Sunday, September 24, 2017

Tongue Twisted - or - The Time I Met Poppy Tooker

I think most of you are familiar with Poppy Tooker, the radio host for NPR.  She's the one who drawls out the name of her show - Lou-weeee-siana Eats.   It a great program that covers history of local foods, processes and techniques.  She also interviews famous chefs and travels for food related stories.  I like to drive around doing my Saturday morning errands listening to her.

Most of you probably are not familiar with my old, long-lost pug - Took.  Took was my very dear buddy for many years and I still miss him very much.  He was playful all his life - like a puppy.  So I always affectionately called him Puppy Tookie.

Maybe you can already see where this is going.

So one day my friend Pemmie, who owned the Oil & Vinegar store in Covington, invited my friend, Dian, and I to a book signing at the store.  Poppy Tooker was going to be there to sign her newly- released book.  We agreed and showed up.  Dian, who knows everyone in this hemisphere, introduced me to the author.  And then lightening struck.  The verbal disfunction of a lifetime came over me. It was the most bizarre moment.  I opened my mouth and blurted,  "Nice to meet you PUPPY TOOKIE."

I shook my head and laughed, a little embarrasesd.  "Sorry," I said, "I mean, PUPPY TOOKIE."  I laughed again.  "No, wait  I mean PUPPY TOOKIE."

At this point Poppy was staring at me and starting to pull back her hand, a little afraid to shake mine.  I just know she was full-on having thoughts about 'crazed fans' and was thinking of making a break for the door.  I glanced over at my friend Dian.  I felt horrified.  She looked mortified.  Later she told me that she thought I was having a stroke.   I had to wonder myself.

I finally just mumbled something like, "Sorry --I --- I have a dog."  Then I just gave up.  I walked away laughing, red faced and kind of mystified.

Dian said a few words to Poppy and then followed me.  "What is wrong with you?" she hissed.

"I know!  This is even weirder than normal for me!" I said, shaking my head,

A couple of weeks later I learned that Poppy would be doing another book signing at an art show.  I decided to try to make amends.  So I painted a little painting of her in her wonderful, signature fork and knife earrings.  When the art show came around I went and found her.  She saw me coming and looked around for an escape.

But I was ready.  All morning I had practiced her name,  "It's not Puppy Tookie, it's not Puppy Tookie! Just stick with just Poppy and you'll be alright."  I walked up and said loudly, "POPPY!"  Once I got her first name out right, It was like a spell was broken. I explained to her about my dog and gave her the painting.  I think she got a kick out of the whole thing.  She is a pretty gracious person and we were able to laugh about it in the end.

My takeaway from this is that it's not every day you get to fix something you screwed up so when you do, be grateful.  And I am grateful.  Thanks for the do-over,  PUPPY TOOKIE.  Aw Dammit!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

On Being a Chameleon

There is nothing certain in this life except change.  Some people fear it.  You'd have to be crazy not to be wary of some of it - it can be dangerous -(e.g. the changes you go through when your house floods from a hurricane.)  But life is full of lesser changes (e.g. job changes, location changes, changes in marriage status, changes in social status, changes in style ,etc, etc, )  and, for the most part, I've always embraced them.  Welcomed them even.

When I was younger I used to watch and admire people who dug into their stations in life and stayed in line and came out the other side in one piece, steady and strong.  I still admire them.  They were the kind of people  who knew who they were and stayed true to themselves -  they made life-long friends, held one kind of job, in and around one location.  I used to think something was wrong with me because I had a VERY hard time with that.  I'd be on a track going along just fine and then I would hit a point where other ideas, adventures - yes changes - would occur to me.  I would have thoughts like "What if I did that?  What if I became this person?  What if I lived over there?  What if I studied that? "  And those thoughts would not be fleeting.  They would haunt.  But here's the main thing - I loved those thoughts.  Still do. These were the moments in my life that brought great joy and excitement.  They brought the juice.

It took many years for me to accept the fact that I just like changing it up.  It is who I am inherently.   I like tasting different aspects of life - and I like doing it in different locations with different lifestyles, wearing different types of fashion and in different occupations.  I accept now that it is OK for me to go where my heart sings.  And to be a chameleon.

And so without planning ahead to live such a life - it was organic - I find that there's a long list of chameleon-like changes that have occurred.

For instance:

Locations:  I've moved over 30 times in my life.  I own a house and keep it rented out just in case I ever decide to stop moving.  But that hasn't happened yet.  I've lived in many states and in other countries.  I've even lived in many neighborhoods in my own beloved hometown of New Orleans.

Lifestyles:  I've lived in mini-mansions, on tropical islands and dead-broke in a motel.

Occupations:  I've been an employment counselor, a life coach, a real estate consultant, a pastry chef,  a caterer, a law clerk, a copywriter, a public relations manager, a marketing manager, a psychic, a pie company owner, an exercise instructor, a dress shop owner, a radio show host, an author, a speaker, a sales person who has sold art, cars, software, clothes, cell phones & yoga retreats, and, of course, I've been an artist.

