Mardi Gras posters offer tradition in unusual year

Mackenzie Bookamer, Arcade Editor

Carnival season in New Orleans — culminating with the celebration of Mardi Gras on Fat Tuesday — is a time where art takes the center stage, whether that be through parades or posters around the city. Andrea Mistretta, an artist from New Jersey, has been creating commemorative posters to celebrate Mardi Gras for over 30 years and hopes that even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the joy of Mardi Gras can be conveyed through her poster.

artist andrea mistretta is signing her 2021 "MASKED" commemorative Mardi Gras poster
Andrea Mistretta signs her 2021 “MASKED” poster (Andrea Mistretta )

Mistretta has always had a creative side, and can remember making art as far back as her early childhood.

“My grandfather Louis … was an audiophile who challenged me to draw pictures of music composers,” said Mistretta. “I don’t believe I was imbued with an extraordinarily innate talent. It was my desire to please others through making art which gave me a great sense of empowerment and joy so that I couldn’t help but to keep making more art to feed the high I experienced with the positive feedback I received.”

She then went on to attend the Traphagen School of Design in Manhattan where she studied period fashion design before realizing that theatrical costume design was not the career she wanted to pursue. She began to try out a myriad of different art-based jobs, such as working for advertisers or greeting card companies, ultimately realizing she enjoyed learning on the jobs she took. 

Creating the collection of commemorative Mardi Gras posters has been a personal passion project of hers, and she has enjoyed getting to use her love for the city of New Orleans as a muse. She enjoys the challenge that is posed by creating a unique poster for every carnival season. 

“As the years keep rolling by like a parade, I ask myself how do I keep relevant interest in commemorating the grand event of Mardi Gras with a repeating ‘harlequin painted face’ theme?” said Mistretta. 

Mistretta has tackled many prominent social issues in her posters, from a “Post Katrina Rising Phoenix” in 2006 to “The Turmoil of Being Gay” in 1986. With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the city of New Orleans to cancel traditional Mardi Gras celebrations, Mistretta wanted to make sure that her poster acknowledged the social burden of COVID-19. She submitted three sketches over the course of the summer of 2020 to her publishers before settling on “MASKED,” a poster that features a safety mask, much like ones that have become common since the onset of COVID-19. 

Unlike other years, Mistretta is also releasing a limited collection of 777 posters, all hand painted with gold accents by Mistretta herself. The triple 7’s are also a nod to 21, or 2021. 

Mistretta conveys the essence of Mardi Gras through her posters by focusing on the eyes of the portrait, as a captivating gaze can draw the viewer in to make the poster seem more realistic. She also uses bright colors to make her poster stand out in the winter months. 

“I try to channel the joy and spirit of carnival through my art. I hope to inspire creativity in others and most of all I want to connect an uplifting image with New Orleans,” said Mistretta. “Carnival season is a time when individuals or groups/krewes reach into their souls to explore the far reaches of their imaginations to find color, happiness, unity.”

You can view her collection and purchase commemorative posters here

For more on Mistretta, you can follow her on Facebook.