It’s that time again y’all: Jazz Fest, the annual celebration of the music and culture of New Orleans and Louisiana. And with another year comes another set of posters that will undoubtedly make their way onto the walls of so many attendees.
While the main poster tends to celebrate the larger spirit of the festival, the Congo Square poster is allowed to really hone in and focus on a particular artist and their contribution to New Orleans music.
This year’s Congo Square poster, as painted by Kevin Brisco Jr., features the likes of Big Freedia, also known as the Queen of Bounce.
“The opportunity to portray Freedia is what really pulled me into the project,” says Brisco. “The poster had yet to feature a bounce artist, let alone a rapper, in a city that has dominated the rap genre for decades.”
The poster, created with oil paints, is groundbreaking for reasons beyond this as well—this is the first time a gay man (Freedia is a “he” but uses the feminine pronoun for her stage persona) will have been portrayed on any Jazz Fest poster.
In a funny twist of fate, Freedia is actually a big part of the reason Brisco relocated from Memphis to New Orleans in 2014, making this painting all the more special to the artist.
“Freedia played at my college in Connecticut in 2012 and she blew the roof off of that campus,” Brisco says. “It was by far the best show I saw there and it made me feel at home. I knew post-graduation I had to come back to the south, specifically, I needed to check out New Orleans.”
The painting, which depicts the very regal Freedia resting her hand on the legacy of bounce, is based off of John Singer Sargent’s Madame X portrait. In Sargent’s painting, the figure leans on a table as an allegory for the financial support her beauty was reliant on, but in the end, as Freedia does, she stands on her own. The doorway behind Freedia looks out into The Quarter, reference photos for which were shot from the balconies of the LGBTQ bars on Bourbon.
Purchase the Congo Square 2018 poster online or at Jazz Fest on April 27 – May 6, hear Big Freedia during the festival on Saturday April 28 and see more of Kevin Brisco Jr.’s work during Second Saturdays at the Good Children Gallery on St. Claude.