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Rising Art: Hidden Talent at Cafe Rose Nicaud

There’s hidden talent at Cafe Rose Nicaud on Frenchmen St., and I don’t mean there’s an undiscovered person who’s got lots of potential but has yet to make it big--I mean a person with known talent is literally hiding there!

Clarke Peters, the actor behind Big Chief Albert Lambreaux on Treme, is evidently a regular at the Cafe, and “just stuck these paintings in [there] a couple of weeks ago,” according to the barista.

I saw Peters’ bright and diverse oil paintings shortly after their installation, as they lacked titles and artist attribution.  Cafe Rose Rose Nicaud usually has a funky hodgepodge of art on the walls, often by local high school kids.

One of the great things about art is that it defies language, and there is possibility for transcendence when the work speaks simply and truthfully. When you see something out of the context of an art scene or gallery whose exhibition history you’re familiar with, or outside of a community of prolific artists whose work frequently makes the circuit, there is an opportunity visual images to strike more purely.

Remembering the paintings and wanting to view them again, I stopped in the Cafe, and this time there was a piece of paper detailing, “Paintings $2,000,” Peters’ biographical info, and the fact that half of the processds painting sales will benefit The Big Chief Donald Harrison Sr. Book Program, which “has distributed over 25,000 books valued at over $250,000 to New Orleans children via in-school programs.”

Nola.com user brues010 praised Peters in this article(http://www.nola.com/treme-hbo/index.ssf/2010/04/tremes_albert_lambreaux.html)’s comments when Peters’ Treme character debuted in Season 1: “Clarke Peters, y'all- can I get a witness?”

“That phrase 'The eyes are the window to the soul' could've been originally written for Peters cause he can convey an enormous amount even with just a glance and he is Soul Writ Large,” brues010 explained. Subsequent commenters shared similar feelings about Peters’ undeniable ability to speak to New Orleanians through his talents.

The paintings Peters, from New York and living in England, placed in Rose Nicaud are actually very New Orleans. The purple one (the barista’s favorite) has the word ‘bones’ scrawled across it and the implications of a skull; two are undoubtedly Mardi Gras Indianesque; two connote African heritage.

The coffee shop art show can be tricky, as one does not have the clean slate of a gallery to work with, but has to negotiate things like espresso machines and picture moldings and mismatched chairs.

I was particularly struck by a row of four paintings which are all the same size and scale.

The images are vastly different in the sensibility of line and paint; they all feature faces in the middle of the picture plane but they are rendered in an explorative diversity of language of an artist driven more by curiosity than by the need to find a distinct aesthetic and mine it.

I hope you’ll make a trip to Rose Nicaud to see the paintings, and see what I’m talking about--and you just might run into Peters.