Artist a Day Challenge 2016-9: Brandan Odums & Noirlinians Usher in New Wave of Art in NOLA

Photo, Maxwell Rasche.  Photo Credit:  Brandan Odums

Laissez le bon temps rouler!

I’ve got New Orleans on my mind, so I thought I’d use today’s post to shine a light on the art that’s being made in the Crescent City today. Steeped in tradition, plagued by disaster and portrayed as a crown jewel of urban renewal, New Orleans is a multifaceted and deeply complex city. The artists highlighted here challenge us to look at NOLA in new ways.

Brandan Odums

Brandan Odums

As a social activist, artist and video director Brandan Odums does not see roadblocks as challenges, he views them as opportunities.  He turned an abandoned Ninth Ward Housing Project into an art installation transforming the building into a space for artistic and social commentary.  While doing so he exposed a legacy of Katrina that’s ignored in a city struggling to redefine itself as a triumphant example of urban revival.  Over 100,000 African-Americans were displaced from New Orleans after Katrina, and New Orleans East has been one of the slowest areas to recover.  Many of the economic, educational, social and political challenges plaguing the city still remain.

Photo by Amy K. Nelson.  Photo Credit, Buzzfeed News

In November 2014, ExhibitBE became a cultural hub for 30+ artists and thousands of visitors to experience a unique space in time where art and activism honored the past while preparing itself for the future.  The exhibition site officially closed in early 2015, however this month Odums will unveil new warehouse exhibition space located in Bywater called StudioBE.  The space will showcase new murals and large scale canvas paintings.


Denisio Truitt & Mwende Katwiwa, Noirlinians.  Photo by Patrick Melon.

Noirlinians is an AfroFashion blog that explores the connections between identity, cultural expression, voice and style.  The site was created by clothing designer Denisio Truitt and spoken word artist Mwende Katwiwa who harmonize their creative talents within this deeply personal blog.  I particularly love that their posts are accompanied by a soundtrack that sets the lyrical stage for the content.

The blog also cultivates a creative collective of photographers whose work is featured in Denisio and Mwende’s posts.  Many of these photographers are currently being shown in a group exhibition at the McKenna Museum in partnership with PhotoNOLA.  The show runs through February 27th, 2016.

The “Artist a Day Challenge” celebrates Black History Month by highlighting Black artists and diverse forms of cultural expression across the African diaspora.  



Candy Chang x Ted: Blight Turned Into Might

Candy Chang stenciling the first Before I Die wall, New Orleans, 2011

One of the most memorable moments of my trip to New Orleans last year was stumbling upon Candy Chang’s “Before I Die” wall during a bike tour.

Last week Ted featured a speech by the NOLA artist recorded this summer.  It is a touching self portrait of the artist sharing the sentiment behind an introspective piece that allows a community to empower itself by using a public space as a mirror reflecting the community’s inhabitants.  A powerful voice emerges that both enlightens and bonds contributors via the shared experience of exposing your psyche.  For me, consuming and digesting art is largely an introspective activity, but what’s fascinating about this particular work is that participating in the piece requires you to momentarily bare your soul to the public.  These deeply personal moments are captured publicly yet are memorialized temporarily with a resonance that lingers far beyond the lines of chalk.

Psst, psst:  I would LOVE for the DTLA Standard to pick this up as part of it’s rotating mural project…

Happy New Year

from Papersource

It’s been a wonderful year in art, and I love the fact that many highlights were chronicled here in my blog.  I’ve had a ball going to some fantastic ground breaking exhibits this year, and I was lucky to meet some very fascinating people who each in their own way has made an impact on the world of Contemporary Art.  At the beginning of the year I briefly met Eli Broad and Jeffrey Deitch and went to some fantastic events associated with the LA Art Show and Art in the Streets–those events became a turning point for my writing and became the catalyst to starting my own humble collection including pieces by JR, Phil Lumbang and some wildly talented 20×200 artists.

There are some great things happening in music and I tried to touch on some of them in 2011, in fact I’m ringing in the year watching Beats, Rhymes and Life AGAIN tonight.  I’m really proud of my husband who is finding a new audience for his music too-I am his biggest fan!  I had a fun year in travel too after falling in love with New Orleans, continuing my love affair with New York and relaxing on the beaches of Hawaii.  I’m not sure what 2012 has in store for me, but it will certainly include Art, Music, Fashion, Food and Fun.

I wish you all a Happy New Year filled with the people and things in life you love.  Cheers!


"Message of Remembrances"

I’ll admit , the goal for my trip to New Orleans involved food:  lots of scrumptious, rich, Creole food.  Alas, this isn’t a food blog so I’ll refrain from gushing about some of the best meals I’ve ever had… Wait a minute, I can’t pass up a chance to talk about these restaurants, so let me work some culture into my obsession with good food… BEST OF BOTH WORLDS!

I had an opportunity to visit the new Hurricane Katrina Exhibit at the Presbytere in the Louisiana State Museum.  “Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond”, takes a holistic view of the devastation of Katrina by providing visitors with a historical overview of New Orleans’ most devastating hurricanes (pre-Katrina) and contrasts the historical view with a comprehensive timeline of events leading to Katrina. This multimedia exhibit weaves a tapestry of stories from people trapped in homes, first responders, politicians and civic leaders.  It was a moving look back at one of the darkest points in this country’s history.

