There are a number of ways of becoming a New Orleanian. You can be born here. You can marry someone from here. You can go to high school here – that’s a uniquely New Orleans badge of belonging – and then there’s a phenomenon called Magnetic Migration. That’s a term I coined to describe how certain people are inexplicably drawn here.

You know these folks when you meet them. They’re so obviously New Orleanian, you can’t imagine them living anywhere else. Like Brent Houzenga and Jensen Reyes.

Pop Art

Brent moved here from Des Moines, Iowa. He was such a larger-than-life character there, they made a documentary about him. Although to be fair to Des Moines, he’d make a good subject for a documentary anywhere, even here.

Brent Houzenga, besides private collections and gallery exhibitions his pop art murals and painted cars are all around New Orleans

Brent Houzenga, besides private collections and gallery exhibitions his pop art murals and painted cars are all around New Orleans

Brent is best described as a pop artist. You may have seen his work driving around. And by that, I don’t mean his murals or street art – although you can see those too – I mean you’ll see his art, literally, driving around. On cars. All kinds of cars. Painted with layers of colored squiggles, straight lines, polka dots, and stenciled faces. 

At first glance these cars look like they’ve been randomly graffiti-ed. But when you look more closely, you see there’s definitely an artist’s hand at work. It’s this kind of sly intelligence hiding in a punk rock aesthetic that runs through a lot of Brent Houzenga’s work.

Yarn

Jensen Reyes was living in Seattle. She worked as a hair colorist. And took up knitting as a hobby. When she moved to New Orleans in 2020, Jensen was able to combine both those skills. She started a business called Sugarplum Circus.

Jensen Reyes, her hand-dyed yarn is in high demand from every-day-knitters and online #MeMade fashionistas

Jensen Reyes, her hand-dyed yarn is in high demand from every-day-knitters and online #MeMade fashionistas

Jensen called it that so it would be a vague enough umbrella to cover any kind of creative output. Sugarplum Circus has turned out to be a micro-dyer. The company makes dyed-to-order fine yarns. You can buy their hand-dyed yarn at their website, and exclusively at a store in the French Quarter called The Quarter Stitch.

The Quarter Stitch is a destination for people from across the country looking for fashion yarn. And online there’s a population of millions of yarn users – many of them are young women who make their own clothes and congregate around #MeMade. In this universe, Jensen and Sugarplum Circus are stars.

You might remember, back in 2015 there was an online viral phenomenon called “The Dress.” It was an image of a dress, and there was a massive debate as to whether this dress was white and gold, or blue and black. What we learned from that was – if you’ll pardon the expression – color is not black and white. It’s not objective. It’s subjective. And can be uniquely personal.

Whether it’s the color of a piece of clothing made from yarn Jensen has dyed, or the colors of a painted car or piece of artwork Brent created, our responses to color, and to works of art, can shape our day, our mood, and even our sense of well-being. And they and their businesses certainly brighten up our city.

Jensen Reyes, Peter Ricchiuti, Brent Houzenga, Out to Lunch at Columns in Uptown New Orleans

Jensen Reyes, Peter Ricchiuti, Brent Houzenga, Out to Lunch at Columns in Uptown New Orleans

Out to Lunch was recorded live over lunch at Columns in Uptown New Orleans. Photos by Jill Lafleur.

Realtor Tracey Moore