Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dirty Linen Night

Saturday evening was the annual Dirty Linen Night, the French Quarter's version of a follow up festival to White Linen Night. I've been informed that the name of the festival comes from the idea that one could wear the same soiled white outfit from the previous weekend and fit in just fine with the crowd on Royal Street.

I must say, I really liked Dirty Linen much better in terms of vibe and art. White Linen Night was interesting to attend but it was crowded, and the art was mundane and housed in very generic white-walled spaces. The whole event just screamed hoity-toity--people were there to be seen, not necessarily to see any art.

Dirty Linen Night was a whole different kind of event from the get-go. We tried to get there a little bit earlier so we could see as many galleries as possible but we still didn't make it into every one. I was really blown away by the sheer number of galleries along that strip of Royal St. Each space was completely unique; many of them were converted houses with narrow rooms painted brightly and dangerously crowded with artwork. Each gallery had its own drinks and finger food--all free to browsers in keeping with the spirit of the event. Many of the artist were directly on hand at the galleries, which I felt really kept the focus where it belonged.

There were many great places that we visited that night but the ones that stuck out the most to me were Amzie Adams' Gallery and Craig Tracy's Bodypainting Gallery. Amzie Adams has bit of a campaign for mayor going on but I can't tell if the whole thing is a joke or not. I actually support several of his platform points, namely that city-wide recycling would become mandatory (a pipe-dream right now) and that Chris Rose (my favourite columnist with the Times-Picayune) would be named Chief of Staff. Adams is one of those artists who's paintings really feel like New Orleans, in a way that is hard to put a finger on. Plus he's quite a character. (If you check out the picture of the paint-covered woman in the street above, Amzie is the man in the felt hat directly to the right of the artist.)

Craig Tracy is another well known artist in the city. He uses the human body as a canvas but also take photographs of the body art in ways that sort of manipulate the eye. He has a great website so click the link above to see what I mean. I've seen some of his painted people at a few city festival (hard not to notice the otherwise naked person if you're standing right next to them) and his work is so detailed. When we visited the gallery he was painting a woman in black and white stripes to the delight of an avid audience--his studio was one of the busiest we encountered on Saturday.

The whole thing was a lot of fun and I noticed a lot of "sold" signs on artwork so I can only hope that it was a fruitful night for the businesses along Royal. I couldn't take any photos in the galleries themselves so I tried to take some street shots that would do the festival justice.

This will be my last post before leaving for Canada on Thursday. I'm hoping to maybe write something during the next two weeks but my schedule is already looking crazy. Come September I shall be officially unemployed so I will have nothing but time to blog!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

White Linen Night on Julia St.

Yesterday Denise and I attended White Linen Night in the art district--which required a pre-event trip to my favourite vintage store for costuming purposes.

When we lived in uptown it was an easy walk to Buffalo Exchange but since we moved I haven't had much of a chance to shop there and man do I miss it. It's your basic used/discount/vintage clothing chain--apparently there is a location in most major cities in the states--but the clothing selection is great, the prices are ridiculously low, and the store does a lot of fundraising for local and environmental causes. Yesterday they were having an all day event for the New Orleans Animal Rescue so there was a DJ playing music, free lemon gelato from La Divina Gelateria down the street and a pen full of squirming puppies. I wish all shopping could be like that.

So I managed to restrain myself and only bought a white blouse for White Linen Night that could also be used in a job interview (she says defensively) and that went very nicely with my khaki work shorts. After that we wandered around Magazine some more, but really, aside from Buffalo Exchange, most of the stores in Uptown are fantastically outside of my price range. I did stop at Petcetera, the little pet boutique, to buy some of the furry ball-things they make there that my cat can't get enough of--I can't seem to find them at any of the less expensive chains but he never likes any other toys I get him so fuzzy/pricey balls it is.

We finally ended up on the patio at the Bulldog which really made it feel just like old times--I honestly hadn't realized just how long it had been since I'd visited that part of town and I sort of miss it. I'm not a huge fan of the Uptown vibe in general but Magazine St. almost made it worth living there, with so many restaurants and colourful boutiques. The Bulldog has always been one of the more pleasing hole-in-the-walls that tend to characterize New Orleans bars, and they have an amazing selection of international and domestic beer on tap; however, I've always been disappointed that their menu only has one Canadian beer on it and it's one I've never heard of. Still, that's one more than I've found anywhere else.

They have food at the bar (a bit of a rare perk in N.O) and it's decent but the last two times we've sat inside there have been ceiling cockroaches, *shudder*. I know they are of the outdoor variety and that every joint in town has them, not much they can do about it, but I still can't bring myself to eat a burger while looking at them so we stick to the patio nowadays. Yesterday we hung around there for a half-an-hour before the ride (RJ) showed up.

Went home to primp for an hour and then we headed to Julia St. for the festival. New Orleans has kind of a strange seasonal calender compared to most North American cities because it's high season begins when most places are still experiencing the post-Christmas slump. In N.O., after Christmas we just tuck and roll into Mardi Gras season which is then stretched into French Quarter Fest and Jazzfest so that by the time the big parties are done it's late spring. The low season here generally begins with the start of hurricane season when it becomes too damn hot for the tourists and even the locals will take a holiday outside of the city of they can afford it in July or August. Still, New Orleans can't have a whole week pass without some sort of celebration so the summer months in the city are filled with many smaller, local festivals and events in various neighbourhoods. I really enjoy them; they're generally cheap, or free, and the crowds are generally much smaller, although last night the crowds were quite large.

White Linen Night is basically an annual event where people (mainly the well-to-do, it seems) dress all in white and head to the art district of New Orleans, which stretches between the 300 and 800 blocks of Julia St. in the Central Business District (downtown). For those of you that might not know, New Orleans is not just a mecca of Jazz but also of visual art, the city is crawling with artists and galleries, many of them in this one section of town. For the festival all the galleries were free and open to the public and various local restaurants provided food and liquor. A lot more people turned up this year than last year, or so I heard from a woman in the crowd; there were long lines everywhere and it even took a while to make your way into each gallery--we saw maybe five or six of the smaller ones and we took a tour around the Louisiana Children's Museum which was fun. I grabbed some Saag Paneer and Basmati Rice from a local Indian restaurant tent and it was very very yummy--I'll have to remember to order it if I ever eat there. There was some good live music going on at either end of the street and random weirdness like the street pillow fight that left hundreds of white feathers swirling around like it was snowing--very sneezy.

The one negative part of the night was that they ran out of liquor before the festival ended at 9:00. Nothing angers a New Orleans crowd faster than sobriety and the crowd was getting a little ugly before we left. I think the festival organizers underestimated the turnout based on last years numbers.

I drank red wine the whole night, a daring feat in my white clothes, and it made people around me very nervous whenever I came in their direction. I didn't spill a drop the whole night until we were walking over to St. Charles to meet RJ and I tripped over a curb. *sigh*. I think it will come out.