Float Me Down the River

Carol Robinson Gallery, New Orleans, LA, April 2013


I think of these paintings not as portraits, but as compositions, almost musical in themselves, fashioned of melody, harmony and dissonance.  To a degree they are visual translations of the music played by the bands depicted.  Early jazz and blues played as I painted, and one can detect in the brushwork a whimsical trombone slide, maudlin songs of lost love, and the jumpy rhythm of hopped-up ragtime.

When I was a teenager in Natchez, Mississippi, I learned ragtime from a man who wore overalls and played piano at a catfish joint.  Though my piano skills are limited, these paintings capture some of the character of the music.  That early era of jazz, embedded now in history, is for me a concoction of technical proficiency, slapstick lunacy and the bitter sadness of an epoch receding into shadow.  I hope some of those qualities come through these paintings.

– N.S., 2013