Rex Proclamation 2013 features work of Shelley Hesse: Cultural Connection

Featured on February 2013 -

We know that Rex rules New Orleans for only a single day, but events leading up to Fat Tuesday begin long before the merriment actually begins. Like any great party, care goes into the design and production of documents such as announcements, proclamations, and invitations. Historically, these become highly collectible, and the more original they are, the more valuable.

The Rex Proclamation 2013, a painting by New Orleans artist Shelley Hesse, includes traditional Carnival symbolism (such as the king's crown), plants and animals native to Louisiana such as the Great Blue Heron, selected for his regal posture; the snail and caterpillar, selected for their diminutive size, the ibis. The leaf pattern was influenced by the design of the 1905 Carnival scepter, as is the crown. The importance of the tradition of Carnival to the history of New Orleans is incorporated in Hesse's design.

The Rex Proclamation 2013 features a painting by young Louisiana artist Shelley Hesse. Based in New Orleans, Hesse referenced the theme of the Rex Procession 2013, "All Creatures Great and Small."

Hesse looked to Louisiana’s abundant wildlife and selected images of birds and reptiles from the natural world in a creative and fanciful composition which included some of Carnival’s oldest symbols. It is this fusion of nature and symbolism which resonates with the traditional message, “Rex Proclaims Carnival.”

"I have loved Rex and Mardi Gras since I was a girl, so when I was asked last spring to paint the Proclamation for 2013, I felt honored to be a part of an event with so much tradition and beauty," Hesse said. "The Proclamation was unveiled by Mayor Mitch Landrieu and me on Jan. 7, 2013, at Gallier Hall, a kick-off to the season of Mardi Gras.” 

Hesse’s artistic endeavors extend beyond Carnival. Since 2010, she has collaborated with Anthropologie to create items for their home department under her own label. Her designs are unique compositions which adorn functional items such as flatware, pillows, plates, and other fine décor. She works primarily in pastel, watercolor, and ink on fine Italian paper.


Hesse was born in New Orleans in 1973. She began to explore the visual arts in her early twenties while traveling to Paris, and realized her desire to be an artist. Such a decision in one so young, self-taught, with a preference for independent study and travel rather than classroom work often meets strong resistance from parents. 

To understand more fully how this young woman’s decision stands today as she continues to develop her own style is to know a little about her family tree and one branch in particular. When Hesse  crosses Lake Pontchartrain for a little shared inspiration not far from home, she visits her mother, Louisiana artist Peggy Hesse. What mother and daughter have in common is an avid interest in the richness of the Louisiana landscape and the flora and fauna which inhabit the state.

Peggy Hesse is a graduate of Newcomb College and Tulane University Graduate School. She has spent most of her adult life in the arts as an interior designer, teacher, and painter who also has been involved in the areas of renovation and building. Currently, Hesse lives in Mandeville and specializes in plein air Louisiana landscapes and cityscapes as well as portraits, abstracts, and still life in a variety of mediums including oil, pastel, and watercolors. She exhibits extensively on the north shore and in New Orleans.

According to Hesse, she and her daughter share a love of art, “Both of us use the natural world as the spark that ignites the artistic fire."

When Shelley was younger, they worked together during the summers in Peggy’s interior design business on Magazine Street. A couple of times, she filled in for Peggy as a buyer traveling to Provence. She once spent a month in a cottage in the Luberon area, buying for the shop. The level of trust, apparently, was always there. 

Peggy Hesse acknowledges that she recognized Shelley’s gifts early. 

“She has a pure vision,” Peggy Hesse continues, “After I saw what she could do, I insisted that she forego lessons because the way that she learns is through intense absorption. She was exposed to layout, tone, spatial volume, and other design elements through my design business. We always had lots of art materials at hand.”

It is no surprise when Peggy says that the idea of an exhibition featuring the two of them has occurred to her. Seems like a grand idea.

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