Sunday, June 23, 2019

St.Lewis and Scheaffer at Martine Chaisson

After a long absence from the New Orleans gallery scene, Louis St. Lewis, the acclaimed pop art provocateur of Raleigh, North Carolina, and former "court painter” to the late king Kigeli V of Rwanda, has once again returned to the city he cites as an inspiration. King Kigeli died in exile in Washington D.C., but his portraitist, St. Lewis, lives on, cranking out flamboyant mixed media works that meld his glitter rock flash and dazzle with his theatrical regard for the past. Here his flair for colorful incandescence is complemented by the neon virtuosity of his collaborator, Raleigh-based glass sculptor Nate Sheaffer. Influences ranging from glam rock to mythology and world history can be seen in “Ashes to Ashes,” where David Bowie appears in a neon suit clutching a glowing neon heart. Next to him stands the figure of Death in the form of a skull wearing a Napoleonic bicorn hat and a regal frock coat topped off with angel wings. Bowie's brooding, perplexed visage still bears traces of face paint from his Ziggy Stardust days as he and Death confront the viewer as the ultimate odd couple.

St. Lewis's sometimes campy and always carnivalesque vision has found a following in Louisiana, where his work appears in numerous private and museum collections. His flair for local popular culture turns up in a number of works including his portrait of Big Freedia as Medusa, as well as in “Angel of Algiers,” left, where a seductive West Bank siren sports a spiky neon halo set off by a glowing neon vortex. In “Absinthe,” the “green fairy” of cocktails appears as a shimmering neon labyrinth. Another work where Nate Sheaffer's glass mastery shines brightly is “Phrenology,” top. Here the old pseudo-science of the human skull is depicted as a neon map of brain regions, most labeled “Me.” It is a comment on our times as well as a glowing example of St. Lewis and Shaeffer's flair for turning so many defining facets of cultural history and modern life into incandescent visual spectacles. ~Bookhardt / All That Glitters: New Work by Louis St. Lewis & Nate Sheaffer, Through June 29th, Martine Chaisson Gallery, 727 Camp, 302-7942.