Cheryl Anne Grace’s Joyful Southern Gothic Art

Cheryl Anne Grace is a self-taught artist who moved to New Orleans in 2009.  She’s a delightful person who exudes joy from the first moment you encounter her. Her bright and cheerful personality is also evident in her style of painting, which can best be described as Folk Art mixed with Southern Gothic portraits and scenes of everyday life in the South.

“I feel like I’ve led a hard-knock life, not unlike little orphan Annie. So now I’ve learned to just focus on the joy that I get out of life.

Cheryl is originally from South Carolina, but also spent part of her life in Augusta, Georgia, before relocating to New Orleans.

“I always felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb, but once I moved to New Orleans everything fell into place. I blend right in here! I find so much inspiration in this city, I’ll never run out of ideas.”

St Aaron Neville

Cheryl has been painting full-time for the last five years. Prior to painting she had several other careers. She started to teach herself to paint in her twenties when she would stay up late at night after her children went to sleep. She still has her first artwork displayed in her home. It is a beautiful realistic pastel of two old wooden rowboats in the middle of a South Carolina low country landscape.

“I used to do some commission portrait work and I used to do some craft type painting in my early years. I was a single mother, so I had to raise my kids, keep food on the table, and pay my mortgage. Most of my adult life I had to struggle to find time to paint. Fortunately, I’ve now reached a place where I can devote myself to painting full time.”

Cheryl describes herself as 98% self-taught. She spends a lot of time researching her subject matter, but not techniques. Her only art instruction was a month long class on perspective that was taught by Ed Rice in South Carolina.

“I had a rather strange childhood with a mostly absent single mother. We lived with my grandmother. There was no father in the picture. My mother had to work an awful lot. My grandmother stayed at home, but she had a business making draperies. My grandfather was dead. So those two women were just hustling trying to make ends meet.

As a result, everybody ignored me. My days were spent playing in the scrap boxes under the sewing table. My imagination was my playmate. I learned from an early age to use my imagination, which still effects my subject matter when I paint. ”

“When I travel with my husband, Mark, we stop along the road and take pictures of landscapes that inspire me. ”

Cheryl’s current series, “Gospel According to New Orleans” is focused on painting famous New Orleans musicians and culture-bearers as religious icons. The frames for her icon paintings are gilt in 24 karat gold leaf. The frames themselves are built by a carpenter and come to Cheryl completely bare. From there she paints them, guilds them, and embellishes them with rhinestones.

“My purpose for portraying New Orleans musicians is because music brings people together just like religion does. I often feel that I am telling a story with my paintings. In each portrait, I try to tell the story of the life of the person I’m painting. I have so many tales to tell.”

Cheryl has shown her work at several local galleries, but has had more success selling her paintings on her own, such as at Jazzfest 2019. She sold quite a few small portraits and paintings of New Orleans musicians and many collectors who saw her work at Jazzfest contacted her afterwards seeking to purchase paintings.

Cheryl has no shortage of ideas for her future series of paintings. Most center around Southern life. For instance, she wants to focus on  a series of paintings of Southerners posing outside of their Airstreams (camping trailers), as well as a series of portraits of strong women.

“I have a bunch of Airstreams that I want to paint. That is probably the next series that I will focus on. I want to paint seventies dance parties and the circus. I also want to do a series of portraits on female strength and beauty.”

Cheryl has a great imagination and originality is not a problem. She’s always exploring new ideas and not limiting herself to working with one medium. Most notably, she’s lately been experimenting with collage and old China patterns for her upcoming series on strong women..

“I was inspired by my grandmother’s Blue Willow China, so I painted the canvas with the China pattern. For Frida, I  used collage. I cut the face off the front of a New York Times magazine years ago just because I thought she was pretty.

The butterfly wings around her neck are collage. Then I glued rhinestones and painted antlers on her head. Then I painted crows on her antlers.  I bought some round canvases. Then I covered it in resin to make it look more like a plate. Because china is beautiful and strong. And the women I am going to paint are beautiful and strong.”

Image may contain: 1 person

Cheryl’s bubbly personality has helped her develop friendships within the New Orleans art scene. She’s currently mentored by renowned artist Jennifer Odem. She also finds inspiration in the work of Douglas Bourgeois, Michael Meads, and Herb Roe. 

“I’m always eager to meet other artists. I want to learn about them and find out what inspires them to create.”

Saint Allen

You can see more of Cheryl Anne Grace’s work at http://cherylannegrace.com/

Please follow and like us:
error0

Master Glass Sculptor Carlos Zervigon Discusses His Artistic Process

 

Carlos Zervigon is a renowned glass sculptor who was born and raised in Uptown New Orleans. He is exceptionally skilled at transforming and manipulating traditional forms of glass to create vibrant colorful works of art. He first studied glass sculpture at Tulane University where his principal mentor was Gene Koss in the Newcomb Art Department.

