Christian Labat and The Building

Christian Labat is owner and proprietor of THE BUILDING, an art gallery and event space located on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard in the Central City neighborhood of New Orleans. He’s renovated the first floor of THE BUILDING and transformed it into a beautiful place to attend art shows and watch live music. Over the Summer, Erin McNutt interviewed Christian on several occasions and got to know more about the history of the neighborhood and his plans for the future.

Erin: What made you decide to open your gallery on Oretha Castle Haley Blvd? How did you first come across this place?

Christian Labat: The objective, from the very beginning, was to have our business located on OC Haley Blvd, in essence to support revitalization of the historic Dryades Street commercial district. The gallery is simply a part of our business, along with being a live performance venue and event space. We also hope to present film screenings in the near future.



I probably first noticed this building in the late 1980s. I recall being in the neighborhood late one night to watch a punk show. It was mostly dark up here and I recall thinking that it was such a shame that Dryades Street had come to this. Because it was still beautiful and I could see all of the impressive architecture.

Back in the early 1990s, I first met with the Knights of Pythius and their representative Mr. Williams. They owned this building. I was able to purchase this building from them in 2001.

 

Erin: How long have you been interested in running a business focused on the arts?

Christian Labat: I personally have been interested for almost 30 years now, ever since the late 1980’s. The initial focus was on music, because of our love for it. As you know, New Orleans is known as the birthplace of jazz. So we wanted to do something in-line with that. As we evolved, we felt a strong urge to incorporate visual arts because of our appreciation for them.

I always wanted to do something with or related to the arts or visual arts. At the time, I was friends with a guy named Doug Redd who was an artistic director for the Ashe Cultural Arts Center. We came up to this neighborhood and looked at some abandoned properties together. We were brainstorming about what we could do. Doug ended up getting his place in the Venus Gardens building.

Erin: Tell me more about the history of this building and the Knights of Pythius.

Christian: The Knights of Pythius was the men’s section of the organization and and the female section was the Courts of Calanthe. It is a social organization for the African American community. We purchased it from them in 2001.

The Knights of Pythius owned this building from 1977 to 2001. They didn’t use it the last five to eight years that they owned it. It was in disrepair because they didn’t have the funds to fix it. It was in really bad shape. But they were really good people. Very religious and dignified people.



Every month I would personally take the check to their representative, Mr. Williams. And every month he would invite me in and sit down. That went on every month for almost six years and we became good friends.

I was told that this building was built in the 1860s. It was designed and built by the same gentleman who built the Dryades Market across the street. This area was once the center of the Jewish community. I was told that this property was a combination of a saloon on one side and a stove shop on another. Up above was a boarding house.

Then, around 1900, it became a bank. It was the Dryades Street branch of Hibernia Bank. I do have a photograph from 1921 of the Masons next door. They are kind of lined up in front of their building. It’s a wide angle shot, and you can see the sign of the bank on this property.

Then in the 1930s, a gentleman named Sol Katz turned it into his furniture emporium. That store remained until the 1950s. Then it became Barkoff’s Furniture until 1977 when the Knights of Pythius bought it.

Erin: What sets THE BUILDING apart from other art galleries? What’s your vision for its future?

Christian Labat: Our artists and the unique setting of the physical space set us apart from the others. It is our hope that when guests arrive in THE BUILDING, they enjoy what they see and feel upon entering. But we are not just an art gallery. Along with the exhibitions, we also host a wide variety of events and performances. Our goal is to have THE BUILDING serve as a multi-functional space, and we are having success with that. The vision for the near-future, however, is to build-out the 2nd and 3rd floors, in order to add more diversity and space for our guests and clients.

Erin: Do you sense an art movement happening right now in Central City and along the Oretha Castle Haley corridor?

Christian Labat: To be totally honest, I am not aware of an art movement happening now in Central City. As for the OC Haley corridor, from my perspective, I’ve seen new faces and developments arise over the past couple of years or so, which is positive. We welcome the investment in the community.




Erin: What kind of visual art are you attracted to?

Christian Labat: I’m attracted to bold and beautiful things, in general. I’m particularly fond, however, of Danny’s work. He’s our main artist, and most of the work exhibited at THE BUILDING is his. I think he has a very unique, impressionist style of painting. Whenever he does something new, I’m immediately attracted to it.

Erin: How many visual artists do you currently represent?

Christian Labat: Currently there are 3 artists who have their work on exhibit and for sale at THE BUILDING. They are Danny Jupiter, Mark Lacabe and Eric Alugas; all talented artists and New Orleans natives. In fact, we all went to Brother Martin High School together, though Eric was 3 years ahead of me, Danny, and Mark. Danny and Mark studied at Xavier University under John Scott, and they are based in New Orleans. Eric studied at U.N.O. with Calvin Harlan. He also studied and worked in France. He’s based in New York City, where he also teaches. As I mentioned, Danny is an impressionist painter, who works with mixed media. Mark works with mixed-media as well. He’s particularly good with watercolors. He’s also incredible with pen & ink. Eric is a painter whose work can be described as mixed-media, surreal and a bit abstract. His work is on large canvases, which he usually hangs with grommets. The piece we’re showing, however, has been stretched on a frame.



We have had other artists over the past few years. The biggest name we have had is Martin Payton. Martin is a sculptor and he is pretty well known around the country for his public art pieces. Martin’s mentor and friend was the sculptor John Scott. John Scott was a genius. And so is Martin, in his own right.

Martin lives over in Baton Rouge. He is very unassuming and unpretentious. His studio is like an old mechanic’s garage. A cinder block kind of building. He’s got some big pieces in there. So he told me, “Christian, if you want to show my stuff, you’ve got to come and get it.”

I had to borrow a pickup truck. But once we had it in here, it just added a whole other dimension to the place.



Martin only likes to show his work for a limited period of time. Fortunately we were able to sell one of his pieces. So we hope that will convince him to come back. He is preparing for a big retrospective that LSU is having in his honor.

Martin actually taught Danny and Mark. We all went to Xavier University. There are lots of connections.

Erin: Tell me about an event coming up in the next few months you’re looking forward to and why.

