Swamps, spoonbills, second lines: Annie Moran captures the essence of Louisiana
Inside the Gentilly studio of the artist and designer Annie Moran, okra flowers twine up a clear blue sky. Nearby, lotus leaves unfurl, damp against dark water, while roseate spoonbills fluff their pencil-sketched feathers. A Zulu masker blows his whistle under a crown of plumes. New Orleans is as lush and alive on the wallpapers, textiles, prints, and murals Moran creates as it is on the streets and bayous beyond her doors.
“When I was little, I wanted to have an insect collection,” Moran says, handling a glass case full of iridescent feathers. “I was really into dragonflies. I’d find dead things and save them, wrapped up with cotton balls.” She shrugs. “I never really lost that obsession—I guess I just draw them now.”
Though she still keeps some dead things—pinned butterflies and dried flowers that serve as reference points and inspiration—the creatures captured in Moran’s work are full of life. The fleeting gestures of a flock of ibis become a wallpaper that seems to squawk and flutter. In a sketch, a heron crouches like a parasol over shallow water, blocking out the sun to better spot its prey.
Moran grew up in Cane River, Louisiana—also known as Isle Brevelle, a community founded as a sanctuary by and for people of color in the late eighteenth century. A descendant of one of Cane River’s founding families, Moran, as a girl, roamed the land her family had farmed for generations, scrambling down the muddy bank of the river to draw the jumping fish, the diving birds. “I spent a lot of time just staring at the plants, looking for four-leaf clover,” she says. “But it was the birds I was obsessed with—and bugs. Anything with wings.”