Look a little closer sometimes while riding throughout New Orleans because when you aren’t in a hurry you can see the beauty hidden among the sometimes not so beautiful neighborhoods. Often referred to as Graffiti, some of the pieces transcend into the world of art and are often coupled with either history or satire, while others are more along the lines of tributes to legends of the city. If you have ever rode down Claiborne Avenue you have seen examples of these painted along the support columns of the Interstate-10. Once an oak tree lined avenue, it was demolished in the 1950’s to build the Interstate which really upset the local neighborhood that Claiborne Avenue intersects better known as Faubourg Treme. So much in fact that they eventually painted those murals depicting the African roots of the neighborhood (Treme is America’s first and oldest African Neighborhood) as well as the oak trees that once stood here.
And wouldn’t you know that right up the street sits another beautiful mural, a tribute to Ernie K Doe at his Mother in Law’s Lounge.
These are pretty common place here in New Orleans and can be seen just riding through almost any part of the city. No so common place however were the pieces done by a world-famous graffiti artist known as Banksy. Shortly after Hurricane Katrina Banksy visited New Orleans and these satirical pieces began to pop up all over New Orleans. Fortunately most of them were captured by amateur photographers and posted online as many of them have been pillaged by people familiar with his work, while others have fallen by the wayside to vandalism. A few of them are still present today as the building owners have taken measures to ensure their preservation. Here are a few of my favorite Banksy pieces that he gave to our city:
Upon closer look you will notice the Jazz funeral procession is wearing gas masks. A possible reference to the foul stench that hovered over the city for months post-Katrina emanating from the mass of refrigerators left curbside at just about every single house in southeast Louisiana. Which is why i love this next piece left on a 2-Story building.
Others are little more subtle but elegant in their simplicity.
Others are not so subtle and this is where people either begin to love or hate Banksy as he draws attention to political and social issues.
It even got to a point where a gentlemen known as the “Grey Ghost”, who was commissioned by the Nagan administration to cover unwanted graffiti throughout the city, began covering up some of the Banksy pieces around New Orleans. Taken as an insult, Banksy and the “Grey Ghost” began an unusual relationship in which Banksy would return to spots visited by the “Grey Ghost” (evident by the awful grey blotch of paint almost as bad as the graffiti writing in normally covers) and turn them into a new piece to spite his adversary.
So next time you are travelling through New Orleans and you happen to notice one of the many “Urban Paintings” around town, take some time and enjoy the surprises the city has to offer because you never know what amazing places you’ll stumble upon.