Creole culture has come to be viewed as a dynamic, ever-evolving hybrid of shared African, Native American and European roots. We see this in New Orleans and wherever those roots were woven into new forms of art, music or cuisine.
At Angela King Gallery, Woodrow Nash's vividly glazed, deep-hued clay figures celebrate Africa's people and cultures in a style that harks to diverse influences ranging from 15th-century tribal Benin to 19th-century French art nouveau.
The turquoise blue face of Nash's female figure, “Erunzigera” (pictured), recalls an unusually lifelike tribal mask, but its deep, almond-shaped eye slits evoke an oracle rendered sightless from having seen too much.
Hints of Henri Matisse's vibrant formalism mingle with echoes of Caribbean poet Derek Walcott's ghostly narrators recalling being ripped from mother Africa only to end up lost in azure Antillean seas.
In some tribal African cultures, animal masks play a major role, but here a female figure, “Thema,” appears in full zebra mode, with pale pearlescent stripes that match her cowry shell necklace against her ebony skin.
Blue moods also are featured in an imposing male figure, a warrior with ornate striations etched into his indigo flesh. In these works, Nash synthesizes tribal African motifs with global design appeal to return us to the primal essence of a rapidly vanishing world.
Delita Martin's new work at Stella Jones Gallery continues her visual interpretations of everyday women, who she portrays amid fantastical tropical patterning.
Employing layers of print, painting and collage, Martin, who is inspired by women who have been marginalized, transforms prosaic personalities so they appear as elegant elements integral to the natural order, as in works like “Under the Evening Moon,” in which a young black woman with extravagant, otherworldly braids appears amid paisley starbursts and spiral mandalas.
They might be sunspots around a woman at a bus stop, or they might be reflections of the inner life of someone one might not ordinarily notice.
Both shows run through May 2019. Woodrow Nash at Angela King Gallery, 241 Royal St., (504) 524-8211; www.angelakinggallery.com. “Shadows in the Garden” at Stella Jones Gallery, Place St. Charles, 201 St. Charles Ave., Suite 132, (504) 568-9050; www.stellajonesgallery.com.
“Hinge Pictures” is an austerely playful exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Center featuring eight globally prominent women artists.
At a time when daily political news can be exhausting, this extravagant show of high-end eye candy is almost like a visual mini-vacation.