Nicole Charbonnet

What are myths, really? More than just old Greek and Roman legends for which our Mardi Gras parades often were named, myths are stories that unite past and present, universal ideas and intimate experiences — or so New Orleans artist Nicole Charbonnet suggests in her new mixed-media paintings.

If the ideal forms of traditional Olympian deities belied their famously messy personal lives, Charbonnet cuts to the quick by mixing their iconic allure with a graphic goulash of modern grit and lurid innuendo. "Danae and the Shower of Gold" (pictured), based on Adolf Wertmuller's 1787 painting of the Greek princess ravished by the great god Zeus disguised as a golden mist, somehow unites the legends of the Roman poet Ovid with messy modern graffiti and seductive mass media imagery that blurs the boundaries between advertising and soft porn. In so doing, Charbonnet infuses the ephemeral with the eternal, and maybe a hint of the infernal.

Similarly, in "After Michelangelo," the ghostly image of one of the Renaissance artist's typically beefy, linebacker-esque torsos seems to be emerging from the painting's dense texture, a surface that recalls a crumbling wall replete with splattered paint and pockmarks that amount to a record of time's indignities over the ages. In "Amor Vincit Omnia — After Caravaggio," contemporary chaos sets the tone in a scene where splatters of pink paint overwhelm green figurative swatches, recalling the iconic graffiti-riddled anarchy of a St. Claude Avenue streetscape. "After Modigliani" is more demure, an imprint of a sly Sibyl etched into a sun-bleached Italian rampart, but "After Giorgione" is more frontal, a modern-day Venus as an assertive soft porn princess.

If the collective chaos of these works can seem disorienting at first, the way they really do appear to integrate the wild and colorfully humanistic aspects of the past with the digitally enhanced chaos of the present fulfills visual art's role as a stimulant to the integrative processes of the imagination, processes without which there would be no resilience, and consequently no healing.

Through Feb. 23. Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St., (504) 522-1999;