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Triangle Downtowner Magazine

NC Artists in the Big Easy

Jul 02, 2015 01:56PM ● By Louis St. Lewis

The Feast by Sean Yseult

Being a natural born hedonist, I found myself in New Orleans back in February, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of Mardi Gras, and having a wonderful time. New Orleans is one of the few cities in America that encourages excess in all forms, and she stands proud and haughty with glorious disdain for the puritans of the world. I was the guest of an old friend who lives in a wonderfully decadent home located in the lush garden district, where Edgar Degas often visited and sketched. I awoke very early each day at around noon or so to a glass of Perrier-Jouet and a biscuit slathered with fresh quince jam. After my glorious brunch, I would often stumble a few steps down the side-walk and climb aboard the romantic St. Charles streetcar, a gentle and anachronistic relic of days gone by. But while New Orleans stands proud of her noble and eclectic past, the city also boasts of an amazingly contemporary art scene that I found has plenty of North Carolina connections.

I walked into the Madama Bizarre Gallery on funky/chic Royal Street and was immediately drawn to the gothic inspired photographs and dolls of Miss Christy Kane, who hails from Concord, NC. Classically trained in fine art photography, Miss Kane has an eagle’s eye and a post punk aesthetic that has gained her work entry to magazines as diverse as Rolling Stone and Flaunt. A gifted doll maker as well, Christy creates little-girl-lost dolls with haunting eyes and mouths of linen and beads that she poses and photographs in elegant, yet bizarre environments. The photographs are then placed in 19th-century Victorian frames that only underscore the eerie time-warped psychodramas that she assembles. The resulting works are both compelling and unnerving. Both Drew Barrymore and Fiona Apple have Christy Kane’s artwork in their collections. It’s easy to see why. The work is bristling with both emotional and intellectual intrigue.

I found myself blown away by the fantastic large scale photographs of Raleigh native Sean Yseult, while taking in a stroll through the Scott Edwards Gallery in the funky/hip French Quarter/Marigny district. Her Soirée D’Evolution: Tableaux Vivants et Nature Mortes is up through the summer, so make sure you pop by if you’re in town.

Sean is the daughter of the late Hemingway scholar and NCSU professor Michael Reynolds, and granddaughter of one of the charter members of NYC’s “21 Club.” Ms. Yseult creates glowing dioramas, which—in their luminescent narrative—summon up everything from fin de sicle femme fatales, to the innocent eroticism of Lewis Carroll’s pantalooned Lolitas. Sean, who only recently returned to the world of art after a highly successful career in rock and roll as the bass player with ’90s mega-stars White Zombie, possesses an eye both at once fresh and jaded. In her world, divas in diadems with sleep-walker eyes wait for lovers who will never come. They are angels who sit by broken pedestals, broken clocks and broken promises. Noble and gilded, languid and silent, the women she photographs are Southern Sphinxes with questions too profound even to ask.Several of the photographs feature Sean’s recent musings on dark Dutch “nature mort” imagery from the 16th/17th century. Skulls jostle on black velvet alongside violins and glasses of wine, peacock feathers cover eyes and crotches, the air is thick with sensuality and artistic danger.

Speaking of dangerous, even though New Orleans has one of the highest murder rates in America, I never had a moment of concern and gleefully made my way a few blocks down to see the Ogden Museum of Southern art. The museum is a stunning architectural triumph. Within its granite walls you will find some of the best art that the South has produced in the last 400 years, from past to present day. Everything is slick and shiny, and every time you turn around there is another NC artist staring you in the face. Over there a Minnie Evans, turn around and there’s a Hobson Pittman. Don’t move too fast or you might breeze by a Richard Jolley, a Leonard Goode or a Steven Forbes DeSoule. The Ogden reminds us all of how one sole collector, with only good taste and a couple hundred million bucks, can create a stunning repository of the South’s finest art.

The New Orleans metro population is around 1.5 million, very near the size of the entire Triangle. BUT they have over 230 art venues that are always turning out amazing and fun-filled shows. Perhaps we need to have a little more Bon Temps in our artistic Roulette, don’t ya think?

Louis St. Lewis can be described as an artist, visionary, showman, and bon vivant, among other things. His work (both visual and written) has appeared regionally, nationally, and internationally. More on LSL at