Magic and mystery mingled together in this fascinating city. Treasures and untold secrets were free to discover for the curious explorer.
What inescapable force pulled me down that special side street, I may never know. Perhaps, it was the work of the Voodoo Queen, who’s tomb I’d visited the day before.
It was invisible from the street corner. I was unaware that a delightful surprise was hidden behind store front windows cluttered with ornaments, strings of beads and sequined masks. I came upon the playfully crowded lot by accident. I absentmindedly walked down the street looking for more of the unique compositions, rich textures and interesting subjects I’d come to expect from exploring the city. A gap opened up between two stores, and there it was. A literal wonderland for tourists with a keen eye for unusual finds.
To the more practical minded person it was a tragic waste of prime real estate. A vacant lot littered with tacky junk that ought to be hauled away. The cluttered array of mismatched merchandise was likely seen as an insult to the majestic beauty and long, rich history of the surrounding area. But to me, a photographer with a new camera and unlimited storage, it was paradise.
I entered slowly, savoring layer upon layer of adornments piled high around the perimeter of the lot. Street noise faded away. The only sound was the crunch of gravel under my sandals. I expected to be harassed by a salesperson or a resident begging for privacy, but I was left gloriously alone.
Mirrors with weathered frames scattered here and there reflected bits and pieces of unfinished stories wishing to be told. Discarded doors mounted to the block walls whispered promises of secret passageways to magical realms. I imagined exciting new worlds were waiting to be explored behind each splintered doorway. Antique signs scattered throughout the assemblage screamed for attention. Their messages still urgent even though rust and age scared their faces.
I wandered around visually striping away the initial chaos digging deeper into the clutter, looking for buried treasures. I tried to make sense of the madness, to understand the designer’s master-plan hidden in plain sight. Because despite the superficial disorder, I knew down to my core, there was a master-plan.
With every step I became more enchanted by the depth of care, the attention to detail, invested in the meticulous arrangement of such an odd and unusual collection of useless junk. The longer I looked the more purposeful and focused the arrangements became. With every step I fell deeper under the enchanted spell of playful vignettes.
Time slowed. I was lost in a fantasy-land where dinosaurs and flamingos paired up to drive a snow sled. A peculiar place where a ghostly man impatiently waited, imprisoned in a screen door with an ax in hand. I wondered, what held his cynical stare? What was he going to do with the ax? Chop wood? Behead a chicken? Maybe confront his daughter’s boyfriend when she tried to sneak back in after curfew. Marvelous stories unfolded in my head.
I took dozens of pictures trying to capture the whimsical essence of the thoughtful scenes displayed so carefully in the secluded lot. Framing particular compositions revealed an artful mischievousness that had previously gone unnoticed. Was it intentional on the part of the designer to amuse visitors with such outrageous poses? Or, had the dinosaurs magically moved around on their own for the pleasure of their own entertainment. In a city where people seek the advice of a Voodoo Queen, believe in ghost stories and celebrate haunted houses, surely anything was possible.
Roaming the ornate lot, I was strangely energized. It was different from the pounding rush of the Mississippi I experienced while walking along the riverfront. It was unlike the sweet and spicy flavors I tasted in the air while strolling through the French Market. It was nothing like the jubilant flash of horns and the rumble of drums that spilled out of bars onto Bourbon Street. There, in the quiet company of whimsical creatures, rusting signs and cast-away doors I felt the flirty buoyancy of inspiration.
The elaborately staged lot was a peculiar place that didn’t belong in the middle of a typical city with building lined streets. It was the kind of quirky gem you’d expect to come across in the low-rent district of a decaying suburb. But of course, I should have known, New Orleans was no typical city. This small treasure was just another jewel in the regal crown of a city built on wide ranging influences. This city had a long history of strong traditions infused by different beliefs. The robust blend brewed a hybrid culture and lively ecosystem of acceptance for different ways of life. It was a city where you felt comfortable being yourself in all your splendid, colorful, weird glory. This was my first visit, but thanks to New Orleans’ impassioned vibe for the eccentric, I was right at home.
I entered the cluttered lot to take pictures, but I left with so much more than captivating images. I came away with revitalized inspiration for creating art that challenges my current state of contentment. That dusty lot full of started stories stirred my mind and spoke to my soul. It revealed new pathways and opened previously closed doors that sparked new creative ideas and directions.
I found myself wondering what inescapable force lead me down that special side street and lured me to the magical lot. Was it the work of the Voodoo Queen granting my wish for inspiration? What made a seemingly ordinary event extraordinary, impressionable and so memorable? I believe it was a gift. A mind-expanding experience to take me to new artistic revelations. I was ready for fresh inspiration and it came. It was that simple. I had to let go and allow myself to be moved.
