A Royal Stroll

May 06, 2014
Sitting right on top my bucket list is a picture of me sitting right on top Mount Kilimanjaro. Whenever I say this, people look at me like I am bat swattin' crazy. You see, I am not exactly one who enjoys long strolls anywhere. I don't walk on the beach because lying down on the beach is better, I don't to hike in the forest because lying down in the forest is better, and I don't strolling through neighborhoods looking at cute houses, because lying down on my sofa in my own house is better.

However, there is one stroll I get off the sofa for, and that one is right around the corner, literally. The Royal Street Stroll is the part of The New Orleans Food and Wine Experience that celebrities the sights, the sounds, and tastes of Royal Street. Take that, add a dash of art, and guess what, I'm walking on Thursday, May 22 to make sure I get my fill of the visual delights that this year's Royal Street Stroll has to offer.

Jump-start the experience by taking a walk through the mind of one of the most sought after artists in this region at Tanner Gallery (830 Royal Street). Artist Tanner has a collection like no other in this haunting but welcoming gallery space along the Stroll. His newest miniatures, 20 in the collection, are perfect examples of the way this artist's mind works. Clean and appealing, with little fluff, these small but impressive additions do all the work of a large canvas in a 4 x 4 space. They are like a morsel of what is to be offered inside the doors of this location. Collect these for $2,400.00 each, including a custom handmade Italian frame, shipping and insurance within the continental United States. However, do not stop there. Journey into the side room that Tanner uses as his workspace and if you're lucky, you might catch the master's hand in action. Also, spend some time walking around the rest of the open clean space and take in the sights and sounds of the artist's thoughts. Each work is born from his head and while each tree bares a similarity, Tanner sees each one as having a separate personality, unique to itself. Keep that in mind as you set your sights on the original "Woodland Requiem" . It literally feels like you can continue your journey through that painting into a mysterious forest, where who knows what you will find.

While the work is the eye of the beholder, the artist is the real treat in this gallery. Tanner has managed to take his mind, and thoughts, and create a space that allows visitors to journey through them. Walking through the space one can almost immediately feel a sense of entering another realm of intrigue and mystery. You will begin to savor art in its simplest forms. As a viewer, when you can do this, you are experiencing a rarity in the art world: you're actually feeling the talent of the artist. While seeing a person's talent is as easy as opening your eyes, feeling the talent is the responsibility of the artist, and Tanner offers his collectors and visitors this feeling with what appears to be minimal effort, making it a gift to each one of us.

Take a walk on the wild side at Craig Tracy Gallery (827 Royal Street). Enjoy the body painting and the creations that tease your mind and some other parts, if you know what I mean. Celebrate this open and roomy gallery with artist Craig Tracy who will be appearing alongside Rebecca Romijn and RuPaul on GSN's new series "Skin Wars" . Tracy will serve as celebrity judge in this eight episode elimination series that has body art creators competing against each other for a coveted title. But the best part is that local artist Craig Tracy has been making a name for himself and the French Quarter, all over the world, with creations like his Fiat advertisement in ESPN Magazine's 2013 Body Issue.

Turning hot, sexy bodies into ferocious animals of prey is just one of the things you'll love about this artist. His body abstractions are a breath of loud, fresh air, in an art form that can sometimes go unnoticed. Challenge yourself to find the model in these conglomerations of lines, space, and color. At first glance, you can almost hear the piece "Whimsy" . That's right. I said, "hear" . It is amazing to see art make noise, while it's still and silent, commanding you to look at it subliminally. That is what all of Tracy's works do. They quietly command your attention, and pique your curiosity.

In other pieces, the models are obvious, and are actually part of the work and the feeling being portrayed. Used as canvas, these forms bend and flow from corner to corner in a circular and sometime liquid motion, ignoring what we normally think our bodies can do, and come to life as a conduit for the images floating on them. Step into pieces that will make your head spin as you try to understand the inspiration, not to mention the technique, associated with works that transform the human body into a work of art, while still allowing appreciation for the gracious and beautiful lines that make us up. Tracy has taken the term "nude sitting" to another level, adding a dimension that will not only stop you in your tracks, but also draw you in and take you on an adventure that you won't be able to resist.

Always one to call attention to what I see as most important, Craig Tracy loves his art... not like I love lying down"...he really loves his art! He lives for it, works for it, and allows it to transform him as much as he transforms it. Tracy is his creation; he feels it, and it grows from a love for a craft that sets him apart from other creators in this field. Transforming himself with every creation, and making a name and a statement with each idea that he allows us to witness.

Journey into a world of color and iconography at Rodrigue Gallery (730 Royal Street). Artist George Rodrigue's life, accomplishments, and talents are celebrated in this break from the madness outside. Walk in and suddenly you feel the serene calm that the gallery has come to know. With Memorial Exhibitions in full swing until 2015, the gallery is a festival of all things Rodrigue, and the staff is known for their entertaining and enthusiastic approach to detailing his work. From the revolving blue dog in the front window to the whimsical piano painted in swirls, this will be the best part of your stroll. The Memorial Exhibit plays host to some of the most impressive and monumental works of Rodrigue's career.

"Loup Garou" stands as one of the rawest images of the artist's career-topping Blue Dog series. Rodrigue's paintings of Cajun culture, not only capture the life of South Louisiana, but also have become the most collected creations representing the culture. "Cabin in the Oak" , 1969 shows the artist's roots and commitment to developing a craft and a style that would take not only a culture by storm, but the world by storm, as well. Be sure to step up to "Dog In A Box" , 1990: this painting is an interpretation of Rodrigue's odd and fascinating thoughts regarding the Loup Garou as the Cajun Werewolf. The exhibit will not only inspire creativity, but also inspire thoughts about one's own life; a particularly introspective work, "Paint Me Back Into Your Life" stands far and above as one of the most thought provoking of his career, in my opinion.

Play games with "Fours Oaks and Four Dogs" , and let you hair down and smile as your voyage ends on works like "Color Me Happy" . This exhibit is a true journey into the life of an artist, and the soul of his work. George Rodrigue changed the way artists painted, and thought about painting. As an artist and a man, he made the world sit up and notice a great power that could come from adding paint to a surface with heart and soul rather than just a brush. So rare do we see an artist with this gift, and so rare do we get to walk through their lives in one fantastic journey on Royal Street.

While Royal Street in known for being the epicenter of all that is cultural in the French Quarter, truth be told, it is the French Quarter. From the shops that line the sidewalks, to the artists and antique dealers that line the walls of the shops, there is no other street that says French Quarter and New Orleans in the city. People flock to its pedestrian center during the work week and locals make their way through everyday lives rarely noticing the majesty that exists with each step. And somewhere, with in the average everyday bustle, lies a journey to be taken into the minds, the talents, the bodies, and the memories of some of the most impressive men and creators you will ever meet. You just have step off the sofa and take a stroll.