Christian Labat: We’ll have a new exhibition with Danny and Mark, which I’m looking forward to because I’m interested in their work. We’re planning the opening for early October. We’ll also try to coax Eric into exhibiting more of his work, which is interesting and beautiful, as well as Martin Payton. Also, we’ll schedule some music performances, primarily modern jazz and original stuff which is always interesting and entertaining. Aside from that, we’ll continue to host private events.

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Letter from the Editor

Welcome to the inaugural issue of New Orleans Canvas Magazine. We created this magazine to bring attention to some of the many wonderful artists who inhabit the New Orleans area. These pages will feature the words and works of a diverse selection of artists from diverse backgrounds in each quarterly issue. Counter to current trends and in keeping with our appreciation for tangible works of art, we eventually hope to expand to a print edition.

Appropo to our October debut, the first three artists featured specialize in creating “spooky” art. L.E. Dubin creates decoupage boxes and jewelry with vintage ephemera and found objects. T. Rhiannon Cotter specializes in gothic illustrations using pointillism.  Kristof Corvinus is a painter inspired by dark imagery.

Also profiled are two other local artists whose styles vary very differently from the first three. Benny Collins is a surrealist sculptor and painter who learned his craft in the American Southwest but is now based in Uptown New Orleans. Danny Jupiter is a figurative painter from New Orleans who trained at Xavier University.

In each issue, we will be profiling at least one gallery owner who will share their views on what is happening in the local art scene. This issue features Christian Labat, the owner of The Building on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard. Christian has devoted the last sixteen years of his life to renovating and revitalizing The Building.

Additionally, we will also feature articles related to the “business side” of art. This month a local attorney weighs in on possible legal protections afforded to visual artists under federal and Louisiana laws.

We hope you enjoy this first issue. A special thanks to the artists and other professionals that agreed to help us and have made this endeavor into a pleasure. In future issues we hope to feature more art, articles and other content written and produced by local artists (maybe you?).

Sincerely,

Erin McNutt

Owner and Editor

 

Creators and Contributors for New Orleans Canvas Magazine

Founder and Editor: Erin McNutt http://www.erinmcnutt.com/
Co-Founder and Editor: Kristof Corvinus http://theblacktulipstudio.weebly.com/
Logo design : Aristotle C Pramagioulis https://www.facebook.com/aristotle.pramagioulis
Contributing Photographer : Leslie-Claire Spillman https://leslieclairespillman.smugmug.com/
Contributing Writer : Laurence McNutt

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Sold, But Not Surrendered: Persistent Legal Rights In Completed Artwork

The goal of a majority of visual artists, be they starving or not, is to sell what they have produced. Revenue and exposure are critical to sustaining careers in art and design, and as such artists (often grudgingly) must surrender control of the creative process and/or fruits of their labor. However, even when art is created at the direction of an employer or customer, or title has been transferred to an artist’s original work, certain legal rights in the product do persist.

For instance, an artist may generally use work created for an employer or customer, even if the purchaser owns the copyright thereto, in a portfolio to promote his or her other work. The persistence of these rights would depend on the nature of use. Principally, it must be clear that the artist is not promoting the portfolio piece itself for sale, but rather offering it as an example of what a prospective customer may expect if the artist is engaged for a new assignment. Further, the artist cannot be seen as competing with the copyright holder in any commercial sense. Circumstances do arise, however, where portfolio use rights might be contested, such as when the employer or customer wants exclusive public credit for the work itself. The U.S. Postal Service is infamous for requiring that artists agree not to show any works created for the USPS, even should the USPS choose not to publish the particular work that was submitted. The safest way to avoid a legal battle is to craft an explicit work agreement, contract, or bill of sale. At a minimum, it is good practice to communicate with an employer or customer before including any previously sold works in your portfolio.

Perhaps the most interesting (and little known) persistent legal protection afforded to visual artists arises from an obscure federal law known as VARA: the Visual Artists’ Rights Act of 1990 (17 U.S. Code § 106A).  VARA amends the Copyright Act and provides a measure of moral rights protection to certain artists. Recognition of moral rights originates with the French legal concept of le droit moral. The concept of droit moral focuses on the personal and spiritual, rather than economic, interests of an artist. VARA, in turn, gives artists (1) the right of attribution; (2) the right of integrity; and (3) the right to prevent destruction of works of “recognized stature.” The scope of VARA is very narrow, protecting only certain types of visual art including paintings, drawings, prints, and sculptures produced in limited editions of 200 or fewer copies. In Louisiana, this is extended to 300 copies by virtue of overlapping state law (La. RS 51:2152 et seq.). The law does not apply to work prepared under contract for advertising or trade use unless the contract explicitly provides. VARA also contains special provisions for visual art installed in buildings.

Basically, an artist may invoke VARA protections to prevent or to seek compensation for damages arising from intentional mutilation, distortion or modification of a piece of his or her work of fine art that has attained public stature. This would take the form of petitioning the court for injunctive relief (if the destruction/alteration has not yet taken place) or a suit for damages. Again, a protracted legal battle along these lines can be avoided by spelling out terms in writing in advance of providing your services or making a sale.

When your art is your career, it’s always wise to remain mindful of persistent rights in your work. Whenever you’re able to, consult with an attorney before fully surrendering any rights. At a bare minimum, always spell out to your employer or customer exactly what you are selling and what you intend to retain.

 

 

 

 

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New Orleans Figurative Painter Danny Jupiter

Danny Jupiter lives and works in a spacious home in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans filled with painting of his family members. One such painting done by his late Father reveals where Danny may have gotten his talent.

Around a large wooden table that has likely hosted thousands of family meals, Kristof Corvinus discussed with this soft-spoken man his journey as an artist.



Kristof: How did you get your start as an artist?

Danny: I’ve been painting since I was 6. I was encouraged in high school and actually went to Southeastern Louisiana University for two years on a track and field scholarship. But I decided that I wanted to put my efforts toward painting and moved to Xavier University. Xavier didn’t offer a track and field scholarship so I went on an art scholarship.