There are also signs of life and hope beyond Katrina.  The last room of the exhibit showcases the resilience of NOLA and it’s rebuilding with the help of locals, churches, musicians, non-profits, students and celebrities all pulling together to move beyond and not be defined by tragedy.  The piece above is called “Messages of Remebrances” by Mitchell Gaudet. The bottles and glass hands are suspended from the ceiling with the bottles representing Katrina’s death toll and the hands representing the relief efforts giving viewers the feeling that they are being lifted out of the water.

Restaurant Break:  Outside the French Quarter in the 5th ward Dooky Chase’s serves up creole soul food.  The restaurant was named after the late Jazz musician Dooky Chase, and his 88 year old wife Leah still works in the restaurant today.  Dooky Chase’s has been home to Jazz greats, Civil Rights luminaries and politicians.

I had an opportunity to meet Leah Chase as she was working the room.  When I asked her what the secret was to keeping the restaurant in business over 65 years, she smiled and said, “lot’s of hard work!”.  It has paid off.  Despite being damaged and closed by Katrina, a fundraiser generated the funds to re-open its doors.  Their buffet was one of the best I’ve ever had.  Bonus: Dooky Chase has an incredible African-American Art collection too!

After the Katrina exhibit, I needed some levity;  luckily the Prebytere also has a Mardi Gras exhibit!  This colorful, jubilant exhibit tells the story of Mardi Gras, from the throws, King Cake, floats, customs, costumes, masquerade balls and frivolity from one of the world’s greatest carnival celebrations.  I adored the historic costumes and jewelry showcased here.  One of the most interesting aspects of the exhibit shined a spotlight on the costume balls complete masks, ballgowns and ephemera including dance cards; these cards were carried by women at Creole balls listing the names of the men she danced with for the evening.

So, if I had to replace male suitors with food (hypothetically speaking of course), what would my New Orleans culinary dance card look like?  Here is my list of must have meals when visiting NOLA:

Quadrille:  Beignet and Café au Lait at Café Du Monde

Waltz:  Bread Pudding Souffle with Whisky Sauce at Commander’s Palace

Deux Temps:  The Lobster Bisque,Gumbo and Turtle Soup  trio in demitasse cups at Commander’s Palace

Promenade:  Pork Belly Sandwich, homemade chips and roasted Brussels Sprouts at Cochon

Well, my dance card (and stomach) are full just thinking about the food!


Mardi Gras World


After visiting the Mardi Gras Exhibit I really wished I could have been in New Orleans for the celebration. Thankfully Mardi Gras world gives you a peak at the Mardi Gras floats without having to deal with the drunken crowds.

Located in a large warehouse near the port, Mardi Gras World houses floats and other Mardi Gras memorabilia.  Located next to the warehouse, The Grand Mansion is a replica of a Plantation home complete with Oak Trees and a moonlit sky.  The grounds are incredible and it is the perfect venue for a big party sipping a mint julep or a Sazerac.

(Drink Tip:  The Sazerac is the oldest American cocktail and the Commander’s Palace makes a mean version)

Mardi Gras World

So this Devil float was crazy, which got me thinking of the craziest meal I had in the Crescent City.  Hands down, Jacques-Imo’s in the Garden District throws the best block party in town (disguised as a restaurant of course).  When the best seat in town is a gutted converted pick up truck decked out as a table for two, you are in for a crazy night. If you are in a rush, don’t bother coming here because it’s a popular place and the food is out of this world.  Be prepared to take shots with your server, relax and have a good time.

I felt like I only scratched the surface of New Orleans and cannot wait for a return visit!

“Be Nice or Leave”: A trip through the “new” New Orleans

One thing that my trip to New Orleans taught me is that the devastation of Katrina did not wash away the spirit of this city.  There is a palpable sense of change that looms over the Crescent City, but despite this, you are guaranteed to be greeted with a “Lassez le Bon Temps Roule” and a local will be happy to tell you all about their favorite musician and the ultimate locale for an Abita and a Po Boy.  This is what I love about New Orleans.  People are NICE here.  That simple fact alone propelled me into a state of Culture Shock, but the city has some incredible artists too.

I learned this during a bike tour I took through the Faubourg Marigny and the Treme with the Confederacy of Cruisers.  The tour guides know their New Orleans history and will lead groups through neighborhoods off the beaten path giving visitors a unique look at the architecture, culture, and spirit of New Orleans.

Photo Credit: Civic Center

During my ride we passed a boarded up house with one side painted in black chalkboard paint.  At the top of the black plywood wall a large, white, spray painted stencil says “Before I Die…”.  Underneath, smaller versions of this proclamation are repeated numerous times with blank lines after each statement.  Hung along the black wall were wire dishes containing large, brightly colored pieces of chalk; people are invited to share their answers to this question.

Photo Credit: Civic Center

Ironically enough our group “cruised” by too fast for us to stop and discuss, but the wall prompted a conversation between me and a fellow tourist during our ride.

I later found out that the piece was created by artist Candy Chang, a former Art Director for the New York Times who currently lives in New Orleans and is one of the 2011 TED Fellows.  She takes elements of architecture, graphic design and urban planning and weaves them together to create installations that inspire personal reflection and spark thoughtful communication among residents in their communities.  Her projects are a fascinating fusion between urban planning and artistic expression.

Photo Credit: Civic Center

My favorite New Orleans band is the Rebirth Jazz Band, a perfect metaphor for the city’s psyche.  The city continues to cling onto its rich traditions while also trying to figure out who they are going to grow into in a post Katrina environment.  There have certainly been growing pains, but the spirit and graciousness of the city remain.