Studies:  English, Law, Medicine, Business  & Culinary arts.  (I studies all these and I ended up becoming an artist - go figure!)

Hair: Even my hair has gone thru the changes, I've been red, blonde, brunette, streaked, with blonde and blue, long, short, medium and chock full of extensions.

And we won't even talk about the fashion styles changes I've been through!

Of course, I've paid a price for these changes.  They have been exciting, thrilling even.  And interesting.  I've led a fairly interesting life (isn't that a Chinese curse?)  But they've cost me.  They've cost me a lot of money.  They've cost me, with a few exceptions,  the luxury of lifelong friends, relationships and resources.  They've cost me marriages.  I've made peace with myself over all this - you can't have it both ways.  I couldn't.

Either I had to do all those things in order to find the real person I am - the one who will stay (perhaps this incarnation as an artist)- or the next adventure is right around the corner.  I never know.  And it's OK either way.  I figure I'm healthy so I've still got a couple of decades left to find out. Knock wood.

My biggest take away from this life - the wiser (read older) I get, the more I realize that it's not the WHAT or WHERE I AM in this life that matters.  It is the HOW I AM IN THIS WORLD that counts.

Ever onward.
#NewOrleansart #Jaxfreyart

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Gone to Lake Lupin

I spent some years in California and spent a lot of spare time hiking the hills around Monterey.  Every spring the Lupin (some say Lupine) wildflowers would bloom.  And they were always amazing.

Deep purple/blue flowers would cover the fields and valleys.  Viewed from a distance it looked like an intense blue lake.  So I called my favorite field - Lake Lupin.  I spent many afternoons hiking in and just sitting in the Lupins, listening to complete silence and feeling bliss.  I've never felt more peaceful anywhere in the world.


It's been many years since I've been to Lake Lupin but I can picture it in my mind as clear as if it were yesterday.  This picture and the association of Lake Lupin with peacefulness has caused me to make the image - my 'happy place'.  So whenever I need to think of something pleasant or peaceful to distract myself from stress or pain, or if I just want to meditate, I go to Lake Lupin in my mind and sit in the flowers.  It's amazing how well this works for me.  I use it to calm myself when getting my blood pressure taken.  I use it during unpleasant dental appointments.  I use it when I start to meditate and need to un-focus on what's in front of me.  I use it when I'm frightened or angry.  I start by picturing an old wooden screen door and hanging a hand-painted sign on that door that says "Gone to Lake Lupin".  And there I am - in the flowers again.   It always makes me smile.

Just realized that this of course, is what my tombstone should say, "This artist has gone to Lake Lupin."  Perfect, right?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

How I set that crazy World's Record!

In July 2017 I set a World's Record for the Most Original Acrylic Paintings on Canvas by One Artist. I have painted 20,000 paintings.  Yeah -  it's hard for me to wrap my head around too - that's a whole lot of paintings!  But I did do this thing - I painted every single one of them over a period of eight years.  The paintings are 4x4" acrylic on canvas and are mostly images of my beloved hometown of New Orleans.

Here's the story of how this came about.  It started when I moved away from New Orleans years ago to study, work and live in other cities and countries.  I loved traveling and the adventures I had but as any New Orleanian can tell you, this city is in your soul and never leaves you.  So sometimes I just plain got homesick.  In those moments I used to do little sketches of things that reminded me of home - restaurants, gumbo, pelicans, beignets, schools, parades, parks and people.  They weren't in any particular format - sometimes they would be on napkins and sometimes on scrap paper or in the margins of notebooks.  I wasn't painting back then so they are all little drawings.  The images became somewhat of a doodle habit with me.

Then one day I knew it was time to stop moving around so much and I came back home to my city.  After living here awhile I ran across some of the little drawings I'd done and decided to try painting some of them.  I hadn't had any formal training in painting so this was stretch for me.  But it was one of those things I always wanted to learn.  So after a lot(!) of experimentation with paint I made up a technique that gave me the effect I wanted on the little paintings.  I sculpted the images with palette knives on canvas, then inked them, glazed them, painted and finally, varnished them.  There are quite a few steps to my mini paintings but I like the results from this technique and refuse to take shortcuts.  I liked how those first paintings came out and hung a few up in my house.

Then after some friends and family told me how much they liked the paintings too I wondered if other people would feel the same way.  So I painted up a bunch of them, entered my first little art show in 2009 and the mini paintings just took off.  From there I entered bigger shows and then approached my first store.  After that other stores and galleries started to find me.

I kept careful sales records over the years and one day I realized that the quantity of paintings was really mounting up.  At that point I had reached about 5,000 paintings.  From then on I kept an ongoing count.  When I hit around 19,000 painting I got curious about the World's Records on paintings.  I didn't find a lot of records in the field and the ones I found I realized I could beat.  I decided that I would go for a record when I hit 20,000 paintings because it sounded like a nice round number.  It wasn't easy to get that record.  I didn't just call up people and say, "Hey send over that certificate OK?  Ok then, bye."  I had to take photos and do pages of descriptions and make videos and hire an attorney and an accountant.  Each round of requirements met was followed by another round.  I jumped through many hoops.  But this was as it should be.  It shouldn't be easy - records needs to be provable or else everyone would be doing this, right?  So the hoops I was jumping through were comforting in a way, although time-consuming.