It took me a while, but I graduated from Xavier in 1986. From there I moved to New Mexico, because I was told if you go out West, you see the light and it is great for painting. It was! I never thought of myself as a professional artist until I started painting in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Chicago.

Kristof: So how would you describe the difference in the New Orleans art scene as opposed to Chicago and New Mexico?

Danny: In New Mexico there’s more of a western feel. Some of it is good and some of it is cliche’. I showed my work in a place called Canyon Road Art Community. My preference for painting outdoors started while I was in New Mexico.

In Chicago, I don’t know if my style really changed that much because I paint mostly “Black life”. Many of my pieces focus on the souls of black folk.

Self-Portrait
Kiana Jupiter

Many times, in Chicago, I would go to Lake Michigan and set up and paint out there by the lakeside. I later became a licensed Special Education teacher and my paintings gradually trended toward kids and youngsters. I had some beautiful students. They inspired me. They would give me ideas and I would sketch them in my free time.




Kristof: You seem very family oriented.

Danny: Yes. I try to work an average of 5 to 6 hours a day 6 or 7 days a week, but my family does things together every Sunday. It is a rarity these days, but it is a chance to see everyone who lives here.

I did these two paintings of my mother and my father, had them framed and they really liked them. They also really liked the family portrait, which I don’t think is my finest work, but has a real sentimental feel.



Kristof: What genre would you say that you work in the most?

Danny: Generally figurative portraiture. I have painted landscapes in the past, but I prefer to paint people.

Kristof: Any animals?

Danny: Not really, but I’ve thought about incorporating dogs in some of the portraits of people.



Kristof: What artists influenced you the most?

Danny: Generally speaking Vincent Van Gogh. I like Karel Appel and his use of color. I also like Chuck Close and John Scott at Xavier University. But I would have to say that I was most influenced by my father who always encouraged me to paint. We would paint together.

Kristof: Do you only work with acrylics or do you use oils?

Danny: I mostly use acrylics. Oils are difficult because the messes are hard to clean up. And they take too long to dry. Its much more humid here. In New Mexico I had no problem. I also use watercolor and mixed-media. I like watercolor pencils. I use them on a hard surface or cardboard. I just jump around, depending on what is available. Art supplies are so expensive. I try to recycle stuff.

Kristof: What do you think differentiates your art from that of other artists?

Danny: I think my use of color is unique.

Kristof: How do you come up with a price for your art?

Danny: As an artist, I’ve always been able to present my craft to the world. If someone shows an interest, I always try to work out a price, especially if its someone who is going to take care of the work and appreciate it. I try to do a sliding scale.



Kristof: Where can people see more of your work?

Danny: At The Building on Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. in New Orleans.

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Modern Surrealist Benny Collins

Selu, Red Utah Sandstone
Number 5, Yule Marble

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The editors recently visited artist Benny Collins at his home in Uptown New Orleans. Erin McNutt originally met Benny when their daughters attended the same school. Before learning of his occupation, she sensed he was an artist based on the way he carries himself. Benny just has that look about him.

New Orleans is a city literally overflowing with creative people from everywhere who’ve lead extraordinary lives. Benny is a worthy representative of that abundance.

Erin: So tell us something about yourself.

Benny: I was born and raised in Oklahoma and stayed there until I got out of high school. Then I went to Utah to go to Brigham Young University on a wrestling scholarship. But I quit when I found out that it wasn’t for me, because I wanted to be an artist.

Then I went to school at Instituto de Allende in San Miguel de Allende Mexico.  I got in my car and drove down there (my girlfriend was in school down there) and stayed there for a while. I did that as long as I could do it and came back to Tulsa, OK and got a BFA in Painting. But I wanted to make sculpture.

When I got into the Sculpture Department at the University of Tulsa I really liked the professor at first, but he came on real strong to me. He was sort of combative, critical, almost threatening. I was like, “Oh dear! What’s wrong with this guy? He’s going to beat me up or something.” It was weird. So I talked to the painter there, who was Carl Coker. And he said, “ Why don’t you just major in painting and do sculpture too?

Venus, Black Walnut
Left, Linear B, tufa N.M, Right, female torso, Zuni Alabaster N.M.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Erin: I’ve noticed your paintings are outnumbered by sculptures.

Benny:  I have them all over the yard. There are still some at the last house where we used to live. We moved around and don’t have enough room and so things are scattered. But (my sculptures) don’t do well outside in New Orleans. They get covered in mold and stuff like that. So you have to clean them a lot. They are made out of marble, limestone, and granite, so nothing can hurt them really.

Erin: What led you from amateur artist to professional?

Benny:  Just confidence I think. I mean I went to art school and got a BFA even though my teachers said you ought to get an Education degree so you can be a certified art teacher. And I thought, “No, I’m just going to be an artist.” I just didn’t want to go that route and it didn’t seem to matter too much until I started having kids. And then you need lot of money. You need steady income. You can’t just do whatever you want. But I never really made it just totally on art sales alone.

I had tried to get into galleries with my painting and they were just “Ho-Hum” about it. And then I started sculpting stone at a Community College in California. A sculptor named Paul Lenard noticed my first piece. He’s a Sculpture Professor at the University of Santa Barbara.

After that several pieces I made right away were shown. Galleries just wanted them. When I moved to Santa Fe, the first gallery I walked into took my work right away. And I was getting calls before I got home that they had sold my work. So it made me realize that I should probably stick with sculpture as my thing.

Figure Drawing, Charcoal on Paper

Painting is harder for me. I’ll want to pull my hair out painting sometimes. And sculpture slows me down. I can control it. There wasn’t too much room for mistakes really because I could just keep going. I never really had to think about what I was going to do. It’s like making a sandwich.

Then we moved to New Orleans and I went down to see Cole Pratt because somebody told me that they knew him and he was a good guy. He was honest. Plus I liked the work in his gallery. And he took my work, showed it, and sold it right away.

Then we started having children and it was harder to keep up. Cole Pratt liked new work and I just couldn’t keep up with it. He wanted work all of the time. Then one day I went to go see him at the gallery about some pieces and he died of a heart attack two days later sitting out in front of the gallery.