Carlos currently works in a studio on Baronne Street that used to belong to another famous sculptor, Dr. Arthur Silverman.  In 2011 he bought the building from Silverman and has customized it to his needs.

The creative space was built to let in a lot of natural light. It also has tall ceilings which allow space to create large sculptures. Carlos has painted the walls gallery white. All of these factors combine to make a perfect artistic space. Carlos uses his studio on Baronne for everything except actually blowing the glass.

“If I need to blow some glass, I rent time at YAYA Creative Glass. That’s a good way to share expenses. Very few people can afford their own hot glass studio.”

After Hurricane Katrina, Carlos was part of a group of artists that formed the New Orleans Creative Glass Institute. The purpose of the institute was to facilitate the return of glass artists who had been displaced because of the storm. They were able to get funding from the Ford Foundation and other local foundations to build the studio as public access non-profit. Approximately thirty glass artists returned to use the space. Carlos was the founding Treasurer of that board and then became the President and CEO of it for a number of years. Eventually the New Orleans Creative Glass Institute became part of YAYA. Now its the YAYA Art Center with YAYA Creative Glass.

When Carlos was an undergrad at Tulane, he knew he wanted to teach. However, at that time, many art teachers were being laid off, so instead he became certified to teach history. For a number of years he taught history at Ben Franklin High School and ultimately earned a Masters in History Education.

In 2000, he returned to Tulane to finish his BFA in Studio Art. After Tulane, he immediately started having art shows and never went back to teach in the classroom.

“I went back in 2000 and finished my degree in 2002. Then Cole Pratt gave me a show in 2003. I sold almost everything in that show right away.”

Carlos does not come from a family of artists. He comes from a family of engineers and people with technical backgrounds. As such, he recognizes that having technical ability is an advantage for a glass artist.

“In glass sculpture there are so many technical things to consider in terms of the problems that you run into. Glass is brittle and often doesn’t want to do everything that you want it to do. You’ve got to think very creatively about technical problems with its fabrication and the science of it. ”

Carlos buys the colored tubes that he uses in his sculptures from suppliers who manufacture them in Germany and New Zealand. These are dense glass tubes that he uses with a blow pipe. He puts the blow pipe into a tank and gathers the glass, which he shapes into a clear bubble. Then his assistant takes another color of hot glass on a rod called a punty and brings it to Carlos’s blow pipe. From there he drops the hot colored glass over the clear layer.  This is how he builds layers of colored glass in his sculptures. He can repeat this process many times to achieve his desired effect. The whole process looks similar to pulling taffy. Except this is extremely hot taffy that ends up producing beautiful vibrant glass sculpture.

“A thin layer of color can give the illusion of the entire glass being one color. Sometimes you will use a pot of all one color of glass. Especially If I’m doing a specific project where I need a lot of one color. Usually we’re in a small studio working with multiple colors. ”

Carlos also uses glass powder and glass grit to create his pieces. He rolls the molten glass at the end of the pipe over the powder or the grit to pick it up. That’s how he ends up with speckles and streaks.

“I usually use either solid color or I go with powders on the surface and then play with that surface .”

Carlos also carves into the layers of different colored glass to create cool lighting effects.  He’ll put LED strips inside the glass to light it from the inside. This illuminates the different colored layers and shapes in the glass.

He uses a special machine with a carbon wheel to cut the glass. With this machine he can strap the pieces down and carve on them. It is similar to a wet sander and an angle grinder. It enables him to carve without shattering the glass. He spends a great deal of time building a maintaining his equipment.

He’s heavily invested in welding equipment, torches, and plasma cutters – a necessity since he works with a lot of stainless steel and aluminum to avoid rust. The support structure inside the glass sculpture is often welded aluminum. The process of welding and assembling each piece is very tricky and he usually needs experienced assistants to help him. Some of these pieces take months of full-time work to complete.

One of Carlos’s pet peeves his when people describe his sculptures as “decorative” because they are made of glass. He has spent  many years developing his skills and doesn’t the final product dismissed as bric-a-brac. Glass, he feels, is a medium for artistic expression beyond bric-a-brac.

“If I made the exact same thing out of stainless steel, it would never be referred to as decorative. Unfortunately glass artists hear that a lot.  Glass is a serious postmodern art material in the gallery setting. I want glass art to be a serious sculptural medium.”

 

You can see more of Carlos’s work at Andrew Jackson Pollack’s gallery on Magazine Street or on his website http://www.carloszervigon.com/

 

 

Please follow and like us:
error0

New Orleans Art Center Champions Local Contemporary Artists

 

Christina Juran and Herman Kron are the owners the New Orleans Art Center located in the heart of the St Claude Arts District of New Orleans. The New Orleans Art Center is the largest art gallery in the district with over 6500 square feet of space and focuses on promoting local contemporary artists. Since opening in 2015, Christina and Herman have proudly exhibited the work of over 500 artists. The goal of the gallery is to promote living artists and help them sustain themselves through their work.

