Dante’s Infernal Journal With Michael deMeng
Hell-Oh Kitties: Portraits of Precocious Pets in Purgatory Workshop With Andrea Matus deMeng
New Orleans, LA
January 29 – February 4, 2023
Monday, January 30, 2023
Today we were eager to get the day going again as it is the first day of Michael deMeng’s workshop. I met the Wersts, Lisa and Karen as we all headed over to the Cafe Fleur De Lis for breakfast.
Then it was back to the hotel to set up our spots for today’s workshop: DANTE’S INFERNAL JOURNAL WORKSHOP. Here is the course description: “Once upon a time, ole Dante took a little stroll with a celestial pal Virgil, who took him on a little tour into the Nine rings of the Underworld: Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud, and finally Treachery. For Dante, this was a pretty good deal; he could check out Hades without checkin’ for good…cuz no one really wants that. So, it seemed to me that he might want to keep tabs on his little meandering downward, and with this in mind, a workshop idea was formed. But where in the world could someone explore strange magical, otherworldly realms filled with saints and sinners? Well New Orleans, of course.”
We got the morning pep talk from our fearless leader, Katherine Engen.
Our instructor is Michael de Meng.
We began our projects in whatever direction each student wanted to take it. This photo, by Katherine Engen, shows me hard at work in my spot with my table mate for the workshop, art buddy Karen Rexrode.
Here are photos of mine:
Lunch for me was eating the leftover muffaletta from Katherine and Bill. The class ran until 5:30 p.m. and then it was a sprint to get ready for dinner with The Wersts and Jenny at Luke. Tonight I had a great duck dish that was very appealing as opposed to the brussel sprouts Marilyn tried to foist on me as an appetizer.
When I got back to the hotel I decided to go to the workshop to put a base coat on my box. While a few folks poked their heads in, I was the only one who actually did any work. That being said, I was back in my room and done by 10:00 p.m.
Tuesday, January 31, 2023
Today I went out of the hotel at 7:00 a.m. because I had made no plans with anyone for breakfast as the group is initially going separate ways today. NOLA in the morning is very foggy.
I chose to go to Clover Grill which is on Bourbon Street and is a café that puts grease in the words greasy spoon. However that is not to say that their food is not filling and it did that to me today.
At 9:30 a.m. this morning, those who wanted to gathered to walk to St. Louis Cemetery #1 to take a tomb tour. Due to vandalism (which is shameful), the Church has now closed down the cemetery unless you go in with a watchful guide. So, a bunch of us did. We had a tour guide who was also a comedian and although some of his schtick stretched into overkill, I found him actually pretty funny as well as knowledgeable. I will say it is hard for a photographer for me not to just wander off (one of the rules of the tour) but I did manage to get these shots.
Next at 11:30 am, it was time to be vanned up to Oak Street where some of us had lunch at The Flying Burrito (excellent food and service).
Then we walked to Lucky Rose Gallery, the home of one of my favorite artists, Cathy Rose. Her gallery was as expected: an overwhelming amount of very moving pieces that all started to disappear as the artists in our group scooped them up.
Cathy was inspiration for a piece I made in a Kate Church workshop in Mineral Point, WI, at Shake Rag Alley. I had a chance to show the piece to Cathy and she gave me a big hug and asked to have me send her a picture of the piece. It was a nice moment with an artist I really admire.
Mike, our van driver, suggested we take the long way home so we got a tour of the Garden District by van.
When we got back to the hotel, about a half dozen of us worked in the studio on our pieces up until is was time for the evening’s entertainment: a carriage ride through the French Quarter & Marigny neighborhood.
The carriage ride is one of those gentle activities that one can enjoy if you throw yourself into the slow process of winding through the neighborhoods of NOLA. Once on Frenchman Street I went and had some fried chicken all by myself. Then I wandered around and took some photographs. Lastly, I caught a set of music in our favorite bar on Frenchman: The Spotted Cat.
We were vanned home by 10:00 p.m. and the day came to an end.
Wednesday, February 1, 2023
Today I was up by 7:00 a.m. for breakfast with Lisa at Makin’ Bacon but it was closed so we went another block more to the Clover Grill for our food.
Today I spent the whole day in the workshop working on my project.
Everyone had to be in the lobby tonight at 6:00 p.m. in costume for the 2nd line parade with the Panorama Brass Band. All the participants in the workshop are invited to create a costume for the parade in the style of the workshop theme. I am not a big costume fan but I love being the staff photographer for the parade.
Tonight we marched to May Bailey's Bar, led by Panorama Brass Band.
