Michelle Levine’s “Pillars”

Known globally from famous photographs taken in her own flamboyantly vivid Mardi Gras costumes, Michelle Levine is more than just one of New Orleans’ most recognized characters.  She’s an incredible artist who is not only enthusiastic about her work, she is excited about anyone who is excited about art. Michelle’s devotion and energy to organizing a venue to help promote other local artists is evident in her recent advancement to head of the Arts Market of New Orleans held in Palmer Park the last Saturday of every month.

It goes without saying that the costumes Michelle has designed for the Mondo Kayo accurately embraces the frolicking image of the Carnivalesque parade that rolls at the crack of dawn every Mardi Gras Day, but did you know how incredibly cool Michelle Levine is?  I do!

Earlier this evening, Michelle hosted an opening exhibit of her latest collection at Cafe Degas, a cozy French restaurant tucked into a screen of foliage on Esplanade Avenue.  I was finally able to meet this polite yet vivacious artist and talk a little about her latest series.  Entitled “Pillars,” each of Levine’s pieces featured a tall salt cellar with bright, colorful backgrounds and highly reflective tops.  It was precisely those reflections that drew me to this collection.

Apparently, I am not alone.  Michelle admitted her fascination with the shapes and colors created inside the reflection and confessed a growing obsession for this unique subject.  “I keep walking by this pot in my kitchen, analyzing the angle of the reflection,” she said, offering her selfless smile.  In her search for other mirror-like objects, she told me of a garbage can that she can take anywhere and capture its reflection on canvas.  I can’t wait to see how her ideas flesh out…

Although I desperately wished I could have stayed for dinner (moulesfrites!), it wasn’t my cheat night and I had lots left to do when I got home.  Currently, Michelle also has another exhibition on display featuring depictions of different McDonald’s Restaurant signs ravaged by Hurricane Katrina now showing at the Convergence Center on Canal.

I look forward to seeing more work by Michelle in the future and perhaps, in 2011, I will finally be able to see her costumes firsthand when at last I can wake up early enough on Mardi Gras Day to witness Mondo Kayo and Zulu for the very first time.

It’s harder than you think!

A wealth of creativity at the Arts Market of New Orleans

On the last Saturday of every month, the Arts Council of New Orleans organizes an Arts Market in Palmer Park located on the corner of Carrollton Avenue and Claiborne.  Palmer Park is very close to my apartment and I can’t tell you how many times I have driven past the bustling, open-air market, wondering why I haven’t taken the opportunity to visit yet.  Well, this weekend, I decided to finally go and I am so glad I did.

John and I managed to get out of the house and to the park by 10:30 a.m. this morning. The sun was shining brightly and the market wasn’t very busy yet so we were able to stroll past each booth and take our time. We admired colorful jewelry created by Richard Milazzo of Mod Wood Studio, hand-painted silk clothing and purses by Traci Batchelor, Alphabet photography by Amy Marquis, and “pulp” paintings by Ellen McCord.

I couldn’t help but stop to admire the large metallic bugs created by Andrew Bascle from Jefferson.  He explained to me how each piece was assembled with very little glue.  Creatures resembling mosquitoes, frogs, dragonflies and beetles were miraculously created using simple household objects like tea infusers, hair clips and bobby pins!

Another cool booth featured Barbara Roberds’ “Screen Door Art.”  She incorporates her photography of iconic New Orleans images with salvaged architectural wood, creating pieces that would appeal to both tourist and local alike. One particular piece caught my eye, a triptych of shotgun houses set in an aged window pane…gorgeous!

When I turned around, I spotted glass pieces by DebiDeaux Designs…she offered an array of handmade glass beads, sculpture and jewelry.  Being a huge fan of glass jewelry, I scooped up her card and discovered she was very local, living just across the river in Algiers Point.  All of her pieces were super fun and colorful, but I especially liked the glass pendants symbolizing the Goddess…they were truly stunning.

Suddenly we found ourselves in the center of Palmer Park where four walkways merged into a circle.  One corner featured the New Orleans Public Library “booth” where tables of books were set up for sale and behind it was the children’s stage, setting up for singing, storytelling and crafts.  Opposite the library booth stood a table featuring literature from the Louisiana Humane Society.  They were asking for donations that entered you in a drawing for a basket full of dog treats!  I spotted many pet owners signing up to help with their four-legged friends in tow.

Delicious food aromas wafted towards us as we headed towards the “food court” area of the market featuring Crawfish Beignets from Geaux Daddy Catering and Woody’s Fish Tacos.  The Girl Scouts were there taunting patrons with their addictive cookies and Crepes a la Cart was offering freshly stuffed crepes just in case you skipped breakfast.

We narrowly avoided being drawn in by the food (it wasn’t our cheat day after all) and dove back into the art vendors lined along a path we had not yet trodden.  Right away, I was pleased to see the aluminum hangers and skateboard decks created by Jeffrey St. Romain.  I love his drawings and the hangers were fun, creative and totally affordable.  You can find his work online at StructureStudios.org…not to mention the next Arts Market at the end of May!

There were tons of other vendors offering clothing, hand-made purses, jewelry, wood craft, metal-works and more.  It is truly dizzying to realize how talented our local artists are and because of the Arts Council, there is one place you can find them on the last Saturday of every month. Although I was unable to purchase anything this month, I will be saving my dollars for the next market on May 29th at Palmer Park!