In 2017 I was lucky enough to go to the US for a few weeks. One of my stops was New Orleans. I admit I had always romanticised New Orleans as this exotic and overgrown city where food and music was in abundance and the odd vampire lurked in smokey bars. I wasn't disappointed - everywhere was rich in character. Music on every corner, gypsies telling fortunes, voodoo houses, ornate verandahs dripping with greenery, smells and sights that I am sure are unique only to New Orleans.
My first day began at Cafe Du Monde with coffee and Beignets...see below. I had been curious to try one of these Beignets ever since I watched the movie 'Chef'. They were amazing - fresh from the fryer and both savoury and sweet at the same time. The waitresses were gorgeous is their uniforms and incredibly efficient as the place was pumping and the cues stretched down the street.
The Original Cafe Du Monde Coffee Stand was established in 1862 in the New Orleans French Market.
After we left the cafe we walked past a cooking school that was about to start a class. Not only did I learn how to make Gumbo and Praline but I had a history lesson. As our teacher, who was hilarious, cooked he also talked to us about how immigrants from a multitude of countries had impacted the architecture, culture, economy and of course the food of the city over the centuries.
Just wandering the streets illustrates this. Music is ever present - it is everywhere and really good. I am used to the street muscians in New Zealand who are either school kids with their clarinet or buskers belting out the old favs. These musicians however were incredible and I suspect they were professionals at night who gathered with fellow musicians during the daytime to jam.
One thing I was told before going to New Orleans was to never go anywhere alone...especially the cemeteries...well ...of course without planning it I found myself at the famous Lafayette Cemetery ...in the rain...alone ...and it was awesome. These graves were works of art and in beautiful states of decay.
Surrounding the cemetery is the famous Garden District. I wish I had more than an afternoon here as it was truly stunning. Victorian homes with lush gardens that spilled onto the streets, old cars and broken sidewalks...everything I had imagined and a wealth of inspiration. I took many photos that I would later draw upon for reference for my solo show 'Terrarium' in 2017.
In Royal Street which runs parallel to the famous Bourbon Street there are loads of galleries featuring both local and international artists.
Right is a photo I took though the window of Lucky Street Gallery . I loved Cathy's sculptures finding them both haunting and beautiful.
I took what feels like a million photos of the architecture and would love to one day incorporate some of the design elements into a home of my own.
These two characters ran a cute shop in the Garden District and we spent ages talking about art and pop culture. They were so stylish and I was well...soaked from the rain, wearing a daggy skirt and in trainers..
Another highlight for me in this area of the world was a swamp tour. Sadly alligators had retreated for the winter but I did get to see some racoons, little rodents and elegant birds. It was very apparent however that this part of New Orleans was still in clean up after hurricane Katrina. There were washing machines and general house hold debris lodged in trees and homes that had been deserted due to damage.
I painted this piece called 'Wrath' with all this in mind. She is nature - both protector and destroyer. The birds are Louisiana Spoonbills and under her hat a hurricane brews.