Then one day it just happened very suddenly.  The record was announced and put up on the website and announcements were made before I even knew it was happening.  A large framed certificate showed up at my door the next day and a whirlwind followed.  A slew of fun if not slightly embarrassing interviews ensued.  Truth be told it was a bit of a relief when it all mostly died down. (it's actually still going on but it's under control now - thank God)   It was a hoot while it lasted though.

The best part of about setting the World's Record was the day I got to tell my four kids that their mom set a World's Record. They were convinced at first that I was playing a joke on them.  Then slowly their convictions turned to realizations and then pure celebration!  They actually bragged to their friends about their mom (c'mon how often does that happen?! lol)   That was truly priceless and for that alone - I'd do it all over again!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Who is that Person next to you?

Related image

While ordering my vanilla latte at my local coffee shop I started talking to my favorite barista - Brad. He knows my drink, yells hello to me when I walk in and makes my latte to perfection.  He's used to seeing me shamble in most mornings in yoga pants or something equally enticing haha.  But this morning I was gussied up and he noticed.

Brad -  "You look terrific, Miss Jax, why are you all dressed up?"
Me - "I just came came from doing a TV interview at WWL.  Had to get there early."
Brad - "What was the interview for?"
Me - "Well believe it or not, I set a World's Record last week"  I always feel weird saying this - like I'm talking about somebody else.
I went on to explain about the World's Record for Painting and he looked completely surprised.
Brad - "What?!  You  know we see people everyday and we have no idea of who we are talking to."
Me - "That's  right.  For instance I don't know anything about you except that you make a great latte. Now you tell me something about you."
Brad, smiling shyly,  " Well OK - I'm actually a Drag Queen.
Me - "What?  Really?"
Brad- "Yep.  I'm putting together a new act right now.  I studied piano in college and I'm putting together a piano act wherein I play and act."  He pulled out his phone and showed me his pictures.
Me -   "That's pretty amazing!  And now that you've said it  -  I can see it  - you've got a really great face, pretty eyes  and adorable dimples. Now where can I come see you?"
Brad - "I'm all over right now but when I get the act together, I'll let you know when you come in for another latte."

I was thrilled because I loved his story.  My barista has this completely wonderful other life outside of  just serving me my morning addiction.

Note to self  - you don't know who's standing next to you in this city - or what their story is.  Ask and be astounded more often.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Running through Museums

People walk slowly through museums, gazing at the works and reading descriptions.  That is, of course, what the museums and artists delight in.  But that's not what I usually do at the New Orleans Museum of Art.  (I do have a story I'll tell another time about running through the Louvre but I'll save it for another time.)

Actually I do gaze and saunter at the new exhibits but for the old ones -  I usually look like I'm running to catch a bus.  No doubt I miss stuff  and catch the ire of other visitors and museum guards, but the reason I go to NOMA is for the RUSH that art gives, pun intended.  Now keep in mind that I've been in the place hundreds of times since I was about fifteen.  So I know the lay of the land.  I know the new from the ongoing and I definitely have my favorites in the latter that deserve a visit.  

Now if you see me in the museum, you'll note that I have on my museum uniform.  This consists of dark clothes that make me invisible so people won't be able to describe the 'museum runner' to annoyed guards.  I've always got some sort of shawl or pashmina with me since it's always freezing in that place - even in a New Orleans July.  I also wear rubber soled shoes - all the better for sprinting.   These same rubber shoes make an exciting squeak on the terrazzo floors when I come to a sudden stop upon finding something that delights me.  And I always find the delightful.  The provocative.  The divinely colorful.  The ingenious.  The satirical and, sometimes, the deliberately comical.  Artists can do that - stop you cold in your rubber soled shoes.  

The 3rd floor of the museum is always a  bit of a challenge.  There are African and New Guinea masks and carvings in there that I have been seeing since I was a kid.  They are obviously haunted (as any fool can see).  I have to ask myself how many times does it take for me to stand in front of an old medicine man's mask full of porcupine quills and monkey fur before its spirit settles in for a ride in this native girl's soul.  There's no telling.  So I'm usually running full tilt on the 3rd floor and I advise you to do the same.  

When I leave I always stop and say hello to El Greco's St Francis in the room by the admission desk.  I gaze into those liquid, ecstatic eyes and get the art goose bumps that come from viewing a truly fine work.  It's a never-fail delight on  my way out, well worth the squeak from my shoes.

Then I recycle my admission pin, say goodbye and, once again, consider myself lucky to live in my favorite city in the world.  
Mama Jax


Mama Jax from New Orleans, LA.
Jax Frey is an artist who creates bold, colorful, super-textured paintings of all things New Orleans. Look for Jax's line of New Orleans mini paintings, her favorite painting series of New Orleans women called the Gumbeaux Sistahs (I love those chicks!) and other favorite Jax products on her website - I hope you enjoy your visit here and your comments make my day!

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