Mixed Media/ Cardboard Sculpture vehicles/shoe by Eric Felton

Christina and Herman have a tremendous appreciation and love for art and artists. Both are accomplished artists themselves and know how difficult it can be to support oneself in the arts. Theirs is one of a few galleries in the city open to exhibiting at the art of unknown artists.

“Smile” Oil on Canvas by Patrick O’Brien

Christina is the Artistic Director of the gallery. She took us on a tour of both floors of the gallery and explained the process for working with artists.

“We have a lot of artists who come in off the streets. We’re also contacted by artists directly through our website. I’m open to seeing anybody’s work. I like to encourage artists and keep in touch with them. I’ll watch their work and track the direction they’re going in with their ideas. If I like the direction, I’ll ask them to show their pieces here.

“Tapestry Garden” mixed media on paper by Grace Benedict

Sometimes we combine a group of artists for a show. I’ll get ideas for a theme for a show based on some of the subject matter that several artists are focused on.

I like the fact that well-established artists are comfortable showing their work here. I also like the fact that new artists are showing here for the first time. There are a lot of talented artists who have trouble getting into galleries because they don’t have name recognition.”

Left to right. Painting Geometric Abstract by Jim Sohr, mixed media on paper by Grace Benedict, oil paintings “Indian Landscape,” “Pueblo Infusion” by Glenn E. Miller, Mixed-media Collage/Photography “All Apollojis”and “Child Labor Day GO!” by duo collaboration Mash Buhtaydusss, Barbie L’Hoste + Brandt Vicknair. Middle steel balancing sculpture by Luis Colmenares.

The two floors of The New Orleans Art Center contain many different varieties of art. Christina makes an effort to keep in touch with collectors and match artists work with their tastes.

“Sometimes I’ll see a piece that I think would fit into a certain collection. We also realize that not everyone can afford original art on a budget, so we’ll work out payment plans to help collectors finance their purchases.”

Paintings “BAM”, “Undertow” by George McClements

“I want people to enjoy their experience looking at art in our gallery. This is a commercial gallery. We have a new show every one to two months. We’re doing at least eight shows a year. Sometimes we have guest-curated shows.”

Geometric Abstract by Jim Sohr, middle. Cigar Box Paintings by Christina Juran,
Miniature Wood Carving Sculpture by Jorge Lovato, Steel Sculpture by Hernan Caro, right Magnolia by Christina Juran

Christina is an accomplished artist in her own right. Her art tends to focus on floral themes, such as her beautiful series of magnolias. She also finds inspiration painting plein-air landscapes of the natural beauty found in New Orleans. Christina’s art reflects how well she understands the artistic process, and what artists go through to create art.

Christina Juran

“I’m always working on my art too because it’s appealing to me. I believe in seizing the moment to create art. Sometimes I will repurpose sheets of newspaper or old shopping bags because I think I can make something interesting out of them. I understand that some people will not buy this because the paper is not archival. So I am not charging as much as I would for something created with more expensive materials. But the price of these pieces are also accessible to collectors who don’t have the funds to buy expensive art.  I enables everyone who appreciates art to start their own collection.”

Paintings on Starbucks bags, wood “Sundown” and paper “Two Brothers” by Christina Juran

“I also love the idea of using like a newspaper or a shopping bag that is ephemeral, but also an item that we can all identify with. Perhaps it is a newspaper that captures a snapshot of our collective history. Suddenly, something that most people look at as trash, has something special about it. It turns into a little treasure. And that gives me comfort. I understand that these pieces will probably not be here in a thousand years. But hopefully they will bring someone joy in the meantime.”

Paintings, “Beer Cans” by Daniel Granero, Figurative Paintings on used Starbucks bags by Christina Juran

Christina’s partner, Herman, makes his own metal furniture. He was taught to weld by sculptor Luis Colmenares. Both he & Christina have works on display in the gallery.

Christina and Herman also regularly host a Figure Drawing Group on Monday nights in the gallery to encourage artists and art students to participate and gather inspiration.

Blue Steel Sculpture by Hernan Caro

At the time of our interview, New Orleans Art Center was exhibiting Gustavo Duque’s one man show Africa in Africa. The Gallery has also recently had a show for Jim Sohr, a painter featured in the Winter 2018 Issue of this magazine.

New Orleans Art Center represents a large group of local artists. We have only managed to take photos of a few in this article. We strongly encourage you to visit the gallery at 3330 St Claude Avenue to see the art in person.

Please follow and like us:
error0

Michael Guidry, The Surreal Nature Painter

Michael Guidry describes his paintings as a celebration of the splendor of the Coastal South.  His style is reminiscent of naturalist illustrator John James Audubon, except that he infuses his images with brighter color combinations and a surreal sense of humor.

