The Forgotten Female Artist Whose Mardi Gras Fantasias Warped Reality
Art Business

The Forgotten Female Artist Whose Mardi Gras Fantasias Warped Reality

If you stood on Canal Street in New Orleans on the night of February 28, 1911, you would have seen green monsters rolling on a sea filled with giant poppies, grapes the size of your head, and deep-pocketed businessmen in glittery nymph costumes waving at the assembled crowd. For Jennie Wilde, a designer responsible for two decades of artfully outlandish Mardi Gras spectacles, that was “such stuff as dreams are made on”—her spin on Shakespeare’s famous line, interpreted for the 1911 “Familiar Quotations”-themed Mardi Gras parade. That year, Wilde designed 20 original floating set pieces and approximately 100 costumes—fabric fantasias that allowed the richest men in Louisiana to forget themselves for an evening and revel in a dream world. (Though most of New Orleans donned costumes for Mardi Gras, only wealthy white men were permitted to ride on parade floats.) Yet Wilde was never publicly credited for her groundbreaking designs. Her name was absent from the glowing press coverage of the annual festivities, and left off the illustrated broadsides that parade-goers snatched up for a dime. Back then, the making of Carnival (the local term for Mardi Gras) was a secretive affair, kept under wraps by the wealthy social […]

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