For the Love of It

July 28, 2014
I have a really big problem with movies about hauntings. Well, not so much a big problem with the movies themselves as much as the people in them. You know the kind I mean: they sit around wondering what or whose voice is telling them to get out, rather than packing. Personally, I don't need a voice. A post-it on the fridge would work for me, I am just that easy. Then there's that one guy who takes the broken flashlight into the basement full of dismembered baby dolls. And inevitably the chick who just must shower, alone, naked, in the haunted house, at night. Seems to me like they just don't see the obvious. Me, I don't miss a thing, and that's lucky for you art lovers. I am a firm believer in keeping your wits about you, and aside from the occasional paranormal message, one simply must notice things that make a difference.

This time of year, New Orleans plays host to more haunting surprises in the art world than you can shake a crucifix at.

Always a mover and shaker, Galerie D'Art Francais (look for a name change at this gallery coming soon in 2014) is bringing the pop and modern style of artist DeVon to Royal Street. DeVon, best known for capturing classic Hollywood icons, dreamers, and rock legends, and bringing them to life in the modern world, will showcase a series of American Hero pieces at the 541 Royal Street location. Having studied art history abroad, DeVon became fluent in multiple languages, Spanish and Italian to name just a couple. With his roots in the Sundance Film Festival and Park City, DeVon takes these classic American Heroes, and captures them more as celebrities than public servants. Multi-media reigns supreme here. DeVon has developed his own contemporary Pop Art style using everything from canvas and barn board, to brush metal and plexi. With his incredible use of color and inspiration pulled from artists including Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, DeVon allows us a glimpse of Wonder Woman on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine. Using acrylic paint, linen, enamel, and in some case embedded light, he brings to life the heroes we idolized as children and creates a collage of stories behind them, literally. His works will be permanently housed, and exclusively offered, at this location and its sister gallery in Carmel-by-the-Sea-California. Some of the artist's celebrity collectors include Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds, Charlie Sheen, Mariah Carey, and McElroy.

Taking notice of an outstanding gallery along Royal Street, one shouldn't miss the collections at Martin Lawrence Gallery. Easily missed, but shouldn't be missed, this semi-chain of galleries houses works by Picasso, Keith Haring, Felix Mas, and Marc Chagall. The collections not only span time, but span movements and Martin Lawrence is one of the only locations in the city that takes a comprehensive collection like this and offers it up for public consumption. This unprecedented collection is surpassed only by the galleries' commitment to excellence as art dealers. Priding themselves in an environment that not only makes clients feel confident in their investment, Martin Lawrence Gallery offers clients a unique experience with continued service and commitment throughout the life of their purchase. For those visitors who are looking for more of a museum feel, this gallery is a perfect fit. They routinely have pieces on loan to major museums across the globe including The Albertina Museum, Vienna, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the City Museum, Fukuoka, Japan, the Las Vegas Museum of Art, and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark. While some galleries offer the newest and most innovative designs and creations, Martin Lawrence forces the art world to hold true to the masters, to pay attention to the collections offered by such a gallery, and forces us to take notice of what a professional art corporation can be.

The Lafitte Guest House sits just across the street from the most historic bar in the French Quarter, Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop. While the bar is famed for what it looks like on the outside, the Guest House is known for what sits inside and on its walls. There, the art gallery features a Russian artist with a style reminiscent of Salvador Dali, with clever twists that will have you gazing into his canvases for quite some time. Vladimir Kush's art training goes back to his days at Moscow Higher Art and Craft School. He went on to earn money by drawing portraits on the Santa Monica Pier before getting a break in Hawaii. Kush's creations take realistic forms and transforms then into abstract ideas. Using one focus to keep the viewer's interests, with a multitude of aspects, Kush takes the viewer on a journey through his mind as well as the canvas. The gallery itself is quaintly creole with a bit of an upswing. The salon style of hanging works well with the art and Kush manages to hold his own against the period furnishings and chandelier lighting by bring a modern turn to the traditional French Quarter look. The piece titled "Behind the Trees" is a perfect example of Kush taking a valid image and tricking us into seeing one subject while several are present. His commercial value is strong in the market today and creating pieces like "Cirque du Metal" shows his unique control over his color, brushstroke, and creativity. The thing to take note of mostly in Kush's creations is his creativity: the ideas that create his visions and the visions that drive his images are a never-ending circle of inspiration that is apparent from painting to painting.

In the Marigny sits a little hotel named the Frenchman Hotel. Located on Frenchman Street in the heart of everything that's festive in New Orleans, this little hotel has its walls covered with the works of a dynamic self-taught artist name Diane Millsap. Millsap's explosions of color are described by the artist as "Happy Accidents" . Being self-taught, her style has changed through the years, while her love for her work has increased. Millsap sees each painting as a creation, and is thrilled to take commissions that she knows people are excited about. "I love when someone likes my work enough to give it a good home" , she said sitting inside the expansive collection at the Frenchman Hotel. Dangling on the cusp of fame in the art world, Diane disagrees that she is even remotely famous, and her humble nature shows in her work. While caution is thrown to the wind in her creations, they are balanced with a rich line, and a delicate shaping of tress and eaves of houses. Her row houses stand far and above as her best work and she has them in varying forms hanging inside the hotel. Millsap plans very little as she paints. The sky is often larger than needed while the streets are too narrow, and the houses bend and creak as though they are lying nearly flat, but each aspect is so tightly painted, that she winds them together into a beautiful necklace of off-color beads. "Dream New Orleans" is particularly impressive with a pattern blocks creating a wet street leading and disappearing into nothingness as St. Louis Cathedral rises just enough into the sky to anchor the entire work. Diane Millsap is taking notice of a city in which she does not live. However, as a local I was flattered by the way she painted my hometown. With fever and passion she creates images I see every day in a way that allows me appreciate them as if I have never seen them before, but relish in the fact that they are part of me, and the place I love so much. Noticing this about her work is as easy as standing in front of it. You feel her love for her work as you look at each painting. She joked that cooking and cleaning come second to painting and that if she had to stop she would have no idea what to do with herself. That's a real artist, and a real lover of art.

I stand by my claim that one shouldn't have to get hit in the face with green slime to know it's time to call the realtor, however, sometimes noticing things and seeing hidden messages in good time can make for the kind of journey that is both memorable and educational. Taking our time to see, witness, and take notice of things around us is important to our appreciation of everyday things, while taking our time to respond to them can give us the option to not only enjoy them, but learn from them. You can't take any greater notice of something than when you learn from it.