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February 28, 2006

How The New Yorker Snubbed Mardi Gras

William Joyce Katrinarita Gras

I was both moved and embarrassed by William Joyce’s piece on the NOLA weblog.

Titled “How Dick Cheney Stole The Thunder From One Louisiana Artist,” it explains how Joyce’s Mardi Gras illustration slated for last week’s New Yorker cover was pulled at the last minute in favor of the Bush/Cheney Brokeback Mountain offering.  (Yes, it’s the one I’m now sheepish to say I posted just down the page.)  Given the relative absence of New Orleans from the national spotlight, some stirrings of renewal, and the essential and bittersweet celebration of Mardi Gras, this seemed like an important image to offer now.

Since I (all too innocently) promoted the Bush/Cheney cover, I’m all too happy to highlight the artwork it superseded, as well as direct you to  the full size version, and to Joyce’s explanation of events.  (I think it’s the second piece down).  I’d also be interested in your thoughts on the image itself, the New Orleans saga, and, especially, the editorial politics on display.  (I really do love this illustration, by the way.  Doesn’t the Katrina dress conjure the tornado scene in The Wizard Of Oz?  And what about that lightening bolt!)

I guess the political cover was both sexier and more salable.  But perhaps it also allowed The New Yorker to duck a confrontation with what will surely be regarded as one of America’s profound humanitarian failures.  (It could also be for this shame that the green man steps on the face of tragedy.)

(illustration: William Joyce.  February 2006.  Shreveport, La.

  • Raph Levien

    I just want to say, thank you for posting this. I often click the ad you have posted on Digby and other liberal blogs I frequent, and usually I am glad I did. This time, even more so. The New Yorker blew it this time – I hope they run the cover soon.

  • brkily

    i’m of 2 minds on this. i’m not sure the New Yorker has ever ventured that afar from topical, on the 1 hand. on the other, it seems obvious to me that cowadice and denial is spreading like a horrible virus, effectively silencing the guardians of our public conversation. only a few of the bravest souls are willing to name the awful betrayals that this administration is perpetuating on our democracy.

  • hauksdottir

    I am reminded of a painting of 3 soldiers (Revolutionary War?), wounded but prancing to their own music. The one on the left had a fife, and another had a drum. The jodhpurs and boots led to that thought, the tall red plume is about the height of the flag, and the cigarette holder resembled the flute just enough to confirm it.
    Googling produces enough parodies that it is possible the painting I’m thinking of was a parody itself!
    This is a much better cover (and story) than the hunting issue. Both capture moments in time, but the underlying problems are going to simmer long after the attention has passed to the next topic.

  • ummabdulla

    Do the jodhpurs and boots have any significance for Mardi Gras? Katrina’s boots look like rain boots, but the others make it seem as though these are some upper-class visitors who are here for a lark and will be going back to their nice homes after Mardi Gras… or at least they’re upper-class residents. They’re strutting their stuff but also shedding a tear for New Orleans, and the ordinary residents just kind of make up the background. Their arms could be raised in celebration – or in horror at these three.
    Is the Katrina dress purple? If so, he’s put the purple, green and gold, but not in a loud, happy way, because the purple dress and green suitjacket are almost black. And I think the drink the man is carrying is a “hurricane”?
    The masks on the ground have a smile and a frown, but these people aren’t wearing masks that cover their mouths.
    Is he carrying the push broom so they can kind of clean up as they go, or as a reference to the big clean-up that’s still not done? I guess the Mardi Gras mess will get cleaned up relatively quickly…

  • steve talbert

    The Bush Cheney cover is more appropriate now than the Mardi Gras one. It actually would be more appropriate to have the Mardi Gras cover the week AFTER mardi gras to reinforce the fact that everything was a day late and a dollar short so to speak.

  • mugatea

    The green guy must represent the MSM (they were about a third of the population in NO for the last week) … everything is good here, don’t pay attention to the frowns, only the smiles in NO. This is such a better cover than the Brokeback one, but hey … how often does a sitting VP shoot someone? … then again … how often does a major US city get demolished?
    Graphics, editorial and sales departments at the New Yorker sure had something to talk about last week.

  • jt from BC

    Might that fellow carrying the umbrella (rifle) and his outfit represent the use of the army (“for a rainy day”) in NO…
    GEN. INGE: We estimate approximately 2,500 people from the 82nd; approximately 2,700 from the 1st Cavalry Division; and about 2,000 from the two Marine units. The first wave of these troops will flow into the New Orleans area. They will be received. Their purpose is to contribute to the effort to bring about a more stable environment….
    recall the MSM reports that battle hardened troops had entered the lawless areas of NO

  • jt from BC

    The Lighting above my character is part of the insignia of the 1st Armored Division, and is in a similar position above this character as on the badge. What about the name tag as well…(we served in Rita).. does anyone know if the 1st Armored Division served in NO ?

