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Phantasmagorical Art of New Orleans


"QUANTUM SHOT" #540
Link - article by Myrtle von Damitz, III and Avi Abrams



Reflecting peculiar and oddly coherent mechanics of the city

Considering how surreal New Orlean's environment can be, is it any wonder that this "almost-reborn" city hosts some of the most absurd and interesting art scene to be found in the US, and perhaps, the world?


(image credit: Taylor Lee Shepherd)

Street murals in New Orleans are also pretty wicked:


(mural art by Monique Ligons)

Of course, there is a mainstream art community here, but there is a renaissance of art going on right now; if it was somewhat staid before Katrina, it has exploded since then, and each strain of visual arts is interconnected because New Orleans is still essentially a small city.


art by Anna H. Powell

Procurers of anomalous perturbation

A selection of work from 32 contemporary New Orleans artists from a group called AntiAbecedarian was in recently on display at Barrister's Gallery, curated by Myrtle von Damitz, III.

Enter in a very SAFE door, so that "Mr. Most Smartest" (on the right) can greet you:


installations by Delaney Martin and Andrew Zeigler

Milea and Ivan dolls will gladly haunt you (left image, see a lot more strange dolls here). Image on the right has simply fantastic title: "To This Day in Bayou LaFourche the Souls of Stillborn Kittens Prey Upon the Ancient Ghosts of the Terrible Lizards" - if you can believe it, kitten souls!..


Dolls by Pandora Andrea Gastelum and art by Bobby Panama

From the same creator of "Kitten Souls" comes this little gem: Narwhals!! Yeah!!!....(uh, wait a moment) -


art by Bobby Panama

Cyclograph and Piniograph, by Taylor Lee Shepherd:



Narcissus Disease Vault - insects and vials in an oak cabinet:


art by Nina C. Nichols

Typewriter frustration, by Soup; and "Napping on Migration" by Monica Chemay:



"Antiabecedarians" is a word from the Anna Livia passage of Finnegans Wake by James Joyce. Although Mr. Joyce's precise intent as to the definition of "antiabecedarian" is debated, we intend that Antiabecedarians imply those who are familiar with the rudiments and rules enough to turn them on their heads. "Telekinesis proxenators in franca langua" may be translated roughly as "frankly or obscurely, procurers of anomalous perturbation."

"Cracking the whip" to revitalize art

New Orleans has been an introverted bohemian draw for centuries, but recent international attention to all aspects of the city's cultural phenomenons has delivered new energy and intensity to its visual arts community. The art scene in New Orleans is at a turning point. The world's established contemporary art market is at a turning point as well, with more focus on source and originality of work, beyond the pure numbers of the market.


"Parade Watchers" by Myrtle von Damitz, III and Mardi Gras costume by Jackie Mang

Throwing off entrenched, stagnant language

Many dynamic new visual arts alliances have formed since Hurricane Katrina - not just out of the intellectual petri dish of Barrister's Gallery but as a response to a wider desire of local artists to communicate with their friends and neighbors and to broadcast their sensibilities to the rest of the world. One such group alligned with Barrister's Gallery and the Antiabecedarians is the New Orleans Airlift (www.neworleansairlift.org).


"Confektion Album", by Dana Sherwood and "Double Doll" by John Burr, Jr.

An intellectual petri dish

Myrtle von Damitz, III says: "People might say that because of the Prospect 1 Biennial we have become a "center" for the arts, but the truth is New Orleans always attracted eccentrics and dedicated artists. However, we've either had to leave New Orleans to make a living or get eaten up (that's not so bad, either, but there are plenty of tragedies to point to.)

Our little group is only one aspect of a weird sort of dynamism that developed since the flood - people who lived here ten years ago and return say that they are impressed by our 'maturity,' which makes sense... We tend to be insular, maybe due to our reputation of being provincial, but really visual art is inseparable from the highly diverse and complicated way of life here... We show off for friends and neighbors for the most part, as a way of forming a community - it's just now that we find ourselves on a bigger stage and are stepping up to it.


"Bar Code" by Kourtney Keller (don't stare at it too long)

Then again, I think that there is a similar and sympathetic movement in visual arts across the globe. There's a kind of specialized, indigenous way of relating to one another with visual art in New Orleans, but maybe the added ingredient is the new exchange with the wider art world."

A Short History of Fantasmagoria of New Orleans (in the making)

I wish I had room in such a short article to delineate some of the history of why we are what we are right now, starting with the influx in the 9th Ward neighborhood in the 90's - or even the alcoholic victims and survivors from the '40's on. If you are familiar with Quintron and Miss Pussycat, they are the most well known but not nearly the whole, but it might give you a sense of things. I wish I could give you a running tally of the fantasmagoria from New Orleans: none of this is unconnected to, say, the beloved effigy of Ernie K-Doe, just to give an example...


"David & Goliath" by Monique Ligons and "Black Astronaut," by MLE Danger

This show is not just a display of the works of transient personas, this is a part of the new network of exchange between New Orleans and the rest of the world. The artists in Antiabecedarians make their home in New Orleans or have strong ties to New Orleans - they work not only to rebuild, hack apart and accurately construct the glorious text of New Orleans from this vantage, but to reach out to the newly converted.


From "Memorandum of Agreement" by Delaney Martin, and "Creature Attendees" by Kourtney Keller

Biographies of participating artists are provided here. They make for some entertaining read, here is an example, one for Megan Lee-Hoelzle:

"Megan was raised by rats, thus explaining her penchant for eggs and her habit of hoarding small, shiny objects. She has made friends with chickens, eats cheese as often as it can be provided, and is expert at operating a device known as "the grabby claw." Very descriptive and concise.

Strange effect B-movie photos, by Jaime Kalal:



"Here's Johnny!", New Orleans-style:


(images by Jaime Kalal)

Well, if you had just little too much of visual strangeness for now - take some time off in the shade (and then continue browsing our contemporary art section, you know it's good for you).


set-up photo by Dana Sherwood

CONTINUE TO "RADICAL MANNEQUINS"! ->

Also Read:
Wicked Wearable Sculptures
Dolls And Toys That Creep Us Out

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