by Lucille Golden
“After dark, on Mardi Gras evening, (1967) I was finally relaxing on the sofa and I heard the music and sirens in the distance, and said: “Come on kids, let’s run and catch the last parade. Even Stella exclaimed in joy, not too tired from the day’s festivities!”
We grabbed our jackets and hats and, with me carrying Lucille, raced to the corner of Bourbon and Orleans streets just in time to see the first police car pass with sirens blaring, announcing the beginning of the parade…holding Lucille, I caught lots of beads and “throws” for her, while Stella, Mark and Carrie did quite well for themselves. At last the fire truck came, followed by the street sweeping machines – the end of another Mardi Gras season.
We returned to 923 Bourbon a happy group…Once in our apartment the children began going over the mass of trinkets they’d caught during the carnival season; the large mound covering the floor proved their success. …We drank lots of punch and each of us, even three year old Lucille, decided it was our best Mardi Gras ever!” (Excerpt from the 2014 memoir of Rolland Golden, my father, titled Life, Love, and Art in the French Quarter.)
Such was my life growing up with Rolland and Stella Golden as parents—never dull and always entertaining. There were, of course, ups and downs throughout my childhood while my father struggled to succeed as an artist, financially and creatively, with my mother always by his side as wife, manager and number one supporter.
My parents married August 31, 1957, and their love story is much of the emphasis in my father’s memoir. He shares the real life of Quarter residents—not the Tennessee Williams or Hollywood romantic version propagated throughout stage, movie and literature.
In June 1953, during dad’s four-year stint in the Navy for the Korean War, my father met my mother at his parents’ home at his furlough party. His parents had moved across the street from her while he was away. They met, dated and fell in love.
When he was finally discharged from the Navy in 1955, the only career he wished to pursue was in fine art. He studied for two years with renowned artist John McCrady at the McCrady Art School in the French Quarter. Much of what my father learned derived through the teachings of this great artist. Along with having natural talent, his technique, draftsmanship, execution, composition and perspective came from those two formulative years studying with McCrady.
My parents loved the French Quarter and called it home for much of the first few decades of marriage before moving to Folsom in 1981. They loved the neighborhood, characters, history, architecture and basic culture of living in this melting pot. Their small honeymoon apartment was above my father’s art studio on Royal Street, and as each child arrived, they relocated to larger residences. I spent my first four and a half years in the 900 block of Bourbon. Yep, born on Bourbon! We went to school, work, church and socialized all within the Quarter boundaries.
Daddy’s style went through several changes throughout his career, but always with an emphasis on realism, whether that be abstract- realism or his own created style he calls borderline-surrealism: “that which is possible, but highly unlikely.”
My parents were finally able to afford family vacations beyond the Gulf Coast to Eureka Springs, Shenandoah Valley and summers on Cape Cod, where they swapped painting(s) for rent with a collector- friend. There, my father turned a bedroom into his studio, and while the rest of us went to the beach, rode bikes, flew kites, etc., he stayed behind working, taking breaks and joining us from time to time. Such was his devotion to our family and his career.
Trips eventually included New York City, Paris and southern France, where I performed numerous occasions as a musician, my mother researched her maternal “Montegut” ancestry, and my father painted beautiful scenes. My parents always tried sharing their wonderful experiences with family and friends. Yet, it was at home, with my mother and our family, that he says brought him the most joy. In his studio he worked long hours, six days a week, and many evenings drawing at our dining room table. He only slowed down when his health problems were discovered in 2013. His dedication to his art is well-known, as is his discipline, and he has always said that creating art is like losing weight: “no one can do it for you.”
Some of his most important museum solo exhibitions include: his travelling shows in the former U.S.S.R. and France; his Katrina Exhibition at the New Orleans Museum of Art and The Historic New Orleans Collection; later, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, An Alternative Vision, which travelled to the Morris Museum of Art. Presently, The Historic New Orleans Collection’s exhibition Art of the City includes one of his Katrina canvases, The Spirit Returns. In the summer of 2020, the Georgia Museum of Art will exhibit works from his Katrina shows, commemorating the 15th anniversary of this horrific hurricane.
I have been blessed to have my mother—her devotion and love to my father, as well as we three children, Carrie, Mark Damian and me. It has superseded her own necessities and personal desires many times. She always says that she is happiest when we are all healthy and happy. As proud as I am of my father for the incredible artist he became and the magnificent career he has had these past 62 years, I am even more proud to call him “Daddy.” He has been the most generous, supportive and loving father a child could ever hope for.