When I first got there, it seemed everyone around me was a lot freer than I was, as odd as that sounds. It was a crazily sexy place with grownup women who were frank and forward about what made them happy. It was hot, so there was always a lot of sweaty skin and poetry and music. It was like entering one of those snow-globes without the snow. It was Spain and France preserved in architectural amber. It was history. My friend, Charlie Neville, showed me Pirate Alley where William Faulkner wrote his first novel. He also showed me Congo Square which, along with Storyville, was the birthplace of Jazz.
New Orleans felt like liberty to me. Nobody put on airs; people there had this music in their head, and they had to dance to it.
My female friends have been on me to create more women superheroes . . . good idea. I love drawing women; the curve of the neck or hip or breast; such a joy. As a kid, I would do anything to see images of naked women . . . I still will. I’ve written many times that I could be very happy drawing birds and naked women the rest of my life and that is no shit. At some point I will do it. It will be my version of retirement.
I loved drawing this piece because it is kind of a shape-shifter figure–half cat, half Mardi Gras Indian Woman. I love watching the Mardi Gras Indians and their “suits of pretty” on St. Joseph’s Day in New Orleans. I love a town that, for any reason, is in costume for much of the year. The atmosphere of Carnival, and the joy at being free and alive, has much appeal for me. I love the profane pagan ritual of all of it, the swagger and soaring humanness of a people and a city alive with music and color and joy.
I consider New Orleans a prayer, a plea, and a reliquary of otherness; the most necessary city in our country.
How thrilled I was at the success of HBO’s Treme this year. The pride I felt at watching my friends John Boutte and Paul Sanchez perform on that show, along with Tom McDermott and David Torkanowsky, and all of the other great musicians in that town. How lovely it was to see the great Wendell Pierce get a role worthy of his talent, and Melissa Leo, as well. I felt like the show evinced the “no surrender” spirit of that place, as well as the lurking despair that would manifest itself when one least expected.
I think there was balance; the ferocious pride of the Mardi Gras Indians, as well as the continuing frustration at trying to effectively police the Crescent City in the face of a crumbling tourist economy and low pay. I feel like this show was rendered with compassion and a contrary kind of spirit that sassed back to strip mall America: “We are not like you, we are only like ourselves.” There must be a place like this in America where Americans sleep till noon in order to serve the muse. She is a demanding sort, and some of us have no choice.