Michael’s just finished his 12th year exhibiting at Jazzfest. In the last few years it’s started to make sense for him from a business point of view because he has to spend at least 5 months preparing for it. Michael’s experience illustrates how long it can take for a talented artist to achieve recognition with the general public. Luckily he discovered his passion for painting at a young age and never wavered in his focus on developing his skills as artist.

NCM: Are you from Louisiana?

Michael: Yes, I grew up in Metairie. I spent some time at LSU in Baton Rouge, but I ended up coming back to the New Orleans area and have been here ever since.

NCM: How old were you when you first started making art?

Michael: I was about  18 when I first started making art. Before that I was an athlete.  My identity revolved around being a state champ wrestler. My brother was the “artist”. I used to enjoy looking at art books when I was growing up. But I never thought that I could be a painter.

 

Walking Meditation II

NCM: What made you decide to try?

Michael: Because I wanted to be surrounded by art. I couldn’t afford to buy what I wanted.

NCM: Where did you learn to paint?

Michael: I first started taking classes at LSU. But when I moved back to New Orleans, I started to go to the Academy of Fine Art on Magazine Street.

When I moved back to New Orleans from Baton Rouge, I thought I was going to be a sculptor.  My sister had an apartment with a small space for me to work. It was too small to make sculptures, but I could paint in there.

Fete Pine

I was a waiter at the Windsor Court Hotel and I structured my day so that I could wait tables in the morning or at night. Then I could have my afternoons open to take classes at the Academy.

Sometimes I still go back and retake classes there just to sharpen my skills. I fell like there is an opportunity to learn at every corner.

NCM: Do you come from a family of artists?

Michael: No. Not at all.

jf seagulls framed.jpg

NCM: What did your family think when you decided to become an artist?

Michael: They encouraged me. My family always encouraged me to do anything I wanted to do. My mom was so supportive.

NCM: Are you associated with a gallery?

Michael: I try to stay independent. I will occasionally do a show here and there. But I don’t like having to pay a 50% commission to a gallery.

Last year I had more commission than I could handle. So I’m going to start raising my prices.

jumbo-blue-crab-m-michael-guidry-new-orleans-artist-painter-painting-nature.jpg

NCM: How did you establish yourself professionally, since you’ve eschewed galleries?

Michael: I started out having to paint in my spare time. I worked in a lot of restaurants when I was younger in order to pay my bills and maintain health insurance. My big breakthrough came with Jazzfest. The people at Jazzfest saw images from a show I had done called “Out of the Marsh”, which was my first real show. It took me several years of displaying at Jazzfest before I felt really comfortable there.

I also have used social media to get the word out about my paintings. Social media has really helped me engage with the public without the use of a gallery.

NCM: What materials do you prefer to use for your paintings?

Michael: I generally paint on wood or canvas. When I am painting on wood, I often cover it with a burlap surface. The burlap on wood is a process that I developed over about 10 years. There was a lot of trial and error before I became comfortable with it.  I use oil paint on top of the burlap. I almost always paint with oil paint.

I have had to cut back on using burlap and wood because it is time consuming and I have received so many commissions that I can’t physically complete everything fast enough.

NCM: Is there a reason that you choose really bright colors?

Michael: It slowly happened over time. I started falling in love with particular pigments because of what they could do. I started experimenting with different color theories.

I want to paint my portraits of Napoleon with traditional skin tones, but also make the rest of the painting look electric in its use of color.

NCM: How do you come up with your subject matter?

Michael: I’ve started trying to plan out my subjects each year based on what I want to show at Jazz Fest. I’ll sketch out approximately 15 paintings at a time based on a theme for that year. I don’t always stick to that plan. Sometimes when I’m working, ideas pop into my head.

Last year, I ended up having so many commissions that I didn’t have an opportunity to paint any new work. I did start to paint these Napoleons because I had to get them from my mind to the canvas. Some of my clients are a little upset because I had to postpone finishing theirs. But I had to work on the Napoleons.

Napoleon Tropicale #2

When Napoleon expelled the Bourbons, he decided to use bees as a symbol rather than the fleur de lis, which was used by the Bourbons. The original founders of France used the honeybee as a symbol. So my next series is going to be populated with more bees along with tropical plants and birds called “Bee Eaters”.

Napoleon Tropicale

NCM: Do you work on one painting at a time exclusively, or do you have several going at once?

Michael:  I generally have several going at once. I have been experimenting with Griffith Alkyd Oil quick drying white. I do the skin tones in three or four layers. First, there’s a dead layer that has generic colors. And then, the next layer is the one where you work on the values. And then the third or fourth one you put the local color in it. I paint them quickly with the quick drying paint.

NCM: What color canvas are you starting with when you begin the underpainting?

Michael: First I paint the canvas pink. Then I do my initial “drawing” of the figure in burnt sienna.

NCM: What do you wish you knew about oil panning before you started?

