Validating scores reinforced

I drifted back down Interstate 65. Bound for the bayou and coastal marshes, I drove while watching the sun rise in the eastern sky. ‘Twas a cold January morning, the kind in past times I’ve spent watching crews construct grandstands along St. Charles for the Mardi Gras parades. Exiting I-10 towards the Quarter, I love that sharp turn in the road. It narrows and slopes over 7th Ward rooftops. I take Basin Street; the radio is silent, but I can hear Louis sing. The first stop is to luncheon with a friend. Living near Baton Rouge, she has said, “let me know when you’re in town again.” So this time, I did. She insisted on driving the hour and a half commute just to catch up. How could I refuse? After all, it isn’t often that I encounter another individual willing to travel the distances that I do. This day was an impromptu trek westward. I’ve been attempting to make a trip to the Crescent City since well before the holidays. Between the rapid pace of life, and stormy weekends without restful end, this trip, I’ve long delayed. At last, a pale cloudswept winter day has rendered me this appreciated escape. Once again, I walk the Vieux Carre.

Domenica, recent recipient of the James Beard Foundation Award, promises a divine array of dishes that never disappoint. Chef Alon Shaya, delivers elegant cuisine infused with homage to heritage along with rooted farm to table sustainability. This romantic corner of New Orleans is also home to the historic Roosevelt Hotel, a grand escape and lovely place to pause for conversation and a glass of champagne.

A visit to the Ogden Museum was priority on this trip; along with a stop by Sucre for their signature King Cake. Draped in a pearlescent layer of icing reminiscent of Indian silk, Sucre’s King Cake is assuredly the most elegant I’ve ever had. I’d also recently run out of fine paper and envelopes, so a visit to my favorite writing shop on Rue Royale was paramount. The finest of inks, pens and journals and a gracious staff renders Papier Plume an indelible retreat.

I arrived to the Ogden with a list of works I wanted to see. Among them were familiar artists and friends who spend much of their year quite near my Alabama home and studio. The Ogden Museum of Southern Art stands a jewel of many in the Crescent City’s crown. Exhibiting the works of America’s leading Southern artists, the museum is just as much an honorable ode to Louisiana heritage as to the universal art experience. 

I believed it to be a special day. Unknowing what views might be exhibited before me, I felt compelled to go and see. I stepped through the museum entrance to be immediately embraced by the first work, unexpectedly. I stood below “Young Life,” only the second work by the artist, I’d ever seen. Instead of paint, my sightlines grasped tones of validation. Brushstrokes wrote for me all that I needed know. In a moment’s time, I realized that it wasn’t any particular one’s work I’d come to view. Instead, I saw roots which directed me right back to my own. From the museum’s Bartlett centerpiece to Gunning’s voluminous scores of gulf-scapes and shipping ports filled with boundless light and colour, these exhibits and others wash over the soul and consume one’s spirit whole.

Each museum carries its own nuances. There is a pulse that surrounds a place. It is in the earth the establishment is built upon, the corridors it inhabits and the artifacts that line its gallery walls. Anywhere I’ve ever visited in New Orleans has always greeted me with the unparalleled quintessence of home. From its historic pathways to its rise in the modern age, there is a sincere affection for life encapsulated in this old cityscape. There is also something which disconnects oneself from everything else, freeing the open mind, and reaffirms one’s footing upon stronger ground. 

I’ve come to realize the places that I visit, the people with whom I surround myself, and the work created reinforce the stability forged. We never know what experiences might change us, or may cause us to want more. But it is certain that if we step through the doors, we will gain experiences which influence our life’s course.

 Art is Life Expressed - Sarah West, owner of the Sarah West  Gallery of  Fine Art