We’re all presented with spectacular possibilities and choices all the time. Will you follow the safe old path at the risk of missing a life shifting thrill? Or will you venture down the path less traveled in search of wild adventures?
Me? I’m looking for more opportunities to go exploring. In New Orleans I discovered excitement lingers in everyday places, thanks to the legend of a Voodoo Queen who revived this artist’s dream.
Some details I thought were fascinating about New Orleans.
Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, Marie Laveau was a black priestess of astounding beauty. According to legend Laveau wielded tremendous power in her community and rumors of her magical abilities were so persistent that visitors still visit her grave to leave tokens in exchange for small requests.
Voodoo is as big a part of New Orleans’ history, although it is vastly different from the pop-culture perception. While zombies and dolls do make up part of voodoo beliefs, in reality, voodoo is a combination of West African religions brought over by slaves, the Christianity they adopted, and traditions of indigenous people blended together.
Laveau’s powers reportedly included healing the sick, extending altruistic gifts to the poor, and overseeing spiritual rites. Marie Laveau was a devoted Catholic all her life, and to her voodoo was not incompatible with her Catholic faith.
“Voodoo Queen of New Orleans,” Marie Laveau, born 1801, New Orleans, Louisiana died June 15, 1881, New Orleans.
Details about Marie Laveau were compiled from this website. Marie Laveau
St. Louis Cemetery #1 is New Orleans’ oldest grave site. Established by Spanish royal decree on August 14th, 1789, St. Louis Cemetery #1 remains the oldest cemetery that locals and tourists alike can visit.
It’s also considered one of the most haunted cemeteries in all of the United States. In the span of just one block, this burial ground holds over 700 tombs and over 100,000 of the dead–and counting, as it is still an active grave site. Is it any surprise that it is rumored to be very haunted? For over 200 years, there have been reports of people having run-ins with the ghosts which call St. Louis Cemetery #1 home.
The most famous ghost which is seen within St. Louis Cemetery #1 is that of Marie Laveau.
Get more ghost stories here.
New Orleans is the birthplace of Jazz. New Orleans was the only place in the New World where slaves were allowed to own drums. Voodoo rituals were openly tolerated, and well attended by the rich as well as the poor, by blacks and whites, by the influential and the anonymous. It was in New Orleans that the bright flash of European horns ran into the dark rumble of African drums; it was like lightning meeting thunder.
Jazz developed in the United States in the very early part of the 20th century. New Orleans, near the mouth of the Mississippi River, played a key role in this development. The city’s population was more diverse than anywhere else in the South, and people of African, French, Caribbean, Italian, German, Mexican, and American Indian, as well as English, descent interacted with one another. African-American musical traditions mixed with others and gradually jazz emerged from a blend of ragtime, marches, blues, and other kinds of music. At first jazz was mostly for dancing. (In later years, people would sit and listen to it.) Jazz spread from the United States to many parts of the world, and today jazz musicians–and jazz festivals–can be found in dozens of nations. Jazz is one of the United States’ greatest exports to the world.
New Orleans is the city of Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton, Sidney Bechet, Louis Armstrong, Louis Prima, Pete Fountain, Harry Connick, Jr. and the Marsalis family.
Read more about the jazz scene here. https://www.neworleans.com/things-to-do/music/history-and-traditions/
The St. Louis Cathedral is one of New Orleans’ most notable landmarks. Few cities in the world are so identified by a building as is New Orleans. The city is instantly recognized by its cathedral and its position overlooking Jackson Square.
The Saint Louis Cathedral is the oldest Cathedral in North America, founded as a Catholic Parish in 1720 along the Banks of the Mississippi River in New Orleans.
For more on the Cathedral visit here. https://www.stlouiscathedral.org/
For visitor info about New Orleans visit here. https://www.neworleans.com/
About the photos. These photos were taken at Second Line Arts & Antiques, 1209 Decatur St., New Orleans, LA 70116. Second Line Arts and Antiques prides themselves on having something for everyone! Find a variety of European furniture and antiques perfect for you and your home!
For more info visit Second Line Arts Website http://codebymatt.biz/secondlinenola/
New Orleans Second Line Arts Listing Website https://www.neworleans.com/listing/secondline-arts-%26-antiques/32439/
I hope you enjoyed this stretch of imagination. Join me on my adventures and look for new and exciting places and people (living or deceased) to inspire your creativity.