Michael: It was such a mystery to me. I would have liked to have been a little less intimidated. I was intimidated by the fact that it took so long to dry.  When I was 18 years old, I went and got a couple of tubes of oil paint and squirted it onto the canvas. It wouldn’t dry. It stayed that way for months. Eventually, I learned to work with the palette at the Academy. It helped me become acquainted with all of the paint. Right now I am obsessed with Egyptian Violet and Indian Yellow.

Homecoming

NCM: Do you use one brand of paint exclusively?

Michael: No, I mix them all. I spent a period indulging in all of these really expensive pigmented paints. But once I started doing the portraits, I realized that’s not necessarily the best way to achieve the desired result. I am constantly experimenting with paint.

New Pink Alligator

NCM: Do you ever find that manufacturers change their formulas and then you come away disappointed with the result?

Michael: Sometimes paint companies change owners or the names of colors are changed.

NCM: How do you deal with negative criticism? Do you ever get negative feedback?

Michael: It doesn’t bother me at all.  I’ve heard negative comments in the past because I’ve painted roaches  or birds eating insects. I don’t beat myself up about any of it.

NCM: Tell us about your work space.

Michael:  I’m a mess. So one thing I get really excited about it is when I have a studio visit because I have to clean it. Otherwise I’m totally shamed and each time it gets a little bit better. I’ve just started using three easels and I might want to progress to four. I have a detached building where I paint because I have a young toddler and need to keep my work space where she can’t get into things like oil paint.

NCM: Do you have a favorite tool you like to use while painting?

Michael: My most used tool is a Q-Tip. I use it to help line stuff and remove excess paint in a very controlled way. I use them a lot with Burnt Sienna, which looks like earwax, so if a stranger were to walk into the studio and see them all over my floor, they might think I have hygiene issues!

NCM: Do you use a varnish once the paintings are finished?

Michael: I spray Kamar Varnish. I find it easier to spray on varnish than to paint it on.

NCM: Which other artists influence you the most?

Michael: Right now my biggest influence is the work of Walton Ford. I’m also interested in Pierre-Joseph Redoute’, who was the favorite botanical painter of Marie Antoinette and Josephine Bonaparte.

abstract alligator #8 framed.jpg

You can see more of Michael Guidry’s work at https://mguidrystudio.com/

 

 

 

Please follow and like us:
error0

Pandora Gastelum and the Mudlark Theatre

Pandora Gastelum is a puppeteer, playwrite, and performance artist who started the Mudlark Public Theater at 1200 Port Street in the St Claude Arts District nearly a decade ago. Since then she has been presenting charming puppet plays there as well as hosting other artistic events on a regular basis. 

The Mudlark Theater is an old school neighborhood theater in its purest form.  The wood frame building is a former corner grocery store. The type that is commonly found in old New Orleans neighborhoods which were built before the creation of the automobile. The main room has been converted into a funky theater space which is dedicated to hosting live performances for people of all ages. It has also become a venue for the annual New Orleans Giant Puppet Festival.

Pandora creates puppets out of papier mache and fabric for her puppet shows. Many of them hang from the walls and ceilings in the lobby of the theater. These are all puppets that she has made over the years. Some of them are actively being used and some are retired performers.

NCM: How long have you had the Mudlark theater?

Pandora: Nine years. It will be ten years in October. And the New Orleans Giant Puppet Festival will be seven years old this year. We have the festival every year between French Quarter Festival and Jazz Fest.

NCM: Are you from New Orleans?

Pandora: I was born in Austin, but I moved to New Orleans when I was still a kid.

NCM: Why did you choose to focus your artistic career on puppetry?

Pandora: I studied puppetry for the first time when I was a college student in Florence, Italy. I was 18 when I made my first puppet and I fell in love with everything about the art form. I always animated my dolls when I was a kid. I was an only child with a really active imagination. I would make scenes and act them out with the dolls. I also studied puppetry in Prague.

I got my degree from NYU, where I studied theater. I started as a Musical Theater major, but that ended up not being the direction I wanted to go in.  However, I still do musicals with some regularity and my puppet shows always incorporate musical elements. But performing other people’s work just became increasingly less interesting to me.

I moved from the musical theater department to this company called playwrights horizons, which has a Broadway theater house. They also have a studio at NYU where they help students learn how to do self-scripting as well as learn how to make an entire production. The students learn to do all of the onstage and behind stage work.  It was wonderful because they allowed me the flexibility to spend a year of my four years at university abroad. I used that time to also study puppetry.

NCM: Why did you choose to name it the Mudlark Theater?

Pandora: Mudlark is a Dickensian era word for orphan or street urchin. Mudlarks were the little children in the Victorian era that would dig through the gutters of London for dropped coins and jewelry. They searched for anything that they could find of value. The gutters were also where people emptied their chamber pots.  So the mud was literally waste.

