Past Exhibit: “The Baby Dolls of New Orleans: An Exhibit of Studio Portraits by Phillip Colwart”
On View, Fall 2015 at Shreve Memorial Library, South Caddo Branch, Shreveport, LA
A presentation by Kim Vaz-Deville on her book, The “Baby Dolls”: Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition, Louisiana State University Press, 2013 will take place on Saturday, November 7, 2015 at 2pm at Shreve Memorial Library, Hamilton-South Caddo branch, in Shreveport, Louisiana
About the Exhibit
The Baby Dolls of New Orleans are an African American Mardi Gras masking tradition and considered an iconic Carnival tradition. The practice of black women and men dressing up as “baby dolls” started by women working in the red light district of segregated New Orleans in the 1910s caught on as a masking tradition adopted by blacks throughout the city on Mardi Gras and St. Joseph’s night. The tradition grew out of local black performance practices but went further in its defiance of the rules of conventional behavior expected for women of that time. The practice began in an age when women who masked on the street were considered promiscuous. Early Baby Doll maskers carried whips for their own protection. They are considered to be one of the first women’s street masking groups in the United States. Satirizing and lampooning Victorian-era dress and behavior norms and restrictions on women’s lives, their bawdy performances on the street made them scandalous, exciting and an anticipated part of Carnival day. No longer associated with the vice district, those carrying on the tradition today continue the risqué fun loving performances that epitomize the spirit of Mardi Gras. Generally photographed on the streets of New Orleans, this exhibit offers studio portraitures of the playfulness of some of the maskers perpetuating the tradition today.
Phillip Colwart was born in Baton Rouge and raised in New Orleans. He is a Hammond-based professional photographer who contributes his time and photography to the Mardi Gras Indian, Baby Doll and Skull & Bones community. Having grown to appreciate and value this culture, Phillip gives back to these groups through his images and thus helps to preserve and perpetuate these traditions. He is an award winning photographer. His “Absotively Posilutely Doctor John” won first place in the Image Development category of the Hammond Art Guild’s 53rd annual open exhibition. He has won four Alpha Awards presented by the Fashion Group International of New Orleans.
The exhibit is curated by Kim Vaz-Deville, professor of education and the associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Xavier University of Louisiana. Her book, The Baby Dolls: Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition is available from Louisiana State University Press (2013).
Chris Kirkley, Manager
Hamilton – South Caddo Branch Shreve Memorial Library
2111 Bert Kouns Industrial Loop Shreveport,
LA 71118 318.687.6824 x1170