He was pretty good about payment too. If he sold something, he would write you a check no problem. And he wouldn’t discount the work either. He even asked more than I normally would have. But the difference between New Orleans and Santa Fe is that Santa Fe has bigger art sales. So he would say, “We can’t compete with that type of market. And I sell art a lot, but not a whole bunch of one person’s work.” And only so many people are collecting art here in New Orleans. Once they get a piece or two they are good.

Untitled, Acrylic on Canvas 3’x4′
Hieroglyph, N.M. Limestone

Erin: Do you think that there is a saturation of artists here?

Benny:  No, it’s just that Santa Fe started out as an art destination. Mainly with Georgia O’Keefe and the other artists. So they created that from pretty much zero. But, the art market there started really growing in the 1960a and 1970s.

When I went out there, I was mainly doing painting at that time. And I worked as a bartender to do whatever I had to do to get money. It was too small for me. I wanted to go to Los Angeles. I should have stayed there. A lot of people I knew that stayed there did real well. When I came back they had their own galleries.

I see New Orleans as a future art destination. Not just a place to get drunk on Bourbon St. There is more to this place. There are amazing musicians and artists coming here all of the time. We can create a regional art scene and make it unique. The same way New York did.

A lot of New York artists like Warhol and Rauschenberg had their own galleries because they couldn’t get into a gallery. I don’t think you should depend on a gallery to decide what you do. I had a piece one time that was kind of weird for me. It was a very primitive piece and the gallery owner loved it and sold it. Then I showed him another piece that I had done and he didn’t want to have anything to do with it. Afterwards I brought the piece to Cole Pratt and he loved it and sold it right away.

Female Torso, Indiana Limestone

Erin: In which genres do you work?

Benny:  More modern work. I had never been to a museum as a child. When I was older we went to the Gilcrease Museum, which is a bunch of cowboy art and I thought it was cool and interesting. I drew a lot of horses and Indians when I was younger, but I didn’t want to be a Native American artist. I’m too far removed because I’m only 1/16 Cherokee and Pawnee. Our family was in Oklahoma when it was Indian Territory. My great grandfather was the first doctor in Indian Territory.

So I didn’t really know which way I was going to go. In school I started learning about European art. I loved Modern art and some of the Modern sculptors. I liked Brancusi, Noguchi, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore. But I couldn’t emulate them. I have to try to make it new.

I like Surrealism. I think my style is sort of Surrealist too. I always thought that things weren’t planned. Artists don’t always plan; instead they just let it happen. I just use my subconscious.

Erin: So you are organic with your process? That’s not always easy for an artist.

Benny:  My wife was saying, “Benny, you paint over your paintings so many times? Don’t do that! I loved that painting and it’s gone!” I have junk all over the house!

Untitled, Acrylic on Canvas, 5’x4′

 

 

Erin: Have you ever gone back to a dormant work?

Benny:  I have pulled out things that have been sitting around for ten years and started painting on them again. I know that other artists do that too. We were just in Barcelona at the Joan Miro Museum. There was an elaborate drawing that he began when he was 17, but didn’t finish until he was 80 years old when he had a burst of inspiration. It had a lot of power because you got to see his evolution.

Erin: What do you feel makes your art process unique?

Benny:  The majority of stone that I carve is usually begins as a giant rock. It is not manufactured. You have a shape that you have to deal with. You can’t force a shape in it. So you have to look at the rock. It’s like Michelangelo once said; “I see the figure in the rock.” I look and stare at a rock and I usually see what’s in there. I draw it out with a piece of charcoal and I go for it. Sometimes it will make itself. Its economizing too because sometimes you will have a giant rock and carve it down to something tiny. But I always, pretty much, leave most of the rock there.

For example, the marble figure down in the yard was just a column that came from a place in New Mexico where they have these giant diamond saws to cut up the rock. Some of the rocks just fall on the ground and you can buy them. I try to use the whole stone.

Erin: Do you have a favorite stone for carving? How about wood?

Benny:  I do like wood. People tend to put it in another category for some weird reason. But I like marble, limestone, and soapstone. Soapstone is wonderful to carve. It has lots of good qualities. Soapstone can take really intense heat and it’s impervious to water. For carving it’s wonderful.

Erin: What about alabaster?

Benny:   I love alabaster too! I’ve done some pretty big pieces in alabaster. I did a big piece that Cole sold, but it had to go inside. It will wear outside. They last forever inside. It really makes sculpture “Sculpture!”

Erin: Did you always have an interest in Geology?

Benny:  I kind of just learned it. I would go out into the desert in California and get a lot of the alabaster. There are big chunks out there. So one thing you have to do is carry a really nice feldspar or jasper stone. Then you go up to a rock and hit it with the stone. If it makes a dull thud you know that it has some faults in it. But a nice rock makes a ping. It has a ring like a bell. Alabaster really rings.

I remember once that a friend gave me this rock that had this sort of purple and red in it, which was really unusual. And I envisioned this weird bird flying in it. So I carved that and took it to the gallery and they sold it right away. So the gallery asked if I would make them another one.

And I said, “Another one! What are you even talking about?”

And they said that they had another guy that wanted it, but they had already sold the one I had made. They needed another one for him. So I told them I would call my friend to see if I could get another stone like the first one.

So I called up my friend and said, “ Hey Kevin! Do you have another one of these stones?”

And he said, “ Yeah, I do, but you know what’s weird? I have a Geiger counter and I put it on the rock. It was radioactive.

I said, “Whoa!” Then he told me not to grind it.

I said, “Too late! I’ve already done that!” My friend confessed that he had already done that with the stone he kept. We later talked to a scientist and found out that it wasn’t enough radioactivity to hurt us.

There are these canyons over there real close to where my house was. And you go down in this canyon with a Geiger counter and that is where the uranium is. But it’s naturally occurring. It’s low concentration so it’s not going to hurt you. A lot of things have traces of radioactivity. Of course, always wear a respirator when you are grinding stone.

I always wear a respirator and have ventilation going. There was always wind blowing in New Mexico. But in New Orleans, I tried to do the best that I could, but dust was flying all over the place. That bothered some people, so I had to devise something where no dust could escape.

