21st Century Outsider Art: When Art Meets Tech

The FluxOnArt App, Dream Energy Portrait Series, and The ShiNola Art Gallery of New Orleans

New Orleans is known as a destination for musicians, writers, artists, and travelers. Famous or struggling, classically trained or outsider, many come to the Crescent City to mingle with the vibrant culture that never fails to inspire.

What may not be known, is New Orleans has become home to an ever-growing tech community. This growth is fueled in part by Louisiana’s tax credits benefiting Digital Interactive Media and Software Development, but mostly by the characteristic New Orleanian drive and hustle.

A thriving tech community may seem an odd expectation in a city known for music, art, and voodoo, but originality is part of New Orleans DNA. You see it everywhere in every form, from business and what it means to be an Entreapenure, to high art, and DYI. With the introduction of a vibrant Tech community, you should expect lines to be blurred and something a little different and new to emerge.

In fact, blurred lines are redefining tech and art worldwide.

“… art and tech have become more intertwined than ever before … providing new ways to mix different types of media, allowing more human interaction…”

– Smithsonian Magazine

A brilliant example of one such art/tech fusion can be found at ShiNola Art Gallery of New Orleans. Co-owned by Daphne Britton and resident artist Peter Ladetto, ShiNola hosts art openings, monthly music events, and engages in community outreach to underserved populations.

Ladetto’s latest portrait series has intertwined art and tech in such a way as to have a surprisingly profound effect, not only on art lovers but on those with special needs. It’s this unintentional effect on the special needs community that indicates the untapped possibilities for blending art & tech.


The Art – Dream Energy Portrait Series

Peter Ladetto moved to New Orleans from Belmont, Mass. in 2002, but did not begin painting until 2011. Ladetto received no formal art education and before 2011 had little interest in producing fine art. This all changed when he was struck with inspiration while painting his New Orleans utility room. (There is definitely a ‘something’ in New Orleans that will infect you if you will let it.)

Initially, Peter’s work best fit the description of Outsider Art as defined by Encyclopedia Britannica, “untrained idiosyncratic artist who is typically unconnected to the conventional art world.” Ladetto was painting on any material he could find, discarded building supplies, cardboard. His subject matter tended toward portraiture but with no definite style evident other than a riot of color and more color.

Peter’s painting style suddenly changed when he accidentally set his old flip phone’s camera to it’s ‘negative’ setting. The prism through which Peter viewed the world, and his potential artistic subject matter, was forever altered. Ladetto’s Dream Energy Series was born; bright colorfully stylized portraits painted in the negative.

While taking a picture of a completed work, Ladetto again accidentally set his ancient flip phone to it’s ‘negative’ setting and for one split second, his Dream Energy Portrait appeared as a positive image! Mind blown, the idea for an interactive App was born.

Ladetto approached his friend Leclerc to design the App. The Idea was simple. Build an App that mimics viewing the Dream Energy portraits through the old flip phone’s negative setting. Patrons of the Gallery would have the option to download the App and interact with the piece in a whole new way.

The Tech – The FluxOnArt App

Leclerc is a French national with a Ph.D. in Computer Science currently living and working in New Orleans. As a developer, Leclerc is comfortable and expert in CSS3, HTML5 and Ruby On Rails (for those not fluent in Geek Speak, he creates websites), but had not yet tackled building an App. The opportunity to help his friend and tackle something new was a challenge he couldn’t pass up.

Leclerc built the FluxOnArt App using Apache Cordova, an open-source mobile development framework that allows developers to use standard web technologies such as HTML5 and CSS3.  The initial App design took just three weeks, but the complete process took nearly five months. Leclerc found he needed completly different code when developing for the iPhone platform as opposed to Android and there were several back and forths with the App store before he got it right.

The Gallery – More Than The Sum of Their Parts

ShiNola Art Gallery’s mission is to bring the power of creativity to those with special needs and beyond. Co-owner Daphne Britton holds a Masters in Art Education from Boston University and is the mother of two sons on the Autism spectrum.

Britton has witnessed first hand how Ladetto’s paintings combined with Leclerc’s App can be transformative when experienced by those with special needs. Recalling with awe how one deaf visitor seemed to be enjoying the paintings, but when Britton introduced the app became ecstatic with joy.

Britton believes, “People with disabilities are all too often keenly aware of the fact that their experiences are different or separate from the world of common populations. The art and the app reveal their experience as a typical state of affairs rather than so very different or unique. I believe that the experience of interaction with the app and the art assists people with disabilities by alleviating feelings of isolation that come with being separate from the norm.”

The FluxOn Art App and Ladetto’s Art invite everyone into the world of art through a demonstration of multilevel or multilayers of perception.

Ben Weinlick, Founder of Think Jar Collective said, “Innovation comes about through combining disparate ideas and disciplines in ways that seem weird at first. Get comfortable with weird if you want real innovation to emerge.”

We’re getting comfortable.

Connect With The Artist:

You may view more of Peter Ladetto’s work at his website FluxOnArt  follow him on Facebook, or contact him directly at [email protected]

UPDATE On The Gallery:

Late in 2016 Daphne Britton began to experience health issues that were exasperated by the low sea level and high humidity of New Orleans. She has since relocated the gallery along with Ladetto’s paintings to Troy, New York (Just outside the city).

ShiNola Art Gallery is currently a by appointment only parlor gallery. Britton plans to expand to a full gallery when space becomes available.

ShiNola Art Gallery
5 Locust Ave
Troy, New York
(607) 435-8563

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