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Rolland Golden

Rolland Golden: Life, Love, and Art in the French Quarter

Edited by Lucille Golden
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Rolland Golden
    Book Description:

    In the early twentieth century, the French Quarter had become home to a vibrant community of working artists attracted to the atmosphere, architecture, and colorful individuals who populated the scene (and who also became some of its first preservationists). Louisiana native Rolland Golden was one of these artists to live, work, and raise a family in this most storied corner of New Orleans. With 94 black-and-white and 54 color photographs and illustrations, his memoir of that life focuses on the period of 1955 to 1976. Golden, a painter, discusses the particular challenges of making a living from art, and his story becomes a family affair involving his daughters and his beloved wife, Stella.

    Golden's studio sat in a patio on Royal Street, around the corner from Preservation Hall where old-time musicians played Dixieland Jazz. Golden sketched and painted many of them in a visual style that encompassed realism and gradually developed into abstract realism. Golden recalls work that he did in historic preservation, sketching architecture for publications such as theVieux Carré Courier, and he discusses his studies with renowned regionalist painter John McCrady. The artist frankly discusses his experiences with the display, representation, and sale of his work, presenting a little-explored and yet crucial part of a working artist's life. The memoir concludes with Golden and his wife traveling to the premiere of his exhibition in Moscow, having been selected by a Russian envoy as the only American artist to have a one-man touring exhibition in the former Soviet Union. Among the nearly 150 black-and-white and color illustrations are never-before-seen photos and sketches by the artist.

    eISBN: 978-1-62674-070-9
    Subjects: History, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. Preface
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  4. Acknowledgment and Dedication
    (pp. IX-1)
  5. PROLOGUE: Meeting Stella, June 1953
    (pp. 3-6)

    When I first walked into the mess hall at the communication center on Guam, back in the fall of 1951, I thought, “Dear God, where have you sent me?”

    There I was, this young guy fresh out of naval boot camp and looking at a group made up of 60 or 70 percent World War II veterans who had joined the reserves and been called back to duty by the government because of the Korean War. They were a sight to behold: shirts hanging out, walking in flip-flops, long hair, and beards, they were disheveled. This was definitely not boot...

  6. CHAPTER 1 March 1955: Discharged from the Navy
    (pp. 7-10)

    The plane began to slowly descend as it made its final approach to the New Orleans airport. The sun was below the horizon, but the sky above and around us was bright; below, the earth was enveloped in darkness, with sprinkles of lights here and there. As I pressed my head against the window looking forward, I could see the glow of the New Orleans sky.

    I was about to resume my civilian life again, but not as it was before—that was impossible. Too much had happened to me during my four years in the navy. I was changed...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Art School
    (pp. 11-21)

    Dan Banister, my good friend since high school days, had been discharged from the navy just two weeks after me, and we caught up on this lost time in the navy while I was waiting for art school to begin. Much of our entertainment involved going to the Eight Suns Bar on Franklin Avenue and having a few drinks. Dan could drink more than anybody I’d ever seen and not show it—well, at least not until he went beyond his sober limit. I didn’t try to keep up with him because too much liquor made me sick, and I...

  8. CHAPTER 3 New Orleans, 1956
    (pp. 22-28)

    One day in my second year of art school, I dropped into Tony Shemroske’s studio. He told me he was planning to leave town for two or three weeks and asked if I would like to use his studio. I jumped at the opportunity; it would give me a chance to find out if I could sell my paintings and perhaps calculate a better asking price for them.

    Afterward, as I drove out on Elysian Fields Avenue back home, my mind was busy as I considered what I had to do before Tony left. I had only a few weeks...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Beginnings: Marriage, First Child, and Career, 1957
    (pp. 29-46)

    So the wedding day was set, August 31, 1957. Little Rolland, that puny, anemic, asthmatic kid was going to marry the girl across the street, a tall, reddish-blonde beauty who exuded health and freshness. What about this girl, Stella? I’ve talked about her a lot, and as time has gone on she has obviously become more and more important to me. I liked tall, spicy girls and had no preferences as to hair color. Stella seldom lost her temper, at least in my presence, and her good nature was a part of her that was attractive to me. During our...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Gentilly, New Orleans
    (pp. 47-68)

    Carrie reached the crawling stage quickly and soon was holding onto things so she could stand up. By August 1959, she was tottering around, falling, and then getting up like all healthy babies. Knowing that Carrie would soon be walking, we began to think about her safety and about how she would soon need more space, including a backyard. Therefore, we needed to move to the suburbs. We loved the Quarter but were now responsible for a child, and that was paramount.