In sculpture, you do make noise and there is dust. I have to find a place to work right now. I’m planning on tearing down my shed and building a studio up there.

Erin:  How do you come up with a pricing structure for your art?

Benny:  If you put your hours into it, it would be too expensive. You don’t want to price yourself out of the market, but you don’t want to give it away either. I know that I’m not going to take a cheap price for my work. I put too much into it. You can’t make it too expensive. I know people that like to buy art that aren’t rich people. And they will if they can afford it.

I’ve sold pieces for $1500 that a gallery would ask $3,000 to $5,000 for. That’s been my price range. Galleries always take half of the proceeds if it’s in their gallery.

My stuff is really heavy. Galleries have trouble moving it. Wherever I put it, that’s where it stays.

Erin:    What’s the best advice you have ever received about your art?

Benny:  To economize your material. Sometimes less is more and bigger isn’t always better.

Seated nude, Acrylic on Canvas, 4’x4′
Reclining Nude, Acrylic on Canvas, 4’x4′

Erin:    Where can people see your work?

Benny:   I’m not showing anywhere right now. I’ve been kind of hiding out for a while. Most of these paintings are done with the children. Sometimes they were riding on my shoulders with them helping me. I became their assistant, as they got older. My kids were making art. My son can weld. He was even in White Linen Night one year. And I didn’t get anything in that year, but he did! Now that they are more independent, they are more interested in me getting back into my art.

Erin:   Do you have an online presence?

Benny:   Just on Facebook. Facebook seems to be pretty easy.

https://www.facebook.com/BennyRue

 

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The Dark and Mysterious Art of Kristof Corvinus

Deuriuos

 

I first met Kristof Corvinus at the Sugar Art and Fashion Show at the Eiffel Society in New Orleans in 2013. We were assigned to display our art next to each other during the show and became fast friends. When you first meet Kristof, you’re immediately struck by how serious he takes his career as an artist.

Erin: What led you to be a professional artist as opposed to it just being something that you like to do?

Kristof: Wanting to make money doing something that I have a passion for instead of doing something that somebody else wants me to do. I loved it so much that I figured I could make a career out of it. Or at least try to.

Erin: Do you have a muse?

Kristof: I think my muse is death, or the mysteries surrounding it.

Erin: A lot of people aren’t comfortable with death.

Kristof: They are scared of it as part of the life cycle and see it as something that should be feared.

 

I’ve always been interested in morbidity and mortality. It’s just been kind of part of my DNA I guess. It is scary, but I think its all about what you do to get there. The fear of the unknown. “What if? Why am I here?” It gets pretty overwhelming.

There are countries that celebrate this idea. For example, Mexico has its Day of the Dead, which has roots in cultures of the Aztecs and Mayans. There is a violent aspect to that, and most modern thinking tries to take away the violence. But people who celebrate are more alive than people who don’t. I mean, this is the life you’ve got. Better live it up! Many cultures believe you come back too, not that I want to die anytime soon. If I could actually be immortal and supernatural, I probably would because I would never run out of things to do. Not for a long time!

Erin: How does your attitude towards death affect your choices you make for subjects of your paintings?

Kristof: I’m drawn to darker arts. If you look at it more literally, it just means not illuminated. Mystery. Some things should remain a mystery, because its kind of intriguing that way. I’m drawn to mysteries and horror movies and the iconic symbols, like skeletons and skulls, even though they scared me as a child. We’re all scared of them, yet drawn to them.

 

Erin: How has New Orleans effected your art?

Kristof: I’ve never been in a place this eclectic and welcoming in general. People who don’t understand it are scared of it. It’s a big soup of spirituality. Very Creole. All things here are amalgamated and they draw from each other.

New Orleans lets me explore the different sides of my personality. I paint dark things and fluffy cute things too. Its all about balance.

Erin: What brought you to New Orleans?

Kristof: I always wanted to come here. I first became conscious of it while watching the James Bond movie “Live and Let Die”.  A spy is watching a funeral procession and someone kills him. The killers then put him in the coffin and the funeral dirge turns into celebratory music. Jazz music to celebrate death! I asked my father about it and he said it was normal for a funeral in New Orleans. That fascinated me.

And then, of course, there was Ann Rice, since she lived here for so long and based a lot of novels on this setting with her vampires. She painted such a rich tapestry, I knew I had to be here. For romantic reasons, but more than just that.

Erin: In what mediums do you work?

Kristof: Primarily acrylics because it is convenient. I started off in oils when I was younger and I still love oil. I need to get back to it. I’ve also gotten into watercolors pretty heavily. I also sculpt figurines with polymer clay.

Erin: Where did you learn to paint?

Kristof: I taught myself. Bob Ross shows on PBS. Also from copying and emulating other artists here and there.

Erin: Do you come from a family of artists?

Kristof: I was adopted so I don’t really know, but my adopted grandfather was a folk artist up in Ohio. He had that typical folk art style which was almost medieval. It had that very flat perspective, very attractive with simple colors. He gave me my first colored pencil set when I was maybe five or six.

Erin: What artists inspire you?

Kristof: That changes all of the time. I love Van Gogh, Picasso, Vermeer, Titian, Waterhouse, Kandinsky, Basquiat, and Frida Kahlo. A mixture of different artists. It depends on my mood at the time.

Erin: Describe your genre of art.

Kristof: I’m branded as a gothic pop surrealist. But I play with different styles to see if I can do them and practice my skill level.

 

Erin: Any formal art training?

Kristof: I guess my first formal training was at Art Institute, the one that advertises in magazines. You know, “Draw Skippy the Turtle” and it was to get into their art instruction schools. A correspondence class that I took when I was ten or eleven and then I went on to Art Institute of Atlanta to commercial art school. After that I went to another business school and took another commercial art class. I earned an associates degree in commercial arts from the Art Institute of Atlanta in the 1980s. But that’s as far as I got. I never went any higher. I never took any fine arts class.

 

Erin: How do you handle negative criticism, even when it hurts deep down in your soul?

