As a sales manager at Don Bohn Ford, Duane Spencer used his calendar for more than just scheduling.
“Every time I had a little down time, I would draw something on this calendar that would motivate me to get me through the month,” said Spencer. “I would just discard them, but there was another manager that saw them and loved them.”
Spencer’s fellow-manager loved the sketches so much that he would frame them and put them up in his own office. One day, Laurie Reed, owner of Ariodante Art Gallery, came in to buy a car, got a glimpse of the calendar sketches, and asked about the artist.
After an introduction from his co-worker, the gallery owner asked to see more of Spencer’s work and was impressed, encouraging him to continue to hone his skills.
And for the next three years, that’s what Spencer did. He’d set up his easel and a canvas and “pretty much paint anywhere,” he said. He eventually converted his game room into a studio.
And after another well-timed nudge from his discerning-eyed co-worker, he went back to Laurie Reed with three of his works. She liked them enough to set up a show for Spencer at Ariodante.
Now, for those readers over the age of 30 who have some knowledge of basketball, then the answer to the question that’s been buzzing around in your head is, “yes, that Duane Spencer.”
Spencer is one of the most decorated basketball players in Louisiana history. He’s an AAU National Champion, a McDonald’s and Parade All-American, and he led Walter L. Cohen to two state championships. He’s on the Top 100 list for the best players in New Orleans basketball history, and he played for legendary Coach John Thompson at Georgetown and then Dale Brown at LSU.
He played professionally all over the world, including in Italy, Greece, Saudi Arabia, Puerto Rico, South Korea, Argentina, the Netherlands and Israel, among others.
And that travel influenced his art, “tremendously,” Spencer said. “Whenever I got a chance, I loved to go look at the different art. I didn’t realize it, but it was helping influence the stuff I do now subconsciously.”
Spencer was particularly struck by Venice, Italy, “because of the colors,” he said. “I’m fascinated with colors and lighting and how light affects color, and you see it in the buildings.”
Spencer first began honing his skills in art (and basketball…and judo, pottery…) at his neighborhood Irish Channel Boys’ Club as well as at vacation bible school with Rachel Sims Baptist Center. (Unfortunately, the Irish Channel Boys’ Club, with all of the opportunities it offered, closed years ago.)
He continued his artistic education at Cohen before majoring in art at both Georgetown and LSU.
While he has worked with acrylics and prints, Spencer prefers oil painting. He says his subject matter is “pretty much my experience and what I see every day, just driving along through the city. There’s so much history and culture and so much subject matter within the city…let’s say the different colors, let’s say the metalwork, all the different festivals, from Mardi Gras to Jazzfest to the Mardi Gras Indians and second lines, so that’s where a lot of the influence comes from – the culture of the city of New Orleans.”
Spencer continues to paint, and has more shows on the horizon. For more information on Duane Spencer and his art, visit www.spencergallery41.com.
Brian Friedman writes about New Orleans for NolaVie.