We got back to the hotel around 10:30 p.m. and I had no energy to work in the studio tonight.
Thursday, February 2, 2023
Today I went by myself for breakfast at Makin’ Bacon and found while all week that is what I have been calling it that name, its real name is Wakin’ Bacon (although in the French Quarter my name would be perfectly fine).
I spent all day in the studio working on my project.
Tonight I went out to The Will and the Way with Michael, Andrea, KD, Sue, Sue’s boyfriend Brian, and Tina.
It was a cold and rainy night in NOLA so we ended up in the Vacherie at the hotel for dinner.
I was back in my room by 8:30 p.m., early for any expedition but especially in a city that never sleeps, but I was tired and ended up down and out by 10:30 p.m.
Friday, February 3. 2023
It was even colder this morning so I decided to take Lisa (who I found already working in the workshop since 6:30 a.m.) to just eat in the Vacherie in the hotel.
Today I worked in the workshop until about 3:30 p.m. when I pulled the plug on my project. This allowed me time to pack up my stuff as tomorrow right after the critique I need to run to the shipping service before they close.
At 4:45 I was to meet Katherine Engen in the lobby for a run to the Vampire Café for dinner. Lisa, Jenny, Amanda, Steve, Katherine and Bill made up our party.
The it was back to the hotel to get picked up by Big Mike for a ride to the home of American Craftsman, Thomas Mann. Tom has hosted us before but since we were last here he has closed his studio on Magazine Street and sells and builds out of the old bar that used to be his home.
At 8:00 p.m. we crossed the street to Tipitina’s where we were going to see the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Tipitina’s has no seats and my companions went to the balcony to see the show. I stayed on the ground floor with a pillar behind me for protection and to have something to lean on. While we had to endure over an hour of a DJ playing noodling, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band was on their game when they took the stage around 9:30 p.m. The downer was that our transportation was scheduled to pick us up at 10:30 p.m. so we did not see the entire set but we saw was up tempo, Mardis Gras and powerful stuff.
Back to the hotel by 11:00 p.m., I discovered that the bar was closed in the Vacherie so I headed up to my room for a good night’s sleep before tomorrow’s critique session in the workshop.
Saturday, February 4, 2023
This morning I slept in a whole extra hour so I did not get to Wakin’ Bacon until 8:00 a.m. I checked in with the gang in the workshop after breakfast and then took a walk.
I went to Jackson Square but it was a little early for most of the artist to be set up.
I walked Royal Street but it was a little early for most of the galleries to be open.
I had to be back in the workshop by 11:00 a.m. as it is the day of The Good, the Bad & The Ugly Critique. The critique of our week’s work is one of the most fun times in the workshop. Here are the results of the artist’s efforts for Dante’s Infernal Journal:
After the critique I packed my project into the box I had brought and walked it up to Postal on Bourbon to ship. I was a little dismayed that they made me wrap my stuff and tape up my own box feeling like the amateur tape job I did will make it a miracle if the box actually arrives in Milwaukee.
After that adventure I had the afternoon to walk Royal Street and all the galleries thereon. I did meet Lisa, Karen and Tina at various times doing the same thing.
The farewell reception was held at the Vacherie in the space that used to be the restaurant.
After many sad goodbyes to the fellow travelers, I went with KD, Sue, Brian and Tina to Krewe du Vieux Parade. We all got into a crush of a crowd at Toulouse and Royal and Tina and I decided to bail out for a better location farther along the route. We were quite happy to end up on Decatur where we could at least see most of the parade participants as they went past.
Tonight is my last night in the hotel before departing tomorrow so the usual hunting and gathering went on so I will be ready to depart tomorrow.
Sunday, February 5, 2023
Today I had a later flight (12:50 p.m.) out of New Orleans and into Atlanta by 3:16 p.m. My flight home to Milwaukee was at 4:47 p.m. which got me home by 5:46 p.m. Denice was kind enough to pick me up at the airport and I was safe at home by early evening.
I want to thank Katherine Engen for organizing another great Art Adventure for us in New Orleans. Thank you to Michael de Meng and Andrea Matus de Meng for their workshops.
The big news of the night, after ten successful workshops in New Orleans, Katherine Engen and Michael deMeng announced they are not returning to the Crescent City. Actually that is just fine with me as I attended nine of these events and had told Katherine the night before that I would not be attending in 2024. My issue is that I am worn out be the drama of NOLA and feel like I have seen all that I need to at this point. There are possible new locations being researched for Michael to teach with Katherine in the lead position so make sure to check out his website if you are interested.
In 2024, I will have to trust these two to find a new spot to do art.