Daphne Britton- 607. 435. 8563
Peter Ladetto- 504. 223. 5732
ShiNola Art Gallery & Boutique
1813 Martin Luther King Blvd, New Orleans, LA 70113
Daphne Britton and Peter Ladetto, co-founders of ShiNola Art Gallery and Boutique, have commissioned Kristof Corvinus and Jason Rodriguez to create murals of Mardi Gras masking traditions that have a rich history in the gallery's neighborhood. Corvinus has painted a parade scene with the Baby Dolls and Rodriguez has captured the majesty of the Mardi Gras Indians. The artists will unveil their work this Saturday, June 18 along with guests: featured models of inspiration and Xavier University of Louisiana's College of Arts and Sciences associate dean and professor of education, Kim Vaz-Deville , whose book, The ‘Baby Dolls': Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition published by Louisiana State University Press in 2013 is the 2016 selection of the Young Leadership Council's campaign for literacy, One Book One New Orleans (OBONO). The gallery will open at noon and the festivities begin at 2pm with open mic featuring house bands ShiNola Diamonds, CNP and The Daly Times, and a book signing to follow the official unveiling time of 3:00pm. The event runs until 10:00pm with no cover. Those who attend can enjoy free food and refreshments.
ShiNola is housed in a repurposed warehouse whose large window area facing Martin Luther King Boulevard had been covered by large metal panels. Rather than having glass fitted, Britton and Ladetto decided to bring their message of art and recovery out-front. ShiNola is an Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard cultural district venue hosting new and upcoming artists. Britton, an artist and educator, says that "our gallery is focused on not only visual mediums, but community outreach and teaching through the healing power of the full spectrum of the arts". Linda Pompa, executive director of the Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard Merchants and Business Association, views ShiNola as an important contribution to a block that has lagged in economic redevelopment. "It is a great addition to this neighborhood with a tradition in art and culture. It provides a place for artists to sell their work which is not always easy to find for those who are emerging."
Britton wanted ShiNola to honor the legacy of the Baby Dolls and its resurgence citing the practice's "strong female energies bonded within the history of New Orleans and emerging into its modern day traditions". Merline Kimble, a member of the Gold Digger Baby Doll group, and one of the models of inspiration, is happy that the work has been designed on the building's exterior. "It's outside and I can be in my ancestor's presence at all times." Kimble's family goes back six generations in the city's celebrated Treme neighborhood. Her grandparents, Louise Recasner Phillips and Octave Phillips along with her grandmother's siblings, spouses and friends formed the Gold Diggers Social and Pleasure Club at the height of the popularity of this masking tradition. On Mardi Gras day they started from 1405 Dumaine Street. "I am continuing their tradition. It was theirs, not mine."
Britton also wanted to place the Baby Doll masking practice in its proper context so the mural is complemented by Skeletons and Mardi Gras Indians. Kevin Goodman, Big Chief of the Flaming Arrows, is happy to support the Baby Doll tradition and is one of the models of inspiration. Chief Goodman's father founded the Flaming Arrows and Goodman began as a little chief. Goodman's creativity is inspired by traditional Mardi Gras practices but also by popular culture. His 2015 suit was made as homage to music icon, Prince. A musician himself, Goodman titled the suit "Purple Rain" which prominently features the star. "He is the best guitar player I ever heard." The suit's crown has a double row of feathers and is heavier than most. It is completed by an eagle poised to land. Goodman thinks of it as ‘weight in the air'. The suit is anchored to the city through its beaded fleur-de-lis. You can see this suit in a 23" by 23" mixed media piece by Marlena Asher at ShiNola.
"I am impressed by the commitment of Daphne and Peter and that of the artists who are being so generous with their time and talent. These artists met with those who mask in these traditions to make sure the representations are culturally correct. They worked through the heat and rain to create these stunning tributes. To position a visual piece facing Martin Luther King Boulevard is to bring art to where people are. Just as the maskers make the art behind closed doors and display it on the street, the public mural erases the barrier between inside and outside making this creativity available to everyone" said Vaz-Deville.
Corvinus has worked professionally in the area of commercial art and advertising but his personal art incorporates gothic themes. Britton selected Corvinus because his vision is inspired by traditions associated the Day of the Dead, New Orleans mysticism, and thought-provoking fantasy. Corvinus wanted the mural to reflect diverse creative forms and tapped Jackson Square artist, Rodriguez to collaborate. Rodriguez finds that his graphic-graffiti fusion style is an ideal complement to that of Corvinus. Where Corvinus has the Baby Dolls manifesting their energy through dance, the Indians' feathers animate Rodriguez's scene while each work blends into the other.
ShiNola is a consignment gallery whose current roster of signed on artists includes Big Chief Kevin Goodman, Marlena Asher, Sidney Smith, Ally Burguieres, Peter Ladetto, Stamatia, Panagaeas, and Jill Freebird Jacobs. Limited space available. Interested artists may call for appointment.