Le Mystique de Jeanne d’Arc

On April 20, I got an email message from my piston (a “piston” is a French term for a supporter of an artist who has connections and lobbies for them). The message was simply, “I suggest you call Stephen today.”  I did and in a few short moments I had an exhibition. I knew that for the past six months Amy, my piston, had been lobbying the business manager of the St. Louis Cathedral, Stephen, for an exhibition of my photographs to coincide with Jeanne’s 600 year birthday at the Old Ursuline Convent Museum on Chartres Street in the French Quarter.  Suddenly it was real.  Yikes, April 20 for an exhibition to open on the day Jeanne relieved the siege at Orléans, May 8!  Two weeks to make the prints, have them framed, printed and deliver invitations, organize an opening gala,  get the prints to Nola and hang the show. My heart sang with exhilaration at the opportunity to show at this incredible facility in my home town and sunk with the knowledge of what needed to be done to bring it off.  Cavalierly back in November I mentioned to Amy that I could produce the exhibition in two weeks. Be careful about what you promise,  you just might have to fulfill. I spent the next seven days printing, twice sleeping on my studio floor.  I can personally recommend  Michael’s  frame shop at Lake Line.  Professional, courteous, quality workmanship, on time, reasonable price. On time.

Arrived Nola on May 7 with twenty-five framed  giclée prints 24×32 for the exhibition. The drive was fraught with fright. In the back of my hatch VW Rabbit, the prints belly to belly, back to back, rested on several old quilts for cushioning. Luggage forced into the remaining space to keep them upright. I carefully avoided every rock in the road fearing hearing glass break. Pummeled prints.  Five hundred miles.  Never noticed the bumps before.  I was pleasantly surprised to arrive with all  twenty-five intact ready for hanging. During the drive,  at various moments, I promised Jeanne that I would be okay if  just twenty survived, once leaving parking running over the curb,  fifteen.   I met the business manager, Stephen, and asked who would be doing the hanging. Somewhat surprised, he replied, “I understood you were.” I had hung several previous exhibitions. It wasn’t as if I didn’t know how, I just never thought they would allow me to hammer nails into their 260 year old plus walls. Stephen was unconcerned when I mentioned that I was nervous. He said, “Oh no problem you have my permission. Do what you need to do.”  Got some of the prints onto the wall returned the following morning, May 8, to finish. No raw oysters and Dixie.  Just after the show was hung, the Monseigneur came by to check on the installation. Immediately he called the custodian and began to personally direct the lighting.  The main room contained some artifacts from the Museum’s permanent collection which he ordered  removed immediately saying to the custodian, “I don’t want anything in here to detract from these beautiful prints.” Fist bump pump jump.

The opening was the 581st. anniversary of the relief of the English siege at  Orléans. Fabulous and well attended for a Tuesday and the normal French Quarter parking issue which is – No parking Tow Away. There were about fifty or more people who attended the opening. Lots of good comments and questions. I admit to enjoying the brief moments of fame and attention. The Krewe of Joan of Arc send volunteers to woman the food and wine. Next year we will don medieval costumes of some sort and parade with them on January 6th.

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  1. Barbara Nash June 26, 2012 at 6:27 am #

    Alex, your report on the exhibition brought tears to my eyes. Just very happy that well-deserved fame has found you at last. Yikes, I’d better buy a print from you before they get too expensive!

    • Alex Labry June 26, 2012 at 7:13 am #

      Thank you, it’s a small amount but I’ll take it! They will never be too expensive for you my dear not as long as I am alive. 🙂 Alex

  2. So when you say “I can make that happen”, you are NOT kidding! 🙂
    I saw the photos of the exhibit and lecture when Claire was in NOLA with you and Suzanne. Just wonderful. Such an honor for you…and a well-deserved honor at that. I’ve always admired your art. This is really inspiring.

  3. Richard Orton June 26, 2012 at 9:06 am #

    I know how great you must have felt to complete this project… how many years, how many trips to France? Congratulations on a job well done. How long will the exhibit be up? Do you have plans to bring it to Austin?

  4. Rick Shopfner June 27, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    I also know how hard you worked on this project, and I’m really glad I got to see it with you in attendance…As I told you when we saw the exhibition, I’m really looking forward to the book version!

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