At some point after being born in Lafayette, Louisiana, I became aware of both how oddly common it was to see this name on the landscape and, later, I began to look into the history of Lafayette as a character. Part of my family lives up east, so I may have seen signs in Manhattan on a visit, and then slowly notes other examples. Think about it. You’ve probably come across a county, city, street, park, school, shop, or restaurant named for Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette more than just a few times by now.
This article strays from my more typical pastures of Louisiana to discuss the historic appropriation of aesthetic and design elements from Asia into Western art and their functions as mediating devices. I want to discuss how it seems to me that those elements present a kind of familiarity for visitors to Asia, a familiarity that ameliorates anxiety associated with presentation of the exotic.
For generations, people have been fishing the Atchafalaya Basin region for commercial harvests and for sport. Yet, the idea of fly-fishing in the Atchafalaya is fairly new. While the Basin, itself, is fresh water, within twenty minutes anglers can access the brackish water of the Basin’s coastal edges, and the salt-water margins of the Gulf of Mexico. In these varied eco-systems, anglers who come to Louisiana may seek out bass, bream, catfish, redfish, sac-a-lait, speckled trout, and other species—using lighter tackle in fresh water and heavier gear in salty areas.
The frisson existing between real and faux events, as between standard human mating ritual and performative settings such as strip tease is exceptionally well defined by the “latex nipples” case which went to court in Lafayette, Louisiana decades ago – way back in about 1994 or so. In Lafayette, a medium sized city in the center of south Louisiana’s “Cajun Land,” apparently part of the regulatory apparatus involved with so-called “gentleman’s clubs” is attached to the corpus of obscenity law.
One fine summer’s day, the great Lord Curzon, then British secretary of state for foreign affairs, received a delegation from Mosul,” historian Jacques Darras recalls. “When they were ushered in to his presence he was busy writing and he invited them to go to the window and to look at the people enjoying the sunshine in the park. They were polite men and they did so. After a while Lord Curzon joined them. ‘How many people do you think we can see?’ he asked. Since they were especially polite men the delegation ventured on a number of guesses. But the secretary of state soon put an end to the conversation. ‘It doesn’t matter how many there are,’ he said. ‘But you can be sure of one thing. Not a single one of them has ever heard of Mosul.’ Thus the delegation was put in its place. They knew how unimportant they were. Unlike Mosul, cufflinks can be important.
Although informally known as Dr. Leisure, I am a Louisiana artist and scholar. I received my fine art degree from the University of Southwestern Louisiana in the seventies. I have been active in draftsmanship, painting, and related undertaking since then, but am currently most fully engaged in photography – and of course working to develop my blog/vlog. My first important show of fine art photographs upon returning to the USA is a collection of Japanese “ad hoc” gardens. In addition, I published a scholarly study of cock fighting (which I illustrated) just as that infamous sport was becoming illegal.
Lafcadio Hearn, great explainer of Japan to the West and well known for his narratives about New Orleans, soulful descriptions of that sultry city on the Big Muddy, said that “in order to comprehend the beauty of a Japanese garden, it is necessary to understand — or at least to learn to understand — the beauty of stones.” Hearn was writing at a time when Japan had only been widely opened to visitors for decades. And Europe and the US was in thrall to a “Japonais” rampage of fashion. Yet few were absorbing the great foundation philosophy underpinning much of the design flowing onto Impressionists canvases from Asia.
Dr. Leisure has been experimenting with and researching the history of bitters as a component of craft cocktails. Currently I’m working with cardamom bitters because of my interest in Asia, but I intend to sequence through a range or orbit of these traditional, usually slightly alcoholic preparations.
As creator of both the Face Book page and a blog devoted to Dr. Leisure’s Louisiana, it seems fitting to provide substantial background information about leisure activity, myself, and my journey to this point.
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