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John Turner

A Short History

After dividing my time between school, a full-time job sorting boxcar garbage in the Frisco Yards, an on and off social life, and the Greyhound Race Track across the river in Arkansas, I graduated with a C-Plus average from Memphis State University in 1969 with a degree in Zoology and English Literature–both pursuits more the result of strikingly attractive faculty advisors than an interest in either taxonomy or metric feet.

With absolutely no plan I ended up in New Orleans. I first worked day labor from a temp agency near Camp and Julia Streets (not exactly the gentrified real estate it is now), taught science and speech at a prep school in Metairie, and, quite by accident, discovered the art scene at Jackson Square.

The French Quarter in 1970 was a paradigm shift from reading about life to actually living it. With what some have attributed as a God given gift to draw and paint and an uncanny ability to recognize an easy and fun way to earn a meager income, I was soon selling art and and enjoying the bohemian life. After fifteen years of taking my retirement before ever working, I found myself approaching my fortieth birthday with a Christmas Club quality bank account, a twenty year old Volkswagen beetle, no health insurance, and the prospect of being dragged kicking and screaming into adulthood.

 I returned to school, earned an MFA in studio art, eventually acquired a position of professor at a university in Alabama, taught 29 years, during which time I got married, and in 2017 retired (again). My career in Academe had been rewarding; however, it had carried with it a sense of loss–perhaps a nostalgia for an overly romanticized past or a need to fulfill an unrealized dream. Never one to ponder things too deeply my wife and I jettisoned two yard sales of accumulated flotsam and jetsam and moved back to New Orleans.


New Orleans is a city of neighborhoods. There are no cardinal directions here.  You point Uptown, Downtown, Lakeside, toward the river. Each direction is divided into small neighborhoods–Irish Channel, Garden District, Carrollton, Mid-City, Gentilly–look at a map. Every neighborhood is a distinct personality; every personality has a story. I want to tell these stories with my paintings. We lose things and find things. I lost something when I left New Orleans. I am in the process of finding it again.

Oak Street, New Orleans
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