Musicians and performers can be harder to photograph than you might think. In New Orleans, we are blessed with musical performances and parades that pop up all around us all the time, but it's not easy to provide a fresh look at frequently photographed people and events. Erika Goldring's performance portraits at Loyola University often stand out for a subtly psychological sense of reverie that conveys something of a performer's inner life. Because of her work with venues such as Tipitina's and Preservation Hall, many of her subjects are musicians, but others reflect our roots culture in the form of Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs and Mardi Gras Indians. Her portrait of the Yellow Pocahontas' David Montana in full regalia (pictured) is a classic — a feathery, bejeweled explosion of azure and amber. His expression embodies the spirit of a timeless tradition, but even her straight-on headshot of trumpeter Irvin Mayfield serenely holding a note on his horn evokes an aura of a Zen master deep in meditation. Portraits like these provide a sense of depth in a genre better known for flash and dazzle.
Gris Gris Lab, a new Central City art space and community center, is all about Creole roots culture and its 21st century spiritual evolution. Currently on view are Sarah Dearie's paintings of Orishas, Brazilian nature spirits not unlike the loas of Voodoo lore. Made up of mostly female Orishas associated with bodies of water, Dearie's assortment of floridly baroque figures suggests a pantheon of maternal mermaids and forest nymphs residing comfortably in a parallel universe as they await the call of anyone who seeks them. And in Salvador, Brazil, where she lived for two years after Hurricane Katrina, there is no shortage of believers. It's a show that works well in a gallery/community center that invokes old Afro-Creole traditions as the basis for new approaches to the present and future. — D. Eric Bookhardt
Performance Portraiture: New Photographs by Erika Goldring
Through April 6
Loyola Univerity, Collins Diboll Gallery, 6363 St. Charles Ave, 861-5456; www.loyno.edu/dibollgallery
Across the Waters: Paintings by Sarah Dearie
Through March 20
Gris Gris Lab, 2245 Brainard St., 654-1927; www.grisgrislab.com