  • PMMJ

    With the crowd shown only in muted colors, it really looks like just the three marchers are parading through empty streets, everything but them in drab, dirty brown.

  • black dog barking

    (Reminder: Turdblossom is in charge of the NOLA recovery effort.)
    The broom-wielding Hurricane sipping dandy coyly glances away as his not-quite jack boot lands square in Tragedy’s masked face, the clear leader of this little tour a trois. Jodhpurs and boots may have little significance for Mardi Gras but are rich with connations of privilege and Empire. Rita moves in lock step, white masked, dressed for rain, prepared. The cutout crowds wave adoringly, the statue’s tear far more real than his smile.

  • marysz

    William Joyce also does terrific children’s books. He’s an artist whose success is well-deserved. I hope he has a children’s book on the drawing board about Katrina and New Orleans. The lady on the left reminds me a little bit of Ms. Frizzle in Bruce Degan’s Magic Schoolbus series. Maybe she’s one of the teachers who’s come back to work in New Orleans’ re-opened schools. Her two jodhpur-clad friends are both racially and sexually ambiguous–they remind us New Orlean’s tradition of diversity and tolerance. They look jaunty but the float behind them carries their pain.

  • martin

    America, America, America. How do you glance at these images and decide the paice of the footprint while another 1300 people died. If the initial image shown carpace; surely, surely images that follow show scarcely less than that (these).
    People are dying here – en masse – without rhyme and reason. An image revealed, revised and with tremendous relevance.
    I am struck by the silence that seperates down town New Orleans and Bhagdad this evening. Simply struck

  • lytom

    Martin I agree it is obscene.

  • Erin M

    I’m not sure what to make of it, but Katrina is not in step with the other two. Or maybe it’s the other two that aren’t in step with her, if we take the green person to be some representative of officialdom (suit jacket and military trousers/boots). It’s uncoordinated, so to speak.

  • Keir

    The Joyce painting is very special.
    I watched a few minutes of reporting on New Orleans last night here in The Netherlands—BBC and CNN International. I spent a fair amount of time in that city years ago. Back then it was a black city. It was white white white in the footage I saw last night. Like “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Eve from Times Square” circa 1986 white.
    As for Bush/Cheney vs. Katrina, I see this as indicative of a major problem for the opposition in the US (and Europe as well). It’s all reaction. It all happens at the exact pace of scandal/indiscretion/outrage of these horrible thugs running the show. The Left sees the world through the lens provided by the Right, so progressive vision, or issues important to people even remotely humane, are pushed to the margins. But that’s our choice. In my opinion there’s too much time and energy spent reacting to Bush and Dick—which suits them fine—and not enough time and energy on the tasks at hand: those pesky question of What Do We Want? and When Do We Want It?

  • Cactus

    Yeouw! Now we know what Cheney was shooting at! Don’t suppose someone leaked what the NYer cover would be and he said ‘I’ll take care of it’ do you? Sure don’t want any reminder of the loss of an entire city.
    Katrina’s dress is a costume Joyce’s wife wore to a 12th night party; she looks like a typical party girl, ready to have fun in spite (or because) of it all. The figure on the right appears to be a black woman wearing yellow rain gear, which is also the color of clean-up crews. But she’s wearing jodhpurs and jack-boots with a rain hat that looks more like a helmet with lightening atop it. The allusion to a certain fascism is unmistakable. The central figure with the whole-face mask looks like he’s wearing a riding habit, except the connection has already been made to the jodhpurs, etc. His very red feather looks more like the blood spilled from a corpse. Maybe the blood of New Orleans he is forced to clean up and his face is so grotesque that we cannot see it. Is he Death in fancy dress? He’s the one supposed to do the dirty work and he has seen too much. He is about to step on the mask of tragedy. One more step and he’ll destroy comedy. He no longer cares. The girls have given him the hurricane drink and are taking him by force to the party. New Orleans is following them, but its smile is covered with tears.
    The crowds holding back the destroyed remnants of the city are waving, but it’s impossible to know if they are cheering on the parade or screaming for help. The boards in the foreground are for the rebuilding, but no one is using them. Behind it all are the buildings and balconies of the New Orleans that was, and may be again.

  • CommiePinkoScum

    All three are shedding a tear, but they don’t appear to be crying. Beads are thrown everywhere, landing in 15-foot-tall piles of debris. False sentiment, perhaps? Misplaced celebration?
    The crowds in the background are the most effective. They’re small faint ovals of faces and indefinable figures, and only one seems to be smiling (the one directly to the left of Katrina). They’re obviously not the focus, just background noise for the real story of the three in the parade. There’s some more insidious figures in the background, including a demon in the middle, just to the right of the red cloud.

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