Kristof: Recently I dealt with a complaint from someone who found something in my work offensive. I always strive to be empathetic with other perspectives, but this seemed like an excuse to complain more than genuine offense. Still even though there was a complaint, I figure I gave someone something more than a pretty picture to look at. That’s what art should be. That means that I am doing something right. I’m using my vision.

Sometimes I can even change someone’s perspective about life in general. I love talking about the deeper meanings of life. It opens up people in a way that they wouldn’t usually open up.

As for the technical aspects, let’s say for example a critic or other artist doesn’t like what I’ve done. I’ll take in everything and be as objective as possible. Maybe they see something that I didn’t see before. I see it as a way to improve myself.

Erin: If you had to pick one favorite piece from all of your work, what would it be and why?

Kristof: A piece that I did last year called “The Crimson Messenger”. It was sort of Pop Surrealism and the first part of my series “Femme Fatale”, of the feminine incarnation of death. I’m typically not good at working with negative space, but this got a big response from people that usually wouldn’t look at my art. I was pretty proud of myself because I’d pushed myself past prior comfort levels.

     The Crimson Messenger

Also there’s my most recent one, “Anxious Stars”, an acrylic on wood panel. It was a quick piece. I did it to some music that was energetic and rebellious. A little more loose-based abstract. It got a lot of good reviews.

Anxious Stars

Erin: What’s the coolest art tip you’ve ever received?

Kristof: My mentor in Charleston, John Caroll Doyle, (a pretty prominent wildlife artist who also does iconic scenes) told me to draw anything and everything that I saw. He told me to just flex my wings and to keep on working even if it looks like crap.

Erin: How do you come up with prices for your art?

Kristof: I try to keep it above my costs. For example, shipping and materials are factored in. I just base it off of what I know I need and what it’s worth to me. If I’m attached to it, I will add a higher price. I admit it!

Erin: Where can people see more of your work?

Kristof: Online is the best place. My Facebook page and my website are titled “The Black Tulip Studio”. I also have some pieces hanging in Bar Mon Cher in the French Quarter.

https://www.facebook.com/TheBlackTulipStudio/

http://theblacktulipstudio.weebly.com/

Erin: What’s the most challenging part of being an artist?

Kristof: Learning how to be marketable without being too egotistical. Finding enjoyment and passion while also making money to live comfortably.

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The Hauntingly Beautiful Art of T. Rhiannon Cotter

You’ve entered into a hauntingly beautiful dream world where Gothic marries whimsy. Welcome to T. Rhiannon’s reality.

Rhiannon has been diligently applying her talents for many years professionally. She got her start in the Gothic underground when Leilah Wendell displayed her pen and ink drawings at Westgate Necromantic Gallery, formerly located on Magazine Street in New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina ceased Westgate’s existence in New Orleans and not only took Rhiannon’s home, but much of her original artworks.

Her hauntingly beautiful and alluring images have also been combined with the exquisitely dark renderings of her long time friend, P. Morgan Ravenstone, now deceased. His angular and bold style coupled with Rhiannon’s sensuously rounded and enticing technique formed a perfect combination. Realizing they shared mutual dreams and goals for their art, they decided to form a business together and created Rose of Blood in October of 1993.

Time and losses have changed so much in her life, but her passion is still present. All that remains now are prints of her work, which are as precious to her as twilight before nightfall. Rhiannon also dabbles in whimsy as well through her creation of small, Waldorf style beaded dolls that evoke the mystical world of the faerie.

Cruel Mistress

Kristof: Tell us something about yourself

Rhiannon : I’ve been an artist since very early childhood. Some of my earliest memories are of spending time in the cemeteries of Wilmington, North Carolina, drawing vampires and waiting for faeries to appear. This was the beginning of my love with the Gothic.

I love the odd, the strange, the dark, the gloomy, the creepy…but I also love shiny, glittery, pretty, cute things, such as cats, beads and flowers with adorable faces. A balance of dark and light!

My favorite materials are beads, glitter, Swarovski crystals, roses, ribbons, buttons, wire, paper, paper clay, watercolors, pen and ink.

 

             Death by Seduction

Kristof: What led you to be a professional artist as opposed to your art being just something
you love to do?

Rhiannon: I was asked to do cover art for Circle Network news, a Wiccan publication. People began writing to me, asking where they could purchase my art. This was a turning point for me. I then began to submit art to Gothic fanzines and other publications. I realized I could do what I love and become a professional artist. A dream come true.

Kristof: What genre(s) do you work in?

Rhiannon: I adore Gothic, Vampiric, Fantasy, Fairytale, Mystical, Mythical, Faerie and Pagan genres the most.

Kristof: Are there any other artists who you’d consider role models or whose work particularly inspires yours?

Rhiannon: I had the pleasure of meeting a lady named Ulrike Schlobis at a Christmas Crafts Fair many years ago. She was working on a pointillism piece of a girl dancing with a unicorn. I was in awe. Her work was so detailed and flawless. I bought a limited edition print of the drawing, which I still have. She inspired me to perfect my own black and white art and the painstaking process of pointillism. I also am inspired by the work of Dirk Dykstra, another artist who did extensive illustrations for Circle Network News and created the Ravenswood Eastern Tarot, entirely in black and white pen and ink. Joann Powell Colbert is another favorite artist who has done beautiful Pagan inspired art in pointillism and black and white line drawings. And of course Aubrey Vincent Beardsley, who I absolutely love and admire. His drawings in black ink, influenced by the style of Japanese woodcuts, emphasized the grotesque, the decadent, and the erotic, always fascinated me. He was a great inspiration early on in my beginning works.

                           Fallen-Angel

Kristof: How and when did you get to try pointillism and bead working for the first time?

Rhiannon: My very first pointillism drawing was for my high school newspaper. I had written a review of Alice Cooper’s album Welcome to My Nightmare. I did an illustration using the technique to accompany the article. I fell in love with the look of it, and adopted it as my favorite medium after that. Previously I had worked in colored pencil and oil paints. I am personally more drawn to black and white pieces. To me, it is unique and you don’t see it as often as you do color nowadays. It stands out in a crowd and demands to be seen.

