Sightseeing: Exploring Art in the French Quarter

Artwork abounds in the French Quarter if you’re interested. No stranger to the ornate– paintings, sculptures, masks and vintage jewelry make dazzle the eye around every corner.

I first encountered Sutton Galleries on the way back from a morning run along the Mississippi harbor. I passed a group of tourists peeking through the window of the (then-closed) gallery. I glanced, curiously, and was also drawn in by the beautiful landscape painting on display in the picture-window.  One of the original gawkers and I acknowledged our mutual appreciation for the paintings. I confided that I was bringing Malinda back during business hours and he laughingly suggested I “bring my wallet, also.”

Sutton Galleries

He was right. The paintings in the window, and throughout the store, were exquisite and expensive.  The featured artists’ (Isabelle Dupuy) beautifully expressed landscape paintings decorated most of the first floor. Each was created with generous strokes of acrylic paint that rose in small, stiff peaks– adding physical dimension to the brightly hued trees, fields and skies. The works of other, impressive landscape artists occupied the rear of the ground level leading to the second floor.

Upstairs was an interesting, eclectic and effective mix of pop culture art and objects such as a square chandelier rimmed in Selenite and impressively sturdy wood and metal furniture that would have looked right at home in Beetlejuice.  Both of us felt the powerful energy of the semi-precious stone in the chandelier when we stood directly beneath it. I had the same clogged ear sensation I sometimes experience during takeoff and landing. The energy-laden chandelier was joined by a neon, Andy Warhol-esque piece, featuring rock legend, David Bowie and several incredibly hyperrealistic portraits of women in various states of action and repose.  Overall, there was plenty to inspire, love and purchase in this well-curated and eclectic modern art emporium in the heart of the French Quarter.

Crescent City Mask Company

Somehow we managed to make it until our third day without stepping foot in a mask shop. Something about Crescent City Mask Company on Pirate’s Alley caught our eye and our imagination. We spent a good half hour trying on masks and taking pictures in the shop. There are masks of all sorts from simple, to some as grand as five feet tall– with price tags to match. The store’s owner was helpful and kind, taking moments from handcrafting new masks to answer our questions and retrieve hard to reach inventory. You never know when you’ll need a mask for a masquerade ball– or something more personal.

Hemmerling Gallery of Southern Art

Pirates Alley poured us almost directly into the Hemmerling Gallery. We couldn’t miss the Black-themed artwork on the facade of the shop and went inside for a closer look. The gallery mostly featured the artwork of Bill Hemmerling. Through a bit of ear-hustling we learned that the artist had been a commercial artist for SEARS and after he left he dedicated much of his work to depicting the dignity and power black women, whom he’d thought were not given the respect they deserved in American society.  In addition to canvas, he employed old screen doors and other detritus to convey his version of black life, including jazz.

There were other artists featured such as Kalle who’s art we found particularly moving and proceeded to purchase several prints. If you find yourself in the French Quarter pay them a visit and see if anything moves you. It might.

–TMW

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