I bought the building for this theater not long after I became an orphan myself. So this is my own personal orphanage. I dedicate it to all of the little lost and disenfranchised creatures of this world. It is a sanctuary for strays.

NCM: How often do you have shows here?

Pandora: Five nights a week. We try to encourage as much local theater as possible. The majority of our shows tend to be music related. We offer puppetry at least once a month. We also feature dance, circus arts, cabaret, burlesque, and independent film screenings. Sometimes people rent it out as an event space.

NCM: What materials do you use to create your puppets?

Pandora: I primarily use papier mache and textile sculpting. My style is a variation of Japanese Bunraku. I have modified it a little so that you only need one or two puppeteers to perform it.

NCM: Who inspires you as an artist?

Pandora: Angela Carter has influenced me most as a writer, folklorist, and an essayist. She wrote with a very tender and critical lens.

I am also a fan of Terry Gilliam’s work. He is an inspiration and personal hero. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen  had a profound effect on me when I was young. I love his mind.

NCM: Did your family support your decision to become an artist?

Pandora:  Yes, my parents were really supportive of me developing my skills on every level. They wanted me to be a well-rounded person. I was able to study theater at a very early age. My mother made sure I knew how to make clothing, which has also  helped me sew costumes and puppets.

My parents were both medical professionals and they wanted me to go in that direction as well. My mother passed away when I was fourteen. My father was very worried about financial stability for me as an artist in the theater.  Several years after I moved to New York, he saw me star in a production. Afterwards, he came back stage to congratulate me and tell me that he thought I made the right decision about going into the theater.

As soon as I graduated from college, I moved back to New Orleans. This was where I wanted to be. And I have lived in New Orleans ever since, except for two years after Katrina.  I lost everything in Katrina, so I moved to New York for those two years and worked for a costume company called Randy Carfagno Productions. They are a fabrication studio that is associated with a lot of Broadway shows and Henson Studios. I was hired at Carfagno to generate 80 pieces at a time for the Rockettes.

After that season was over, a former professor hired me to make  masks and puppets at a theater in Bangkok, Thailand. I learned a lot in that theater. And living in Bangkok was very magical. I met some puppeteers from Taiwan that were part of the Dream Community. I ended up traveling and performing with them throughout Southeast Asia at Buddhist monasteries.

NCM: Is anyone else in your family an artist?

Pandora: My mother was really gifted at working with textiles and creating three dimensional objects. Actually, both of my parents were incredibly talented artists. Both of my parents could draw.  My father was also a very eloquent writer. He published a number of very spiritual articles in Runner’s Magazine. I moved back to the states in 2007 when he passed away.

NCM: Do you do any  work with local schools?

Pandora: Yes, I have done some public workshops with Young Audiences and YAYA. I have worked with a number of non-profit organizations. It is very important to me that this theater space is open to people of all ages. It is a community theater in that sense.

The Mudlark Public Theater is located at 1200 Port Street one block off of St. Claude Avenue in the 9th Ward of New Orleans. You can also find announcements about upcoming events on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/mudlarkpublictheater/

Please follow and like us:
error0

Letter from the Editor Summer 2019

Welcome to the sultry Summer 2019 Issue of New Orleans Canvas Magazine! The passing of Spring in New Orleans means shedding yet another layer to endure our Subtropical days & balmy nights. Many of our local artists take this period to recharge after a series of Spring shows and festivals. Summers are also a great time for artists in New Orleans to reflect and find new inspiration.

New Orleans Canvas Magazine always strives to find interesting and diverse artists to interview to inform & entertain our readers. This issue is no exception because it is the first time we’ve ever interviewed a burlesque dancer, a theater owner/puppeteer, and glass artist.

Our cover artist this time is burlesque producer and performer Trixie Minx, photographed by Frank Aymami. Frank met with Trixie for this portrait before her recent performance at The Saint Hotel, giving our readers can get a glimpse into her life as a burlesque performer.  This is the first time Frank has ever done an assignment for us and we’re glad to have the opportunity to work with him.

We also interviewed puppeteer, playwright, and performance artist, Pandora Gastelum at the Mudlark Theater in the St. Claude Arts District. Pandora was generous enough to show us around her theater and let Pamela Reed photograph her beautiful handcrafted puppets. Pandora is the first puppeteer and theater owner we’ve ever interviewed for this magazine.

Our Summer issue also includes features on three established Uptown artists: Painters, Michael Guidry and Cheryl Anne Grace, who’ve both just finished a successful Jazz Fest season, and glass sculptor Carlos Zervigon, who’s diligently creating beautiful and delicate glass sculptures in his magnificent studio on Baronne Street. All three of these artists have bright and colorful futures ahead of them.

Pamela Reed and I were also very honored to meet and interview Christina Juran and Herman Kron from The New Orleans Art Center. Christina and Herman are more than just gallery owners. In addition to having a love for art, they also have a deep love for artists.

