunity to share the incredible richness of its artistic community with the
world, so please spread the word!
Of course, this competition isn’t just about showing some local pride; it’s also a great chance for local artists to showcase their talent. Semi-finalists’ work will be featured in one of three New Orleans-based exhibits at L’Entrepot’s Julia Street gallery space. Even better, winners at the local level will go on to compete at Art Basel Miami for a chance to win a solo exhibit at the Rush Arts Gallery in New York.
Anna Harris is the Account Manager at Cathedral Creative Studios, a marketing and photography studio dedicated to fostering client business growth and building strong brand identities through dynamic print, outdoor and interactive media. She recently moved back to New Orleans after a three year stint in Chicago, and is overjoyed to be back in the land of Sazeracs, brass bands, and daily costume opportunities.
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We’d met on an intermittently drizzly day in the heart of the Vieux Carré in January 1992, when I’d stopped to check out the poetry he was peddling at Jackson Square.
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This quick post is really mostly for our NOLA ex-pat readers. Yesterday there was a second line in the French Quarter/Marigny for Coco Robicheaux who died on November 25. This afternoon I’ve been looking at some of the photos and videos taken of the celebration and decided to post a couple of links here for […]
Please let me preface that with the fact that I am not one of those “Northshore Snobs”, I’m a yankee who’s been here since ’75, mothered a cajun girl and am not going back. Louisiana is my home and that’s that! It has been a crappy week at our house this week. We had to […]
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In 2007, a group of writers came together under the auspices of the Faulkner Society and the Words and Music Conference and formed Peauxdunque Writers Alliance. The crazy name came about because each and every one of the writers felt like they’d arrived in New Orleans from their own private podunks. And now, the PWA […]
Amy Winehouse died today, and you can read all about it on the righteous Huffington Post obituary that reminds us her demise was just a “slo-mo car crash.”
Her death is not altogether shocking, but it is disturbing nonetheless.
In a sense, her artistic marketability stemmed from a bad-girlification of 1960s soul music. She was a skinny, tatted-up tough girl from working-class London, with big hair and a voice to match. Her struggles with (or seeming acceptance of) drug addiction only enhanced her reputation as a true entertainer, one with moxie, attitude, and presence.
Fans relished her bad behavior, cheering lyrics like “You love blow and I love puff” (“Back to Black”) and “I told you I was trouble / You know that I’m no good” (“You Know That I’m No Good”). Her refusal to go to rehab was celebrated in a Grammy-winning song (“Rehab”), in which Winehouse admits to suffering from addiction and depression.
This glorification of mental illness and self-destructive behavior sends mixed messages to those who also struggle with these issues. Winehouse’s drug use was not only acceptable but legitimized by her celebrity status. This was a double validation: Her drug use fed into her being perceived as a rock star, and her being a rock star forgave her drug use. And now she’s dead, and no one’s surprised.
So what does it take to remove the idolatry from substance abuse? The wasted talents of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and many others including Amy Winehouse now, have all developed into a tragic mythos of “forever young,” without acknowledgement of what really ripped these creative beings from our midst. The real scourge is untreated illness, the exaltation of which prevents honesty, recovery, and true grit from being communicated to a public sold on the dangerous cheapness of entertainment.