When Chef Melissa Martin asked if I would be interested in hanging up my work in "the club", at first I was a little unsure. Mostly because hanging your work in a place of dining is an awkward experience - I mean, people come there to eat, not to look at art. Plus, Melissa already had some really beautiful work hanging by Frances Rodriguez and Pippin Frisbie-Calder, so I felt a little guilty for taking the whole space over for myself. But that's what Melissa wanted - for me to take the space and do whatever I wanted with it for at least three months. If it works out we'll keep it going, if not, then we will both have some pretty pictures to share.
So the process began. I came in to take some "before" pics, so you'll see the nice work I'm talking about that was already there. Now, Melissa is a wholly authentic french-cajun gal. She grew up eating what she delivers at Mosquito Supper Club. It's not a modern twist on anything, but more like a time machine to her childhood, not too long ago - one of simple, beautiful, fresh, and delicious food taken from the land and presented family-style with love.
I, on the other hand, was born in New Jersey, and moved to Louisiana when I was around four. My family was a mixture of Spaniards, Irish, Russian, and Persian folk, and for most of my life, I have felt like an odd ball, even in Louisiana. None of my friends understood my love of paella and pasodobles as a child, to say the least. But one thing I did have in common with Melissa growing up is that my sense of being "home" revolved around being with my family at a big table and having epic meals of traditional fare. The sound of clinking glasses, silverware on plates, and laughter. The storm and time washed it all away, but that's another story.
I began painting marsh scenes as a way to escape feeling lost, as a way to channel my emotions into something I could recognize. The places where I paint are just a few miles away from where I grew up, so these landscapes have become a personal mirror of my life as it stands. Some are vibrant, some have trash in them, some are notably absent of wildlife and quiet. There isn't an end goal in mind when I work. I begin, and I return to begin again towards whatever the painting wants to be.
The bathroom in MSC is a special room. At least for me, I find bathrooms to be where our most honest self-talk comes to us. I created a wallpaper from drawings of ducks that I had seen in the marshes. My studio manager joked about how it looked like her grandma's house while she was going through a "duck phase", and it made me laugh because I created it to capitulate that very moment in one's life. The "duck phase". To hunt or be hunted. The dance of survival. Funny thing about duck hunting - it's a whole culture of smoke and mirrors which ultimately results in the death of the thing the culture is about, like bullfighting. There is a painting in the bathroom; I have many times seen ducks in this very scene, but on the day I was painting there were none. The reflection patterns in the water seem to taunt the viewer. Many times during this collaboration, full circle moments between my intuition and Melissa's story took place. Melissa's cousin, as it turns out, happens to be a world-champion duck decoy carver. After the first evening of Supper Club, someone had written on the mirror "You are beautiful".
To be simultaneously connected and disconnected to a place describes my relationship to the Louisiana landscape. I'm an outsider looking into a world that is familiar but foreign. When I'm painting, I feel like I am looking at something I don't know much about, even though I have been around it for most of my life. Perhaps that is why I need to document it, deconstruct and reconstruct it into patterns to better understand the dialog. Having Melissa relate to my work, and further it's distinction by presenting her own edible tale of memory and place is more than I could have imagined alone. It makes so much sense. Thank you, Melissa.