We hope that you enjoy this latest issue. Once again, a special thanks Pamela Reed for accompanying me on five of the six interviews and taking wonderful photos of the subjects and their art. We’re thrilled to see that our readership continues to grow. We plan on profiling other exciting artists in the future as well as offering new enhanced features for the visual arts community in the coming months.

With warmest regards,

Erin McNutt

Editor

Please follow and like us:
error0

New Orleans Burlesque Superstar Trixie Minx Discusses Her Rise to the Top

 

New Orleans French Quarter has always had a reputation for catering to visitors carnal desires. Burlesque dancing became popular in French Quarter night clubs during the 1940s and 1950s when servicemen would pass through the city looking for entertainment. Eventually the owners of these night clubs started competing with each other to produce more elaborate shows in order to draw in bigger crowds. They invested in costumes, live music, hairstylists, and hired trained dancers. This is how Burlesque evolved into an art form.

Trixie Minx is a member of a community of burlesque producers and performers who have sought to revive the art form in recent years. She’s also achieved celebrity status in New Orleans due to the popularity of her shows and her passion for promoting New Orleans art and culture.

NCM: Where are you originally from?

Trixie: I grew up in Miami, Florida, but I have been in New Orleans since 2001. I consider New Orleans my home. I travel around the world to perform shows, but New Orleans is my home.

NCM: What brought you to New Orleans from Miami?

Trixie: I always wanted to be a ballet dancer and trained to be a professional ballerina. I trained with the American Ballet Theatre, the Kennedy Center, and the Houston Ballet Academy. Eventually I ended up working with National Ballet, which is where I injured my foot.

After the injury, I came to visit a friend in New Orleans and just ended up staying because it was the right fit. I went back to school and also started teaching Pilates. I thought I could never dance again because my ballet career was over. Luckily in New Orleans I found that there were other forms of dance, including burlesque.

NCM: Had you known about burlesque prior to your move to New Orleans?

Trixie: Prior to moving to New Orleans, I did not know about burlesque. And my first experience with burlesque was actually not positive. Now that I’ve been performing for about 14 years, I have a huge appreciation for the full spectrum of what the term “burlesque” encompasses. But in that moment,  I saw this show that had poorly constructed costumes, bad lighting, and bad music. The venue was also a tiny little art gallery. It didn’t look like a real show. These people were having fun, but it lacked any sort of professional aspect to it. I knew that I could produce and perform something better.

NCM: How did your family feel about you becoming a burlesque dancer?

Trixie: They were all very supportive of my decision to become a burlesque dancer because they remembered how I had lived to be a ballet dancer. I lived to dance before my injury. I wasn’t as happy when I couldn’t dance. My family was thrilled to see me happy again.

NCM: How do you differentiate your burlesque act from everyone else’s?

Trixie: I think that everybody is unique. For my act, I like to combine a lot of comedy elements with classic burlesque. So I use tongue and cheek humor accompanied with a beautiful and sparkly costume. My act is very playful and lightens the mood. It’s all one long joke, which is my trademark.

NCM: Why did you choose to be a professional burlesque dancer as opposed to just having it as a hobby?

Trixie: I have always been obsessed with dancing. Some of my earliest memories are of dancing through the aisles of the grocery store or dancing in my living room to music.

For me, burlesque dancing evolved into a full-time job from a hobby. I was performing on weekends here in New Orleans and, at that time, there were only two professional troupes here in the city. An opportunity to tour with a group through Comic Relief was offered to me. They were taking a bunch of musicians and burlesque dancers on tour as part of a comedy variety show. I had to make a two month commitment to be a part of the show. Initially, I thought I could just take a two month leave of absence from my regular job, but the dancing contract kept getting extended and those two months ended up becoming two years.

NCM: Do you find that it is harder being a full-time burlesque performer?

Trixie: It is hard being a full-time performer because most don’t have the insurance and retirement benefits that everyone else has. That is why I work so closely with the New Orleans Musician’s Clinic. They are an incredible institution because they work to get those benefits for performers.

NCM: Who inspires you? Do you have any role models?

Trixie: Lucille Ball is a role model for me. Marilyn Monroe also inspires me, but to a slightly lesser extent.  I love the fact that these were both beautiful glamorous women who could also be very funny. Their audience never lost interest in what they were doing. I like smart women who can also be comedians as well.

 

NCM: Do you think there is a stigma around burlesque?

Trixie: Oh, 100%! When you say, “Burlesque”, most people think of one of two things. First, there was the movie Burlesque with Christina Aguilera and Cher, which is more on the Cabaret spectrum. Or they think you are a pole dancer. It can be frustrating. The best analogy that I can come up with is that beef can be served as a steak, a hamburger, a roast, etc. They taste different and are prepared differently, but they all qualify as beef. I get frustrated when people make a hasty generalization about burlesque, when perhaps they haven’t seen the different types of burlesque shows. I think that people should keep an open mind a not be afraid to watch a burlesque show, because each performer is different.

