A Man Without A Portfolio

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When folks around here get upset about local street musicians playing too loud, too late or too close to something, they generally work to pass a law.

Several years ago, the Archdiocese convinced the city to create the St. Louis Cathedral Noise Buffer Zone, an ordinance prohibiting musicians from playing directly in front of the Cathedral.

The law does not apply to soothsayers, readers or magicians. So – whereas you can roll the bones in front of the Cathedral, have your future told, speak to your dead grandmother, cast a spell on a lover or perform feats of legerdemain that defy Satan’s sense of logic – if you play a saxophone in front of that building, you are going to jail.

If you can’t handle irony, you can’t handle New Orleans.

On the other hand, if someone gets upset with the street artists who hang their work in Jackson Square, apparently even darker forces abound. On Jan. 31, more than a dozen wooden carts containing brushes, canvasses, notebooks, sketches and paintings went missing from a storage building across the street from the Square.

That was the bad news. The worse news came when some of the carts started appearing on the Mississippi River’s water’s edge – some submerged, some floating – all of them ruined.

Somebody down there must really hate art. Or artists. Or both. They didn’t steal supplies or pictures to keep. In an act of considerably more malice, they just wanted to destroy as much as possible and throw it in the water.

Such an act can have last effects. To wit: Shortly after Katrina, I started painting. I had a gallery show on Julia Street. I sold a lot of work.

I was encouraged, so I invested in more and better supplies and canvasses. I set up a “real” studio in a carport Uptown. I prepared to alight on a second career. Then one day I arrived at my studio to find everything destroyed.

Vandals had squirted painted all over the walls and floor. Snapped brushes in half. Stomped on paint tubes and broke furniture.

That kind of senseless assault can really leave a mark. The sense of violation. Indignation. Anger. And more than a little paranoia, right? Why me? At the time, I couldn’t afford to start over, to rebuild a studio from scratch. With no scratch to do so.

So I didn’t pick up a paint brush for the next 10 years.

I have in the past two years started painting again and I hang my art down on the fences also. But I don’t store it there. I haul it to and from my house every time I go.

But those men and women down there are my involuntary brothers and sisters. And somebody did them wrong, very wrong. Why them? Why some of them and not others? Did somebody think so poorly of their work that it needed be destroyed? Was there some personal vendetta at work? Was it part of a turf war? Was someone encroaching on space, appropriating designs and styles?

There were no signs of a break-in, so an inside job seems likely. Who knows?

But maybe soon we’ll find out. On Monday, NOPD announced a warrant for the arrest of guy named Landon Semone. He’s 42, a ghost on social media, no known public profile, apparently a man without a portfolio.

But a man whom authorities believe enjoys destroying those of others.

 

 

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