Local artist channels inner Basquiat with abstract art


courtesy of Gabrielle Ledet

Artist Gabrielle Ledet sits in her home, surrounded by her artwork. Ledet is a local New Orleanian abstract artist who draws much of her inspiration from her blackness and her womanhood.

From her clothing to her vehicle to her Instagram account, nearly everything 22-year-old artist Gabrielle Ledet does is in the spirit of self-expression, reflecting her experiences as a black woman in New Orleans and as a previous employee on Tulane’s campus.

Born in New Orleans, Ledet and her family relocated to Houston soon after Hurricane Katrina, thinking their stay would be brief. The storm’s impact turned out to be much greater than expected, though as a child it didn’t seem as serious to her.

“I was young, so my mind was somewhere else. You know how when we’re young we have imagination, so we don’t see the reality of it,” Ledet said.

Despite perhaps not initially realizing the full gravity of the event, she now recognizes Katrina as the event that most inspired her art.

Living in Houston proved a very different experience from life in New Orleans. The changes in scenery, demographics and food proved to be a challenge for Ledet.

“[New Orleans] has the best food on Earth,” Ledet said. “I was so happy to come home.”

After returning as an adult to New Orleans, a predominantly black city, Ledet began working at the Panera Bread on Tulane’s campus, where she experienced what she described as “culture shock.”

“I was never around so many white people in my life,” Ledet said. “I’m not used to it. The workers were all black, so I would notice that. And then all the students were white.”

Though she said she ultimately enjoyed working at Panera, she described often feeling “drained” after work.

For Ledet, creativity serves as an exercise in processing her emotions. She loves painting when she’s feeling emotionally “heavy.” Her creative process is often spontaneous and produces results even she cannot predict.

“I really don’t know what I’m painting until I’m finished. I don’t know,” Ledet said. “I just go, and when it’s finished, I’m like, ‘Oh,’ and half the time I don’t even know what it is until like weeks later.”

Her username on Instagram is “the.eleventh.eyelash,” and many of her works feature figures with 11 eyelashes. Asked about this pattern, she said she was surprised anyone other than her had been able to “decode” the trend. Though she is still searching for the significance of the number 11 in her life, she eventually decided that the eyelashes are representative of her identity as a woman and an artist.

“We be dealing with a lot of s—,” Ledet said. “So, yeah, I mostly paint women—that’s why I always have their eyelashes all dramatic.”

As for the source of her inspiration, Ledet credited the films she has watched with sparking her creativity, adding that even the colors and soundtracks of certain films inspire her to paint. One specific influence she mentioned was the soundtrack of the ’70s disco classic “Saturday Night Fever.”

“[Film is] like my first love. I always was into animation,” Ledet said.

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While creating short animations for her Instagram can be rather time-consuming, she enjoys the process.

“It’s like my mind likes it. I can sit there and actually do that all day, and I don’t know why,” Ledet said. 

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Ledet is currently working on a large-scale animation project that will premiere next January in a film event chosen to accompany an exhibition of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work at the Barbican Art Gallery in London. The exhibition is titled “Basquiat: Boom for Real” and will remain open from September 2017 through January 2018.

Asked about where she thinks she will be in five years, Ledet said she rarely thinks about the future.

“I just be like, living. Yeah. I can’t control—well, you could control everything, but like, it’s already written,” Ledet said.

Instead, she hopes she will be happy and “hopefully still creating.”

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