When I was a teenager, Love Bead necklaces were the rage. I started by making my own from seed beads I got at Tandy Leather Company. Later on I graduated to the more complex designs you could create on the bead loom. The Native American look of it appealed to me very much. Later I expanded to making jewelry with gemstones and wire. I love experimenting with different techniques. Discovering how to make beaded dolls, I became hooked on creating them in unique, miniature styles.

                            Fairy Goth Mother

Kristof: What guides your choices of mediums and styles?

Rhiannon: I have always been attracted to pen and ink, paper and beads. I felt very comfortable in working with those items. I have tried many other mediums, but I did not seem to have a natural affinity with them as I did with the ones I work with now. I just tend to stick with what I love.

Kristoff: There’s a lot of pen and ink as well as handmade jewelry on the market these days. How do you differentiate yours from the rest? What makes your work unique and truly your own?

Rhiannon: I think the energy I put into my work can be seen and felt. There is a lot of love and passion in each piece and my unique style and spin on what I create is in the fine details. It stands out in a crowd. I put a lot of detail in what I do as well.

                  Decadence

Kristoff: What is the most challenging part about being a mixed media artist?

Rhiannon: The most challenging part for me is using all the items I have collected and fitting them neatly into the newest creation. It can be a fun adventure, but frustrating to know what to use and how to put it all together in a way that is pleasing to the eye. It takes a lot of thought for me. I am not one to throw things together willy-nilly. Being precise and a perfectionist sometimes is a big hindrance to the process!

 

                     Dracula

Kristof: How do you handle negative criticism, especially when it hurts deep down within your soul?

Rhiannon: I honestly can say I have never experienced any negative feedback, other than once when a commissioned piece did not meet the vision the buyer had. But even in that instance, the person changed her mind and then absolutely adored the piece in the end.

I can say it is very rough when you put your best out there and it is not received well. Especially if it is not your own vision, but you are trying to put the client’s desires out into the world in a tangible form. My “go-to” is to center myself with meditation. That usually brings me back into balance and things settle much better.

Kristof: How do you come up with a profitable pricing structure for your art?

Rhiannon: That’s always been difficult for me. Ultimately I ask myself what I would be willing to pay for the piece I have created if I were viewing it from the outside. It seems to work well for me. I never did go by calculating time, and expenses of materials so much. It factors in a little bit, but I go more by the “I have to have that!” desire.

                    Faerie bottle charm necklace

 

Kristof: If you had to pick one favorite of all your work done in (chosen medium) so
far, what would it be, and why?

Rhiannon: In pointillism I would have to say “The Opening of the Third Eye” would be my favorite, because I perfected a few techniques in that piece and also it touched so many people on a very deep and esoteric level. I received more fan mail on that one piece than almost any other thing I have done. It was definitely divinely inspired.

                 Opening of The Third Eye
Faerie Snow Queen and King Waldorf bead dolls

In beading, it was a Snow Queen Faerie Doll Queen and King I created. They both happily live in someone’s private collection now.

Kristof: What’s the coolest art tip you’ve ever received?

Rhiannon: It was a tip from my art teacher, Mr. Celia. He told me to observe everything closely. See the fine details in things others would not notice. It has definitely helped me improve my art and techniques. It was advice I never forgot.

            Deadly Awakening

Kristof: Where can people see more of your work?

Rhiannon: Please visit my website here:

http://rose_of_blood.tripod.com

For beaded dolls and jewelry:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/RoseofBlood

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/Rose-of-Blood-128165590588978/

Pinterest:

https://www.pinterest.com/gothartgirl/

Listia:

https://www.listia.com/profile/1321054

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Interview with the Goth-a-Billy Vampire, L.E. Dubin

Chiroptera Box

 

 

L.E. Dubin is your coolest, oddest Aunt who is probably also a vampire. She served coffee and sat for a visit with NOCM’s Kristof Crovinus recently in her small but eclectic apartment just blocks away from the St Charles Avenue Streetcar, with Archie the cat lounging on his collection of colorful pillows and a 1950’s black and white Hollywood movie flickering in silence on the television.

Kristof: How long have you been an artist?

L.E.: I started painting when I was 3 years old and I had a painting in the LA County Art Museum at age 14. I’m not going to say that I hit my peak then, but I would say that it was a pretty big milestone in my painting career (at age14). I was very influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites, the figurative painting from that era, as well illustrators Mark English and Maxfield Parrish.

Kristof: What drove you to become a professional artist?

L.E.: When I was three years old, I would watch my mother paint and do mixed media and she related the trials and tribulations of professional artists. I learned from her that it was a very difficult occupation, especially if you are emotional or sensitive. My mother always inspired me, but did not encourage me to be an artist because she felt it was too tough to make a living at it. She didn’t want me to be poor and starving. I painted on the side anyway.

My regular job was in the legal profession, working for attorneys for about 30 years. I would come home afterwards and paint. Sometimes I’d get commissions. One time a guy wanted three Madonnas – the singer from the 80’s. Or Batman. I would paint anything!

VICTORIAN GARDENS Hand-Painted with Paper Decoupage Musical Jewelry Cabinet

I also made jewelry and sold it in boutiques. I was so young at the time that my mother would bring my jewelry into boutiques so the owners thought that they were buying them from her. People have always wanted to buy my stuff, so I guess I’ve have had a charmed life that way.

Kristof: What genres do you work in?

L.E.: I do acrylic portraiture. I paint on furniture. Anything from Day of the Dead imagery to desert landscapes to skulls. Whatever people want to buy or whatever I feel like painting. When I get commissions on furniture I use acrylics on that. I make jewelry boxes, Victorian decoupage, Halloween craftwork, jewelry, and hats. A little bit of everything!

               Skull Jewelry

Kristof: Whose work inspires you the most? You’ve mentioned the Pre-Raphaelites as a big influence.

L.E.: I really look up to them: Waterhouse, Toulouse-Lautrec, Alma-Tadema. Late 19th century artists inspire me. I’m inspired by their techniques, their portraiture, and their sense of style.

Kristof: Is your mom still a role model?