    Scanning the real estate section of the paper for rentals in Gentilly near our parents, we judged the...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Back to the French Quarter
    (pp. 69-77)

    The year 1962 had begun with the usual New Year’s pomp and festivities, booze and football. It seemed only two or three months since we’d celebrated last New Year’s Eve. Thanksgiving and Christmas came and went in a blur of excitement. As the children grew, their level of excitement and wonderment in what is Christmas became more and more infectious. How could you not love the holidays while experiencing them through the eyes of such innocent souls?

    Taking stock of our situation, we were moving forward, albeit at a snail’s pace, but neither of us could do more than we...

  12. CHAPTER 7 New Home on St. Ann
    (pp. 78-91)

    As soon as I finished eating, I walked over to see the apartment on St. Ann. It turned out to be a slave quarter building attached to the main house—which faced Bourbon Street—creating a unique “L”-shaped apartment. These structures were nearly always the same: two stories high, long and narrow with a covered gallery running the length of the second floor. But this particular building had an extra room jutting out at the end, perpendicularly. This room was what actually formed the bottom of the “L.” One had to cross an open gallery and small staircase landing to...

  13. CHAPTER 8 The Studio
    (pp. 92-105)

    When I opened my Patio Art Studio back in June 1957, there were very few galleries in the French Quarter, but the number had increased in the late 1950s and early 1960s, which was actually a good thing for me as well as the other galleries in the Quarter. Having more galleries would attract more people, helping everyone despite the added competition. Antique stores seemed to be on every block and were surviving handsomely. New restaurants had also opened on nontourist streets, such as Dauphine, a mostly quiet neighborhood. The Quarter was undergoing a renaissance.

    The first Sunday after moving...

  14. CHAPTER 9 History: Past and Present
    (pp. 106-130)

    Opening my studio, I made coffee and began to work on a painting left unfinished two days before. It was a watercolor of shrimp boats in the small community of Braithwaite, south of New Orleans. Braithwaite had been a great source of subjects for paintings; its small portage was sprinkled with partially sunken boats. As well as active boats, there were wheelhouses jutting up from the shallow water. I’d been inspired to paint this place ever since discovering it a few months before. The road that led to it—a narrow blacktop highway—was also rich with subjects on either...

  15. CHAPTER 10 Branching Out
    (pp. 131-150)

    The year 1964 was developing into a good one for me. However, those of us who loved the Quarter were thrown into a state of shock when the city administration announced plans for a six-lane elevated expressway running between the river and the French Quarter. This elevated expressway would effectively cut the Quarter off from free access to the Mississippi River—access being the very reason it was founded here on the first high ground Bienville discovered on his way up from the Gulf of Mexico. The Quarter wouldn’t be the only area to feel the intrusion of this road;...

  16. CHAPTER 11 Stormy Weather
    (pp. 151-166)

    By late September 1965, we had been settled in at 923 Bourbon for over a year and were enjoying our quiet, yet happy, life.

    But then the local TV weatherman started talking about a storm that had formed in the Atlantic. It was heading west—northwest; it crossed the Florida peninsula, entering the Gulf of Mexico. It was named Betsy. Within twenty-four hours after it crossed Florida, we began to take precautionary measures in New Orleans. We raced out to buy cans of Vienna sausage, potted meat, batteries for flashlights and radio, more candles and matches, bread, bottled water. We...

  17. CHAPTER 12 Bryant Allen and the Jackson Gallery
    (pp. 167-184)

    The year 1965 ended on a high note, with Stella and the children healthy; my nerves improving, even if just slightly; my inspiration and creativity undiminished; and our business growing.

    Thus, we greeted 1966, as usual, at both of our parents’ homes in Gentilly, with food; football; flowing cocktails; and overall, a great deal of fun. I, for some reason, felt that 1966 was going to be an even more eventful year for my family and my career.

    One day in the spring, a man came into my studio whom I recognized as having been in before; his name was...

  18. CHAPTER 13 1967: A Very Good Year
    (pp. 185-213)

    Christmas of 1966 arrived like thunder, as the three kids were running throughout the house, yelling at the top of their lungs, “Ho,Ho came. Ho, Ho CAME!!!!!” The children broke speed records in opening their presents, as did their daddy.

