Monthly Archives

March 2015

Secret Airport

By | New Orleans Sojourn

Yesterday it was 82 degrees in New Orleans. Today it is 42 degrees, grey, and windy. It’s still winter. That makes sense in Chicago, or Boise, but here in the Crescent City you can forget that on Wednesday and be slapped right back into reality on Thursday. Wham bam. No thank you ma’am! Bring back my sunshine!

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I know my sunshine will be back soon though because “bringing things back” is a New Orleans specialty these days. Everywhere I look I see construction, reconstruction, and even destruction with the intent to reconstruct. It’s the Reconstruction Junction!

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My friend Joy is a Reconstruction Junction Junkie. She drove me around again today pointing out the renewal that is slowly but surely spreading all over the city. New restaurants and groceries on Broad, houses coming back in Gentilly, and then she asked if I wanted to go see what she calls “the Secret Airport.”

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Do monkeys fly? Of course I wanted to see it!

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Originally known as the Shushan Airport, now the New Orleans Lakefront Airport, this airport built on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain in the 1930’s was New Orleans’ main airport until the bigger Louis Armstrong Airport was built in 1946.

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For decades it’s beauty was hidden behind false walls. It suffered through many hurricanes and after Katrina the damage was so extensive to the “pill box” facade added during the Cuban Missle Crisis, that a complete restoration to it’s original form was deemed necessary. The restoration was completed in 2013. You can see a little video about it here.

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There are 8 murals by Xavier Gonzales depicting the story of flight which appear to be somewhat, but not fully, restored. Many of them have a kind of papery covering which made for some interesting photographs…

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but doesn’t really allow you to see their full glory — and glorious is actually the least hyperbolic way to describe this restored treasure.

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So, now that you’re in on the “secret airport” too, feel free to share it with everyone. New Orleans is chock full of secrets like this and I’m looking forward to finding out more of them with my intrepid guide, Reconstruction Junction Junkie Joy!

Big Easily Distracted

By | New Orleans Sojourn

And the distractions just keep coming!

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We went to see John Boutte sing in a free concert at the Louisina Music Factory in the Marigny — I even got to shake his hand. John sings the opening song for the HBO series “Treme” — a series I highly recommend, about New Orleans in the months and years right after Katrina. Many of the “actors” like John Boutte are actually New Orleans musicians who play themselves, while other characters are played by actors from New Orleans, like Wendell Pierce who plays Antoine Batiste. Turns out Pierce, like Mike and myself, graduated from NOCCA.

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For us, New Orleans is a lot like Boise with its “one degree of separation.” In fact my friend Marilyn Z-B (my best friend at NOCCA) was sitting just inches away from me in our tiny Pied a Terre telling me how she and two others had done beading for many of the Indian costumes on Treme. Knock me over with a feather.

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I have been putting time into updating my website — all my portfolio pages for Public Art, Surface Pattern Design, and Exhibitions now have my most recent work, and I’ve been showing my tarps to everybody I know who might have ideas for how and where in New Orleans I might exhibit them.

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I’ve gotten nothing but positive responses — accompanied by consternation over where I might show them. Their size is a problem, unless you’re talking about museums, and if you’re talking museums then you are also talking about a depth of oeuvre which I have yet to achieve with the tarps alone. I need more time, more inventory. Four tarps do not a museum exhibiton make — at least not a solo exhibition.

There is consensus however that the tarps are knock-outs and — this is important — that they must be seen in person to be fully appreciated. I’m caught in a Catch-22 though, because in order to get the tarps seen by the people who are in a position to actually exhibit them I need the cred that comes with having shown them. It was ever so.

To illustrate my problem: the museum which has been mentioned every time as a good fit for the tarps is The Ogden Museum of Southern Art. We went to their Thursday night museum after hours event and toured the current exhibits while listening to a live musical perfomance. I was especially taken with the Outsider, Self-taught, Visionary exhibition, and these pieces by David Butler:

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My tarps definitely share the Outsider aesthetic, even if I don’t personally share the Outsider Artist diagnosis. I guess that makes me an Outsider outsider!

C’est la vie I guess. Well I’m not going to let a little Catch-22 stand in the way of my bon temps. Not in this town with so many wonderful distractions!

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(Check out more of Eric Water’s photography of New Orleans Second Line here.)