Like a phoenix rising from the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina, the Empty House video project began with an installation of Dona Simons' flooded oil paintings in her flooded gutted house. Titled Art as Artifact this event brought New Orleans artist Dona Simons together with Acadiana musician Michael Juan Nunez and film maker Jeremy von Stilb. There Dona directed Jeremy to film Michael Juan Nunez performing his song "Empty House." Next Dona Simons created oil paintings of Michael Juan Nunez performing in two locations to be included in the final video. She photographed the paintings daily as they evolved, to obtain the frames for the animations.
Michael Juan Nunez is a brilliant singer/songwriter/slide guitarplayer from Erath, LA. He has recorded multiple CDs including stunning original material. He has written and recorded for feature films and television. MJN has shared the stage with artists such as Zachary Richard, Sonny Landreth, Eric Johnson, Jimmy Vaughn, Dr. John, C.C. Adcock, Eric Burden, Taj Mahal, Tab Benoit and Anders Osborne.
Jeremy von Stilb is a talented film maker and editor who has directed documentaries, music videos and short films. The feature length documentary "Next Exit Main Street," took him and his co-directors on a road trip to over 20 states across the United States. The film went on to ten film festivals around the world.
Jeremy has worked previously with Dona Simons, including her in the film Next Exit Main Street. He also created a short video about Dona Simons' artist residency at 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica, California.
Dona Simons' work has been exhibited in the United States, Europe and the Caribbean and is represented in public and private collections. She's included in various catalogs, video interviews and publications. Dona has participated in artist residencies and received grants from national and local arts foundations.
She began digitally animating images of her oil paintings years ago in conjunction with gallery exhibitions of her paintings.
Before Hurricane Katrina, Simons completed a series of paintings titled “Louisiana Music Below Sea Level.” They depict her favorite subjects, contemporary Louisiana musicians, in undersea settings. The underwater environment was her own visual metaphor for New Orleans - before Hurricane Katrina. Because of this series, an art critic for a French newspaper called her work “without doubt visionary.”
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