Well, that was interesting!

September 30, 2021
While it makes my heart sing to listen to people’s stories about how being quarantined changed their lives and enlightened them about their diets, their marriages, and their affinity for positive affirmation YouTube videos (insert eye roll here), it really excites me to see the changes in the world of art that were a result of artists and gallerists witnessing an unsure, uncertain future staring them in the face. It’s not any specially kept secret that art has had it fair share of growth after global hysterics scared the mixed media out of us in the community. 2020 was no different. Artists trapped at home flooded the social media platforms with new and interesting creations, while gallerists bent over backwards, forwards, and did toe touches just to sell a painting that would have flown off the walls pre-lockdown.

Suddenly, the world was once again looking to artists to add some fun to this mess, and shed some light on where we were headed with our eyes wide shut. Galleries that followed strict rules for decades began to look in other directions for salvation, and artists began to not only visually document their stories and lives but began to take note of the things shaping them inside our ever-changing 2020.

Perhaps no neighborhood in the city was impacted more noticeably than the French Quarter. With Bourbon Street normally teeming with boobies and Big A$$ Beers, suddenly videos of it teeming with rats and nothing else were circulating faster than misinformation about local testing centers (another eye roll). The world was enlightened by the belly of the beast and the New Orleans art world was about to enlighten others as to how to artistically survive a pandemic:

1. Break the mold that made you: While galleries changed window art and brought as much attention to their New Orleans art as they could, Galerie Rue Royale shook it up enough to add cracks to the sidewalks. Breaking their international artist mold in favor of a virtual newbie American photographer, the company surrendered its “we don’t represent photography” philosophy with a smile that could light up Royal Street. Adding photographer Talor Stone to its much-adorned wall space at 541 Royal Street, this addition marks the company’s third American artist to join their roster, and the first photographer. Discovered at a Mississippi festival, Stone’s imagery is captivating on many levels. Traveling the globe capturing moments in time rather than images, Stone documents the parts of our world that lack human inhabitants, if you will. From towering icebergs emerging from celestial blue space, to the dancing hairs in the mane of a wild horse immersed in the green countryside, you are hard-pressed to find a human, something our streets knew all too well in 2020. The gallery’s hope is to tap into the isolation people felt across the year. The vibrant, crisp colors coupled with Talor’s dynamic compositional balance and her amazing understanding of what is interesting to look at, easily evoke fear, compassion, and understanding from the gallery’s visitors. She takes something that is interesting to look at and makes it exceptional to see, waiting hours for light to hit the object or her subject just perfectly. While some might call it capturing the light, I see it more as embracing the light and holding on to it with an emotional understanding of what light will do and when it will do it.

Her metallic pigmented photos add a delicate feel to the gallery’s standard of impressive, ornate framing and heavily textured paintings that see superheroes and Hollywood icons battle for center stage. Long-time gallerist and Galerie Rue Royale cruise director Dore Levy feels strongly about Stone joining the family. “After being so shaken on a personal level during that time, we wanted to reflect that and shake up our artistic vision a bit; we knew we were making the right art choices,” she said of the gallery’s enlightened approach to representing a photographer.

2. Judge a book by its cover anyway: Always a place to find something a bit extra and certainly unique, Gallery Arlo has added the book Lady Nola by Andre Carrier to its delightful menu of brain candy. Inspired by, and a celebration of, the paintings of New Orleans artist Stephanie Akers, this book is both a joy to read and an enlightened view of sorts of the women in your own life. Akers’ happy, free-form paintings of women take on a life and persona of their own when Carrier’s words are added: “Aviva’s love of dance made me think of my own mother dancing around our house when I was younger.

Akers has been a staple at Gallery Arlo for years, but this newest collaboration shines a bright light on her talents as well as her imagination and appreciation for what women do for our society. Andre Carrier spent his high school days with Akers at Benjamin Franklin High School, completely unaware of her talents. Later, after life shared some important lessons with him, he became enlightened to her talents and Lady Nola was born. Gallery Arlo brings a whimsical and delightful world for visitors to enjoy, celebrating our city and its artists along with human beings in general.

3. Change your scene: Be like Emilie Rhys and you will be one heck of an artistic genius and local star. Not only that, but you will also have a new place to hang out because she recently moved her gallery, Scene By Rhys, from the delightful Toulouse Street location down Royal Street near Ursulines. Change is good for this daughter of New Orleans artist Noel Rockmore. Both father and daughter are being celebrated with an impressive show at the New Orleans Jazz Museum, New Orleans Music Observed: The Art of Noel Rockmore and Emilie Rhys. Rhys recently completed the book of the same name comprised of 365 artist illustrations and celebrating the artists’ love and appreciation for New Orleans and its musicians. The book is available at Rhys’ new location (1036 Royal Street) as well as at both Louisiana Music Factory and Arcadian Books & Art Prints. If you love a New Orleans musician, chances are Rhys has painted them in action, capturing a scene live while the musician performs. She shines a light on our city’s most prized and often best kept secrets, our musicians, and the tapestry of sound they weave, connecting our city’s history with its everchanging future.

Embracing what we cannot change and turning it into inspiration for what can change, our perception of life, is real enlightenment. Embrace the light, but be sure to have your sunglasses handy. While I’m sure we’ll all need to know the best way to make quinoa in an outdoor oven, or the fastest way to get six pack abs on your bathroom floor, what we really need to know is that art and the people who make it and represent it have our backs as the entire world transitions into a new and exciting way of living.