    We quickly devoured breakfast, dressed, and rushed out to make Christmas Mass at St. Louis Cathedral, which was beautifully and traditionally decorated. The smell of incense and poinsettias mingling, as well as the sounds of the pipe organ and the Cathedral’s choir, heightened our senses for the season.

    This was the first Christmas my brother, Donald, was back in New...

  19. CHAPTER 14 Trying Times
    (pp. 214-230)

    One of the things Bryant and I had in common was that we had both experienced some emotional problems. His were so bad he had spent time at a mental facility up north, and there he met a fellow patient also involved in art, Mrs. Serger. Her husband Frederick, an artist, had recently died. Bryant and she became friends and stayed in contact after being discharged. Mrs. Serger owned and directed the La Boetie Gallery on Madison Avenue in New York. She represented her husband’s work, of course, as well as the work of some other well-known artists in New...

  20. CHAPTER 15 Engaging the Civil War: Part I
    (pp. 231-248)

    The following year, 1969, started off quite busily for me professionally. Right after the New Year, Bryant surprised me with a visit to my studio on Burgundy Street. As soon as we were inside and seated, he asked, “Didn’t Stella work with you at your studio on Royal before you signed the contract?”

    “Yes. One or two days a week. She became pretty darn good at it, too, and I was surprised at how fast she picked it all up. Why do you ask?”

    “I just fired Philip,” Bryant answered.

    “No! Philip, the director?” I asked, trying to hide my...

  21. CHAPTER 16 Engaging the Civil War: Part II
    (pp. 249-264)

    I needed some new reference material, so as soon as school was out in May, we asked mom and dad if they’d once again look after the children for a few days while Stella and I drove to Shiloh Battlefield in southwestern Tennessee. They said yes, and we departed a couple of days later in our bus. The little bus chugged along as we drove to Corinth, Mississippi, not far from the battlefield. In fact, it was a staging area for Confederate troops before the battle.

    Although there were only a few monuments, I acquired some very interesting material to...

  22. CHAPTER 17 Back Home and on the Road
    (pp. 265-287)

    Stella, in a gush of anguish, told me one evening right after the plantation show opening that she wanted to move back to the Quarter to be “by me.” The situation regarding picking the children up after school depended often on the kindness of Betty Dawkins, who drove to the school each afternoon to retrieve her children and our three kids as well. She then dropped our three off at our house where the babysitter would be waiting. It was a precarious arrangement, but it was the best we could do while Stella worked at the gallery and me at...

  23. CHAPTER 18 Winds of Change
    (pp. 288-301)

    In late June, we loaded our VW bus with ourselves and all the paraphernalia we could pack into it and started our trip to the great Northeast, an area I had long wanted to visit but had never been able to.

    With our “natural” cooling system in full force, we wound our way northward into a new part of the country. The five Goldens were on an adventure we would long remember. I put the lawsuit in the back of my mind as if it didn’t exist, and for right now and the next few weeks, it didn’t.

    The house...

  24. CHAPTER 19 Anticipating the USSR
    (pp. 302-312)

    Since 1973, while all of the shenanigans between Bryant and I were happening, I had been steadily moving toward an exhibit in what was then the Soviet Union. Thousands of tons of grain heading for the Soviet Union passed through the Port of New Orleans every year; in fact, New Orleans was the major port for shipping grain and other commodities to the Soviets. They were, of course, cognizant of this, and in a gesture of goodwill, requested an exhibit of a New Orleans artist. Paul Fabry, director of the World Trade Center in New Orleans, had proposed me. This...

  25. CHAPTER 20 In the USSR
    (pp. 313-319)

    We were moving along, and by September things seemed to be coming together quite rapidly. We already had an idea of which paintings we wanted to be in the USSR show. Thinking of the various subjects I had painted over the last decade or so, we made our final selection of fifty-one paintings. We then composed a letter for our clients, asking permission to use their “Golden” for the USSR show. We would pay to fully insure them throughout the trip, which could last about a year. All but one responded favorably, and the one declined only because the person...

  26. Epilogue
    (pp. 320-332)
    Stella Golden

    Our USSR experience was almost like a fairytale. In many ways, Rolland and I had no idea what to expect, not the least of the unknowns being the response to his show from the public and news media of the Soviet Union. As guests of the government, we had a chauffeured car at our disposal at any time, day and night. We were driven to many museums, palaces, and other important sights, all of which we were escorted to the front of the line. Vladimir, our guide/interpreter spoke excellent English, and we added some slang expressions to his vocabulary. He...