Editor’s note: Southern Glossary is a web-based magazine experimenting with different approaches to arts coverage. With a blend of feature writing and blogging, Southern Glossary hopes to provide wide-ranging communication among artists, performers, and art-lovers across the region.
In the City that Care Forgot, sometimes it feels like you have all the time in the world — but sooner or later, exhibits close and the final curtain falls. Together, Southern Glossary and NolaVie provide an alternative to the standard arts review. Our monthly Last Call column will give readers fair warning and convincing reasons to catch an event before it’s lights out.
The artists and craftsmen of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival may not generate enough anticipation to warrant their own cubes, and, let’s face it, no one is losing sleep trying to make their ideal route through the tents to hit up certain booths. However, a stroll through the stalls of Heritage Square can offer you a lot more than a way to walk off that soft shell po-boy. Here’s a group of artists you should seek out — appearing this weekend only at the Fairgrounds.
Frank Relle captures the beauty out of the darkness in his photography of old New Orleans homes and the moss draped branches of the centuries-old oaks. He dolls his subjects up a little with designed lighting and uses low viewing angles to build up the imposing, eerie qualities of these old structures. The result presents a haunted but not horrified landscape that plays up its reputation for fascinatingly attractive decay and aggressive vegetation.
New Orleans-based artist Bryan Cunningham uses a variety of materials to craft unique works that seem like iconography for some quasi-religious cult of the American weird. Elvis, Abraham Lincoln, mud flap girls, swamp creatures, and voodoo dolls have all been subjects for his paintings, which are then stretched and suspended by handmade frames made of recycled materials. He also makes colorful crucifixes. His work celebrates the quirky, but all of the elements and colors balance too well to be dismissed as mere kitsch.
Layla Ardalan has spent most of her post-college career in New Orleans, but her art is constantly inspired by global influences and her travels. She works in mixed media with a basis on printmaking, creating both abstract and narrative images from patterns based on nature. Her latest work also incorporates embroidery. Ardalan has been a favorite at Jazz Fest for a few years running, and her rising status led to her being commissioned to create this year’s Rex Proclamation.
Working out of Asheville, North Carolina, Mikel Robinson’s art builds outward from original photographs printed onto wood or other surfaces. Depending on the needs or theme of each work, he enhances these photos by applying other mediums like gold leaf or encaustic (beeswax) paints to them, or incorporating them into paper and found object collages. There is a hard edge of stark nostalgia his work and plenty of recurring themes and images, but his strength as a creator lies in the variety and flexibility he brings to each piece.