L.E.: Yes, my mother, Lee Dubin. I also like the printers Aubrey Beardsley and Edward Gorey. And I love anything Halloween inspired, gothic, and spooky.

                Halloween Trinket Box
Strangled Witness Mystery Box

Fiction inspires me. Vampire novels. Poe, Lovecraft, and Ray Bradbury. Science fiction writers help me to form images in my mind.

 

Kristof: You work mostly in acrylics. Do you ever use oils?

L.E.: No. They take too long to dry. They smell bad. I don’t like turpentine. I get more brilliant color with acrylics. I tried oils once when I was 6 years old and I’ve always used acrylics ever since.

Decoupage and acrylics are the two mediums I use most. I have a huge collection of paper and ephemera. My mother has one too and we call them “artist’s morgue”. Boxes and boxes of images for use in collage and mixed media.

Kristof: You seem to freely combine modern art, pop art and folk art.

Victorian Cat Box

L.E.: Yes! I call it New Orleans Folk Art while I’m making it.

Kristof: It definitely is. A vintage feel like in advertisements from the 19th century. A very decorative Art Nouveau style.

L.E.: I used to collect advertising from the turn of the (19th to 20th) century. I’ve got all of that wacky stuff. Then I had my band and in the flyers I incorporated Maxfield Parrish and Victorian ads.

Kristof: Tell us about your band: the look, the sound.

L.E.: “Ellie Mae’s Biscuits”. Flaky on the outside, tender on the inside! We played Hillbilly rock. This was in the early 1990s. All my bandmates were guys from heavy metal bands, but I made them wear western outfits that I’d sewn. Silver spider web appliques across the shoulders, leather cowboy boots and black cowboy hats

I wore platinum blonde dreadlocks, sang and played a Goth-a-Billy washboard that I made. I was called “Stevie Nicks on Quaaludes!” We had the best fun. They called us a novelty act, but we put on a show! We had the best time. I miss that a lot.

Kristof: How do you differentiate your art from that of other artists?

Bloody Heart Box – Hand-painted trinket box with paper decoupage

L.E.: I’ve never seen anything else like it. My colors are very vibrant and they incorporate 19th Century design elements. I don’t use sepia tones. I never used pastels. I never painted seascapes. I’ve always painted people or animal imagery.

Kristof: When did you move to New Orleans?

L.E.: Three years ago. August 1, 2014, from Southern California.

Kristof: What made you choose New Orleans?

L.E.: I always had galleries ask me if I could send my work to New Orleans. And I said, “Well, if I ever get there!” I don’t like to send my stuff around. I like to check out the places where my art is going to be displayed.

                                 Vision

Then the building which had been my home for ten years sold. And I said, “Ok! Maybe this is a sign? It’s time to move to New Orleans.”

New Orleans is my kind of place. It’s my adopted hometown. I feel so accepted. Everyone is so nonjudgmental. I can be myself. I wear my skull jewelry, no problems.

Kristof: The movie playing on your TV?

L.E.: “Let’s Do It Again” with Jane Wyman. My mom and I both love to watch old movies while painting. Always the old vintage glamour movies. I just love that era. I’m also very into monster movies. Any monster movie that comes on, I’ve gotta watch it!

Kristof: What do you think is the most challenging part of being a mixed-media artist?

L.E.: Like any artist, the challenge is to be inspired. Sometimes you don’t feel like making stuff. A mixed-media artist always has little trinkets or pictures and materials close by, and sometimes you paw through that and it will inspire you. Anything visual can inspire you. TV, the Internet. I look at other artist’s work and that is inspiring. Going out to galleries to look at other people’s work. You must continually try to inspire yourself, that’s the main thing.

And you know I have to have my makeup on and be “glam” when I go out. I’m 61 years old. I gotta lot of experience! I can’t wait to be 62.

Kristof: How do you deal with negative feedback?

Lucky Shamrock Trinket Box

L.E.: My mother was my harshest critic. I grew up hearing a lot of crap. She would say: “You know, if I don’t tell you somebody else is going to tell you!” And she was right. You have to put aside your ego with negative criticism.

Some people are just jealous and say, “Well, I could do that!” or “Well I took a class once…” And my response is, “Well, do it!”

                       Dark Angels Song

I don’t give a crap what people say. I’ve been painting the same things since I was little. Sometimes I paint to sell, but mostly I paint what I like to paint. They don’t like it? Tough shit! This is what makes a true artist.

Kristof: How do you come up with the prices for your art?

L.E.: It’s very difficult. I usually have no idea. I usually have to ask my mother because she has been doing this longer than me. She’s 84 years old now. Sometimes I go online and see what other artists are charging. I always look to see what galleries are charging. Galleries usually take 50%. So I try to figure in materials, cost, and how much my time is worth. You can’t have too high of an opinion of yourself. And you can’t price it too low because people won’t take you seriously.

Kristof: If you had to pick one favorite work that you have done, so far, what would it be and what medium was it?

L.E.: My Ian Astbury portrait. I had a very bad toothache when I did this and I can remember the pain when I painted it. He’s my favorite. I painted the skull and rendered gold. I always add spider webs. I remember the intensity I felt while painting this. It’s not of him, per se. It’s just the grimace. Rock out!

I’ve also done rock icons like Elton John, David Bowie, all of the glam rockers. I did one of the lead singer of Warrant. He used to go to this rock club in North Hollywood. I did a painting from a photograph of him and he bought it from me. Jani Lane. He died of an overdose. All of my favorite paintings were of my rock dudes.

Kristof: Where can people see more of your work?

L.E.: On Facebook.  Or by appointment. I also have a few pieces at Starling Magical Book Store in the French Quarter. I also have an Etsy store.

https://www.facebook.com/The-Art-Craftwork-of-LE-DUBiN-217227708313580/app/121288031389348/

 

https://www.etsy.com/shop/DubiousARTS?utm_source=theorangeappforfaceb&utm_medium=api&utm_campaign=api

 

Kristof: What advice would you give to new artists in New Orleans trying to get known?

L.E.: Get as much publicity as you can without paying for it! Use social media. Flood social media as much as you can. Go to shows. Hang around. People want to see your face. They want to see the artist behind the art.

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