When Buffalo, N.Y., native Claudia Lynch entered her first art show in 2001, she had just delved into painting and wasn't sure what to create. The show's theme was "Games People Play" and Lynch felt her watercolors of schoolchildren at play weren't cutting it. At a loss for ideas, Lynch doodled a woman's shoe with a dart for a heel, and another with a checkerboard print and a chess piece heel. She dragged a typewriter out of her basement and added text. Suddenly, ShoeStories (www.shoestories.com) was born.
Lynch's ShoeStories pair whimsical watercolors of women's shoes with clever narratives. The shoe's design often speaks to its theme (a "Snow White" shoe has a bite taken out of the body and a mirror on its sole) and forgoes functionality for fanciful details (a platform balances on a martini glass heel).
The stories range from noir fiction-inspired exchanges between characters to simple phrases: a ballet slipper features a wrought iron design and the caption "She had a sexy little flat in the French Quarter." Cunning innuendos lend nuance and meaning to the shoe's design.
"I always come up with the paintings first," Lynch says. "Nothing turns out exactly the way I started. I paint and then wait and see what happens. The writing just comes to me."
Since moving to New Orleans in 2008, Lynch has pulled inspiration from her surroundings, creating homages to the New Orleans Saints, voodoo and the French Quarter. Other themes include holidays, food, fairy tales and astrology. Lynch plans to base her next series on artists including Henri Matisse and Vincent van Gogh.
ShoeStories pieces are gaining national recognition: They are featured on the CW show The Carrie Diaries as part of the decor in Carrie Bradshaw's bedroom. The paintings will appear in the final season of the HBO series Treme, and have been featured in several films shot around New Orleans.
ShoeStories can be seen in art galleries nationwide, including Ariodante Gallery (535 Julia St., 504-524-3233; www.ariodantegallery.com).