Story and Photos By Ka’Lya Ellis
It was a tribute to the “Year of the Camo 2: The Neighborhood,” an art exhibit put owned by Marigny Visual Artist and New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) Alumnus Jarrad McKay, also known as “Art by Jarrad.” The exhibit opening took place on April 21st and was displayed at 912 Julia St. The art showcased the essence of Black New Orleans Neighborhoods in the 1990s. This is also his second installment to his Camo Series that aims to represent the solider he sees in every New Orleanian, who battles through everyday adversities. McKay is also well-known as a tattoo artist and his live art shows at festivals such as Buku Fest.
“I just wanted to continue to bring a dope experience,” McKay said of his brand of creative work.
For this exhibit, McKay said the collection recalled memories he held of growing up and that any New Orleanian native would easily recognize as the culture of the inner-city neighborhoods. The paintings voiced the way a community can inspire its children, he said.
The inspiration to take on art came from his grandfather, who was a Mardi Gras Indian with the Seventh Ward Hard Headers tribe. From the age of 3, McKay had his first handcrafted suit and continues the tradition today. This heritage is expressed through one of his paintings named “Indian Suit” celebrating the legacy of the Mardi Gras Indians in the community. It is a painting of his eldest son, Vincent, who is now following in his father’s footsteps of becoming a Mardi Gras Indian.
“I gotta keep my kids informed about it, if we don’t carry the legacy it will be extinct, it will disappear,” McKay said.
The artwork also celebrated women in New Orleans, who are a significant part of the City’s heritage. Paintings like “Looka my Baby” and “Inspired by Solange” both displayed how grandmothers, mothers, and aunts looked in the nineties with big smiles and gold teeth. Another piece inspired by women of New Orleans was his “Mia X” painting, featuring Female Rapper Mia X from his neighborhood of the Seventh Ward, who is a notable part of female hip-hop in the 1990s.
Residents who attended the exhibit said they felt the nostalgia that McKay was portraying through his art. Ja’Vair Polk who went through adolescence at this time and grew up in the Inner-City of New Orleans said the work spoke to her childhood experiences.
“This show is a true depiction of my upbringing,” Polk said.
Kenneth Ellis who is also from the Marigny area agreed with Polk. “At the end of day culture is all we have and seeing my culture on full display makes me