Matt and I have been feeling the itch lately, and realized it was high time we visited New Orleans again. This time around, we were infinitely blessed to meet up with my brother, Christian, and my oldest/dearest friend, Tony. As well, it was only natural that we should meet up with the much-lauded celebrity of this blog (as well as the outside world) - George Schmidt!
A large part of our visit centered around the opening of his show at the University of Louisiana Hilliard Art Museum: "Satire, Scandal and Spectacle". This unforgettable evening found us, along with a group of George's fans, models, family and friends, on a bus trip to Lafayette for the show. Along the way we enjoyed the beauty of the Cajun region, a stop in Franklin, a boxed dinner and more - and the show itself was incredibly inspiring, uplifting and filled with the human side of history. The exhibit featured his larger works, centering around the history of Louisiana - Roman law, Jean Lafitte, Storyville, Mardi Gras and political events were only the beginning. His work is incomparable, and only part of what makes George a very special man.
A group photo after the trip, including Tony (next to me), Christian (next to Tony), and Patty Gay. Patty is George's wonderful wife, who we finally got to spend a good deal of quality time with. A true leader in the fight for historic preservation, and a truly endearing woman. What the modern lingo would term a "Power Couple".
Another photo from the bus ride - George had brought along a gifted banjo player for the ride, and Matt joined in on the accordion. Everything from ragtime to German waltzes to traditional jazz was played - I only wish I remember what song was being sung, here!
Finally, two treats from our first night visiting. As usual, we spent some time in the garden at George's studio, trading jokes, chatting on history, listening and learning... the constant highlight of our New Orleans journeys. After a proffered voodoo lily was planted among the jasmine and angel's wings, we headed upstairs, where wine and cheese were served. An honor, to be sure... and eventually Matt found his way to the piano, and played a few tunes.
True, there are myriad other things to do in New Orleans - and we do indulge in them. In such a city that never stops giving and giving, we are more than happy to eat to excess, drink perhaps a bit too much, feast our eyes on the beauty of endless architectural wonders, soak in the unbelievably historic depths of the place... embrace all that we are able to in a short time. But invariably, we find our way back to Julia Street, to laugh, think, reflect and learn - be inspired - by one of our world's great living artists, and a family that champions history and culture. As an illustrator, I inevitably find renewed inspiration, increased respect for my gift, and a better sense of responsibility to keep creating - strength in quality, as well as quantity. I told George that I see him as an adopted uncle, to which he replied, "Good lord! Who'd want me in the family?!" I could certainly do worse!