Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Achoo And Outsider Art In New Orleans

One of the things I learned in New Orleans, and I found it is sometimes difficult to determine what is fact and what is fiction in New Orleans, is that there is a graffiti artist who signs their work Achoo. From the French Quarter to the Garden District (well, that's the only two places I was), you can see Achoo's tag high and low. I was curious who this person was, as an all-out effort here in Rockford curtailed graffiti art almost completely, although ironically the city now holds events where graffiti artists "perform" for a crowd. I learned almost nothing, except that almost no one who had an opinion enjoyed what Achoo does. Mostly civic leaders and business owners who considered Achoo right up there with anyone on the FBI's 10 most wanted list. As for Jenny and I, we were entertained by it all, and made a sport of trying to find as many Achoo tags as we could. It wasn't too hard.

We became so interested in our little game that on our last day in New Orleans we had one goal: to find the perfect place to place one of our Zombie Logic Press stickers next to one of Achoo's tags. 

Jenny has been painting since we got back. She may paint for a long, long time what she saw.

Achoo doorway in New Orleans. Watercolor by Jenny Mathews

House on St. Peters by Jenny Mathews

I was reading something about Outsider Art this week, and I saw that it had been identified as an investment opportunity for those who collect art. Apparently, a hot commodity. I don't even have mixed feelings about this, only disgust. I know a few dozen Outsider Artists who can't pay their rent because they couldn't sell ice in the desert. There are thousands and thousands of others in America in jails, institutions, and wandering the streets. If they make work, they will never profit from it, and that insult is at the heart of my anger. All that suffering and intentional neglect by society that went into that work ending up in the collection of the very people who did the neglecting and discrimination in the first place. 


  1. I see Achoo's tags often, but have never run across the real person. I've even used him in several photo shoots I've done over the years. Graffiti art here in New Orleans has a rough history because its been mostly taggers only and no actual art. So much of it gets covered back over along with the pieces which are worth saving. But sadly as is the case in many large cities, taggers spoil it for the real artists because they tag things that shouldn't be tagged.

    My partner and I noticed a tag written across a park sculpture the other day and I wasn't sure whether I was angry or just sad to see it. There is a fine line between tagging and true street art and we've not yet found that line here.

    As for Outsider art, it has always been a big thing here. I think its because we just don't give a damn and make whatever feels right to us. For a city that has one of the largest artists populations in the country, its damned hard for the unknown artists to break into what others consider legitimate art and that is very sad.

    btw... Jenny's watercolors are awesome! Glad she found inspiration here :)


  2. I photographed a fundraising conference here recently. What a wonderful place for photos. I almost always hate being anywhere at 6am, but this breakfast event proved an exception. The manger and his staff from Chicago venues were extremely professional.

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  4. Achoo is on train cars in big spray font. I've thought about keeping a picture diary of the graffiti I encounter living here in NOLA. I live by the train tracks and see graffiti from all over the North America continent. Reznor is on train cars and their other names I believe to be from other cities in the U.S. Some of the graffiti is absolutely amazing others need a dictionary and or a counselor... lol I don't like that some are just tagging and or making a mess. Yet, I do enjoy good art work. Some are militant from other areas of the country which is sad. It is someone else property and those who own it usually are not happy, even in cases where it is absolutely beautiful. A place I frequent had some gorgeous, amazing and articulate graffiti on it's wall which the local patrons had come to really like. The owner took offense that some one would paint on his building's wall. It was not an offensive picture but that of a beautiful eye which was made up like a woman's eye. Sadly it was covered over.