by Leah Draffen
BEFORE SHE HEADED OFF TO COLLEGE, Casey Langteau Johnson’s dad asked if she would consider a change of majors to nursing. He had found an article listing the worst degrees to have, and Casey’s intended major—graphic design—was on it. Painting, Casey’s true passion, was at the top of the list. Her dad’s request didn’t go as planned, because Casey decided to pursue a painting degree instead. “I figured if it was going to be a terrible degree, I might as well go for the one I really wanted,” she laughs.
The daughter of a professional photographer and granddaughter of an artist, Casey was destined to create. In third grade, Casey’s teacher noticed she was doodling throughout all of her classes. Casey was soon placed in an honors program for drawing and after school art lessons. Following high school and many art classes later, she headed off to LSU from which she graduated in Painting and Drawing.
Working only with palette knives, Casey creates thick, touchable texture with gel mediums and acrylics. The impasto technique brings her coastal creatures of alligators, pelicans, herons, oysters and others to life. These lifelike depictions were part of her first collection, Break Free, released in the fall of last year. The collection’s title came from the events leading up to her present career as a full-time artist. “Five years ago, I was handcuffed to the mindset that I could not make my passion—creating art—a career,” Casey explains. “The choice between having a job that I knew would provide a living, and having a job that I loved, was holding me back. In January of 2019, I finally took a leap of faith and became a full-time artist.”
Casey’s subjects come from a running list she keeps of things that inspire her. She says: “I take that list of roughly 100 different things and I try to incorporate some of those things into the collection releases that I do four to five times a year. However, it is hard to have a creativity block while living in such a beautifully unique place as New Orleans. Living here my entire life, the city has undeniably shaped the art I create.
“It’s impossible to walk through City Park and not stop to admire a crane grazing the lakes beside a perfectly arched oak tree. Or, walk through the French Quarter without dancing and joining in the joyous time had by all around. NOLA is all about the celebration of life. As a city, we indulge in the world’s beauty and the pursuit of a good time.”
Speaking of a good time, Casey’s Champagne bottle paintings—like our cover—can be found among brass instruments, bountiful blooms, colorful macarons, buzzing bees and hummingbirds. Her work captures the grand elegance of the South and its festive nature all while giving the viewer a sense of calmness and joy.
Casey’s collections can be viewed in her Magazine Street gallery…the space that she rented for just two weeks for her first show last year. She recalls the steps that led to opening the gallery long term: “Finding a space to have my solo show was more difficult than I had thought. I approached every type of business from wedding venues to yoga studios. I realized after viewing my options that I wanted a space that I could design and call my own. I walked up and down magazine street calling phone numbers from for sale and for rent signs. After a lot of paperwork and back and forth, I found the perfect space.” The perfection of that space became even more apparent after her Break Free show.
“The show was phenomenal. I was so shocked by the number of people that attended. I talked to the agent about extending the lease to the end of the year so that I could be there for Christmastime and for people looking to see my work in person. From there, we decided to extend the lease for the whole year this time!”
The gallery is now home to her art and the many one-on-one conversations she has with her collectors. Casey’s favorite part of being an artist is working with individuals who want a piece that reflects something they love. “Typically, someone comes in wanting something specific that reminds them of someone such as their grandmother and the magnolias they remember in her yard, I get to paint the feelings they remember from their grandmother’s backyard,” she says.
Casey enjoys have the sweet ability to capture memories. But she also enjoys the thought that her paintings will help create future memories. “I love that my painting may be in the background of a collector’s daughter’s birthday party or other celebration. It’s incredible that my artwork can be a part of someone else’s memories with their family.”
And as for Casey’s dad, he’s just as thrilled as she is about Casey’s success—and her choice of majors.
Casey’s gallery is located at 4700 Magazine Street. See more of Casey’s work at caseylangteauart.com.