(pictured, Looking Back, oil on canvas from 1992, featuring Evangeline)
I suppose it’s Thanksgiving that prompts this nostalgia in me, not only because of family and traditions, but also because it’s the time of year that I lost my mom, the time of year that I function by shoving those feelings back, reminding myself it was six years ago and not just last week.
Yet in some ways our entire city seems set in the past these days (or maybe it always was), even as we move forward with a new mayor, a Super Bowl-winning football team, and a recent boom of construction and tourism and energy.
(photograph September 2005; for a related post visit here)
At the Odyssey Ball this past weekend we kicked off a one-year celebration of the one hundredth anniversary of what I like to call our city’s ‘Met.’ The exhibition, titled Great Collectors Great Donors: The Making of the New Orleans Museum of Art, 1910-2010, celebrates those collectors that have helped shape the museum into a great institution, even beyond its impressive construction.
Beginning with eleven works when the doors opened in 1911, NOMA (once known as the Delgado Museum of Art) now boasts more than 35,000 items in its collection, many of them classic pieces within the decorative arts, African and South American objects, and fine works from the French Impressionists, Italian Renaissance painters, and of course the modern masters.
(pictured, At the Delgado, a 2008 original silkscreen by George Rodrigue, commemorating the museum’s Rodrigue retrospective)
In describing collectors Mr. and Mrs. Frederick M. Stafford, former museum director John Bullard (who recently retired from NOMA after thirty-seven years) writes,
“The Staffords had formed a collection which was like a mini-museum, covering practically the entire history of Western art from ancient Egypt and Greece to twentieth-century modern masters, as well as the arts of Africa, Asia, and Oceania. The breadth of the Stafford Collection gave the Delgado’s trustees, staff, and patrons an idea of a possible future for the Museum — to aspire to present the broad scope and diversity of world art.”
(for a fascinating time capsule in video, a 1966 tour of “Odyssey of an Art Collector,” featuring Mimi Stafford at the New Orleans Museum of Art, visit here)
Further embracing this sentimental mood, I visited Mignon Faget: A Life in Art and Design at the Historic New Orleans Collection, on display in the French Quarter through January 2, 2011. Like many New Orleans ladies, I have a prized collection of her jewelry designs, including the gold and silver bows worn by my grandmother and the banana leaves, in all shapes and sizes, worn by my mother (who happens to share the jeweler’s name).
(pictured, my grandmother Helen McClanahan and my mother Mignon McClanahan Wolfe, at a rig christening in Harvey, Louisiana, circa 1960)
Further transporting me this week was our yearly celebration of my mother’s brother Jack McClanahan, a real character* who enjoys sharing stories of the 1950s-1970s, his golden era of New Orleans. He talks about rig christenings, Bacchus rides, and parties with Fats Domino as though they happened last night. As his special guest this year he invited his old friend Bubba Spell so that he might ‘regale us with stories of Papa Mac.’
(Felix ‘Mac’ McClanahan, my grandfather, pictured center at his oil rig on the Harvey Canal, 1960s)
*Uncle Jack famously describes himself as “shy and demure.” Of course, he is anything but…
For a related post see “Mignon’s Flowers”
For more on the New Orleans Museum of Art’s centennial celebration visit “NOMA 100”
Coming up: “The Bronzes”