THOM BENNETT PHOTOGRAPHS
Lou Jordan felt all along that she had the heart of an artist, but it appeared for a long while that life had other plans for her. She married at age 18, had children and soon found herself raising them by herself.
It was a struggle that left little time for other pursuits.
“I always knew that I was an artist and studied it at school, but I never had a chance to get back into it, which I think happens with so many women from my generation,” Jordan says.
By the early 1990s, however, her children were grown, and she met and fell in love with a widower. Soon after they married, he was transferred to New Orleans. With a new husband in a new city, it seemed to Jordan that life was opening a new chapter, and she was determined that this one would see her artistic dreams fulfilled.
“I thought, ‘This is my chance,’“ she says. “I decided it was my turn.”
She studied watercolors at the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts and in her first year won an award from the Louisiana Watercolor Society. In no time she found herself immersed in the society, entering work and judging others in competition and hosting world-class watercolorists during their visits to New Orleans. Her own work centered on landscapes of scenes along Bayou St. John and the Gulf Coast.
But just as moving to New Orleans signaled the start of Jordan’s artistic life, the experience of rebuilding her life here after Katrina would mark her work’s most radical turn. She went through an extended artistic limbo during the Katrina aftermath until 2007, when she says, “the pent-up energy burst out” and, in doing so, led her in a new direction.
She began working with acrylic paints on large, bright canvases in an abstract style, riffing on the sharp, clean lines of the mid-century design aesthetic. Soon, she began using Yupo, a glossy, plastic-like paper, and experimented with the ways her watercolors would respond to it. As she realized she could now scrape, roller, texture, remove and adjust her paints on this slick new surface, her painting began to take on flowing themes from her imagination. They pulse with a joyful, organic energy in mingling colors and blending shapes, like life moving in its course or an artist blooming in full.