My beloved, New Orleans! Drowned by Katrina and the flood waters of 2005! Gone are the the culture and historical evidence of a special time and place where the Blues and Jazz were born. Katrina laid an
unmitigated human disaster upon New Orleans with no one to protect and save her.

Parts of my life stories in south Texas coincide with the history of the Blues and Jazz. Listening to the Blues out of the Delta in the early 40's took hold of me and never let me go! My tiny radio pressed next to my ear while I lay in bed late at night, with the covers pulled up over my head. The sounds felt strange but all too familiar at the same time. I frequented Blues sessions at the Chicago's Gate of Horn 1959-64. And in 2000 and again in 2003 I had a chance to experience the Blues in New Orleans first-hand--salted with loving insults, a combination of West Africa elements and the ring-shout (call/response) of America's deep south used in the church to attract the young people who wanted to dance.

Sleeping on roof tops in the Dogon villages of Mali/West Africa in 2004 I heard children, during the day, break into song spontaneously. I asked my guide why this was so and he said, "We are taught early on to sing when we are sad." Then quickly I remenbered John Lee Hooker saying in a recording, "The Blues are not sad. We are happy when we sing".

In my studio as I work I have always chosen to listen to Blues or Jazz which does not intrude or distract me from my work, as classical music does, but flows into my work--the spots, discs, arcs, wavy lines, arrows and stripes of mineral and organic hues onto little pieces of paper merge with the sound and this is where I begin to work. When I work on a series of painting, I may change one thing in each of the 20 acrylic collages before me. The following day when I return to the studio I might change a few of them back or move them into another position. I stare, waiting to see what appears awkward, out of place or unnecessary. Then the next morning I ask myself if the work is cognitively and emotionally memorable. If not I rework it or toss it. "Fooling around with my heart," as Erroll Garner says when he does not seem to let his left hand know what his right hand does, allows him rich webs, overlays of sound patterns. And for me the patterns of various colors in my paintings, are clues to my deepest emotional edge.

Margo Kren

Fall 2005

 

 

 

 

Iron Lace -- There is a strong contrast of sweet/bitter life in the French Quarter. Some one once told me you could get anything in New Orleans.

 

 

 

 

High Rise -- Always a high rise of activity or sprits available, hidden and sparking somewhere in New Orleans.

 

 

Acadian Woman -- She has a frog face because she is French. She represents the diaspora of the Acadians of Nova Scotia who later became the Cajuns of Louisiana. The English, fearing Acadian loyalty to France, drove them out of Canada, beginning in 1755. Some were shipped to the port of New Orleans and many did not survive!

 

 

 

 

New Ethnicity --Today, the Cajuns are considered the most tightly bound ethnic group in the United States. Amazingly, their culture has remained intact.

 

 

 

 

Wretched of the Earth-- A phase out of "The Internationale," a worker's song, first sung in French in 1871 and also in Spain's Civil War by the anti-fascists. Franz Fanon used the phase for a title of his book in 1965.

 

 

 

 

Cajun Pranks -- On a regular basis men in Cajun communities will dress in medieval clothes, wear tall pointed cone hats, mount their horses and perform make-believe raids on a neighbor's farm to steal a chicken. All done in wild fun.

 

 

 

 

States of Crawfishing -- I drove out across the water ways on a single-lane road around the edge of the New Orleans area. Cajun men could be seen fishing in small boats below the bridged road. This is a common sight along coastal regions of the states around Louisiana.

 

 

 

 

 

Fall Back -- Antics of a Mardi Gras parade on fat Tuesday, jesters celebrate in carnival style in New Orleans and in Paris.

 

 

 

 

 

Trickle Down Wet -- Words taken from a Blues man's song.

 

 

 

 

 

Tornado Rag--Living in Kansas for these 38 years I have never seen a tornado. On the Weather Channel reports, it appears to really dance up a storm.

 

 

 

Epitaph -- I enjoy visits to graveyards and photographing them when I can. Since New Orleans is below sea level, the ornate tombs for the affluent, are built to bury the dead above ground. And to read the epitaphs is yet another means to gather historical material or to discover a poem to a deeply loved one.

 

 

 

 

 

Listenin' Heads --Two heads face each other with eyes closed as they communicate through the Jazz notes they play over and around each other.

 

 

 

 

 

Chat Mates -- Masked figures guess each other's identity in a parade through narrow streets.

 

 

 

 

 

Cleo -- Cleopatra, a scarab, crawls across the floor as a snake circles her head.

 

 

 

 

 

Rug Burn -- Two figures, in love and war, seek each other out on a rug floor.

 

 

 

 

 

To the Max --Max Roach wears head phones in the recording studio and plays the finest sounds on a drum.

 

 

 

 

 

Flying Fish -- A lady fish goes shopping. She goes very fast because there are wings on her back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wiener Dog in the Laundry Mat -- His long little body carries him round and round in the dryer.

 

 

 

 

 

Hot Cup of Coffee -- A phrase from a Blues song about a man who wants to go into the restaurant and have a hot cup of coffee with a woman. But maybe the coffee can be so hot it shatters the cup.

 

 

 

 

Boom! Boom! -- Guns go boom-boom at Fort Riley near the town where I have lived in Kansas but the sound is not as sweet as the thunder or drum that goes boom-boom. The main instument in African music is the drum, The tribe forms a circle and God speaks through the drum.

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Bunny and Wounded Turkey -- The American Thanksgiving dinner can be rather bland--baked turkey and some very bad ice cream, Blue Rabbit Ice Cream.

 

 

 

 

 

Spider Moons the Moon -- Spider hangs flat against the fence eyeshot of the moon.

 

 

 

 

 

March'n -- The music in New Orleans does not sound like the European style, but is based on the complexities of a march rhythm.

 

 

 

 

 

Ghost of a Chance -- A red coffin of a Bluesman lies on the floor and all the sweet polyrhythmic singing, clapping and stamping emerge to celebrate his name, Ezreel!

 

 

 

 

 

Tenor Sax - Tender sex--A sax man player wedded to his music as a woman.

 

 

 

 

 

Owl and the Pecker --Two male birds display for a woman.

(All of these acrylic paintings are on black Arches paper, 22"x22", series of paintings titled, Snooks' Jazz, 1998-2003. They are a tribute to the artist's late husband, George Michael Kren, a man she called Snooks'!)

Photographs were taken by the artist on visits to New Orleans in 2000 and 2003.

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