NCM: How do you feel about working with other artists on artistic collaborations?

Trixie: I have worked with numerous photographers both locally and internationally. For example, Lena Herzog is an international photographer and was absolutely wonderful to work with. She wanted to work with dancers on her Nude series and put them in beautiful places in New Orleans.

I also collaborate with a lot of music and bands as well as costume designers for performances that are both recorded and live.

NCM: Do you have a set group of musicians that you work with?

Trixie: Right now I regularly work with two bands Gerald French and the French Follies at the Saint Hotel and Romy Kaye & the Mercy Buckets at the Royal Sonesta Hotel. I have also worked with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Galactic, and Better Than Ezra

NCM: How many dancers do you have in your troupe?

Trixie: I currently have four regular running shows in New Orleans in addition to like numerous popups in private events as well as normal corporate event work. For Fleur de Tease we have a regular cast of twelve performers. In Bourbon Boylesque we have a regular cast of six performers. But we also regularly bring in a cast of guest dancers. For Burgundy Burlesque we have a four piece band with a rotating cast of dancers. My Burlesque Ballroom show is the largest show that we work with. We have about 30 dancers in a rotation because it is a weekly show. Right now there are definitely over 100 performers in my roster.

NCM: Is it hard juggling all of those dancers and those shows?

Trixie: It is difficult because my shows are constantly growing and changing. I have an Assistant and a team to help me stay organized. In this line of work, I don’t believe anyone should just be working for a check. There is too much of a personal aspect to each performance. This is artistry and you are giving a part of yourself to your audience in each performance. The people I work with have become part of my family. I like to be aware of what is going on in their lives. We are a supportive team.

NCM: Is anyone else in your family a dancer or an artist?

Trixie: Everyone in my family is an artist in some medium, but I’m the only dancer right now. My late grandmother wanted to be a dancer, but she grew up during the Depression and World War II. So it really wasn’t appropriate for her to pursue that dream. She was a self-taught tap dancer and piano player. She also taught piano and tap dancing. She actually started her own dance troupe after she retired.

 

My father is a pianist and my mother is a visual artist. My sister is an actor and producer for the  National Theatre of Scotland. My brother is interested in video and film editing.

NCM: What do you wish you knew about burlesque before you got started?

Trixie: Well, this doesn’t only apply to being a burlesque dancer. But, as woman starting a business,  I wish had known that there were as many cutthroat people out there. I was naïve because I was always taught that if you work hard and do the right thing, good things will happen to you. People don’t always play nice together. I have been surprised by the lack of goodwill in certain business situations.

For anyone who is trying to achieve something a little different, you have 100% commitment to your goal. But I don’t hold any grudges against the people that I have clashed with over the years. I believe in moving forward with lots of love and positive thinking.

NCM: How do you deal with negative feedback? Has anyone ever said anything that really hurt you?

Trixie: Oh yeah! I get insulted all of the time. People have called me a drag queen. I have had multiple people say I was too fat. I have had multiple people say I was too skinny. I have had people say I have a bad boob job even though they are natural. But I have learned that people’s opinions about my performances are subjective. Art is interpreted by people on an individual basis.

I want honest feedback, but I have learned not to take it too personally. I have to put it in perspective. Sometimes people say hateful things because they are just angry about something that has nothing to do with me.

NCM: Do you have trouble with people getting your stage persona confused with your real life personality.

Trixie: The Trixie that you see on stage is me. We are the same person. The thing that is weird is that more people know me and recognize me on the street because they have seen my act. And I don’t always know them, so it can feel a little awkward in conversation.

 

NCM: Do you have any advice for young dancers wanting to go into burlesque?

Trixie: I strongly suggest you see multiple shows first to get an idea of where you want to get involved. This applies to anybody who wants to pursue anything in burlesque. You can start by just taking a class, pursue it as a hobby, or even become a professional and change careers entirely.

A lot of people see one show and think that’s what they want. It is important to understand how much can be done within this field. There are so many different subsets of burlesque culture. Men and women can get involved. There are even people that perform Nerdlesque, which incorporates elements of Comic Book Culture.

NCM: Do you see yourself doing this for a long time? Or do you have other dreams and aspirations to accomplish?

Trixie: When I started as a ballet dancer, it was generally understood that your career is usually over by the time you hit 40 because your body can’t take the stress. But burlesque is much kinder to the body and you can perform longer. There are people that performed in the 1960s who are still performing today as Living Legends.

Initially I thought I would have to start thinking about retiring at a certain age. But when I started to approach that age, my career started to really take off. I have decided that I am going to dance as long as people want to see me. And when they don’t want to see me dance, I’m going to dance at home!

 

To find out more information about Trixie’s Burlesque shows go to

https://www.trixieminx.com/

Please follow and like us:
error0