‘Holiday Cheer’ first Saturday art walk offers sights, insights

Harvest moon rising over Venice, La., painted by Will Smith Jr.

Covid-19 has all of us cooped up for days at a time, but Julia Street’s First Saturday Gallery Opening and Art Walk are great opportunities to venture downtown to safely enjoy aesthetic beauty in the Arts District. From 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 5, 14 fine art galleries will showcase artworks in a holiday-themed celebration.

In the late afternoon, starting at 4 p.m., at the corner of Camp Street, Gallery 600 Julia will unveil 20 canvases created by Natchez-born landscape artist Will Smith, Jr. His exhibition, titled “A 2020 Perspective: Scenes from Venice, the End of the World,” illustrates the Gulf coast’s very delicate relationship with nature.

Smith is a photographic realist. For this series, he engaged drones to soar 300-500 feet above swampland in the toe of Louisiana’s boot. Aerial photographs taken daybreak to dusk, coinciding with the harvest moon on September 14, 2019, inspired images that capture birds’ eye views of the furthermost land near the mouth of the Mississippi. From tree-top scenes of pelicans roosting in a cypress tree to expansive views of clouds rushing across the Gulf, his depictions are both realistic and abstract.

Smith now lives in New Orleans’ warehouse district, but has always been fascinated by the marshlands.

“I remember growing up, coming to visit New Orleans, I was always intrigued with the little houses on Manchac Swamp, on the water…wondering how do they get to the grocery store?” he recalls. In recent years, Smith has made hyper-realistic artistic studies of the Pearl River, Honey Island Swamp and the Atchafalaya.

“[Water is] about the humans who live on it, the undercurrent of us needing to pay more attention to the power of it, and the fragility of our relationship with it,” he told Country Roads magazine in 2019. Bringing images of threatened landscapes to the fore has an urgency Smith calls “poetry meets police report.”

Mouth of the Mississippi near Red Pass, La.

During First Saturday’s “Holiday Cheer,” galleries will offer “passports” to tour every gallery, thus entering guests into a raffle contest with its top prize one night in a penthouse suite at the Windsor Court Hotel and access to the 22nd floor Club Lounge. Sofia NOLA will serve complimentary Jingle Juice and Jonathan Ferrara Gallery champagne.

Arts District New Orleans (ADNO) is hosting a coat drive for Eddie’s House through Dec. 8 to donate winter clothing for homeless veterans. Drop-off points will be located along Julia Street.


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