Fans remember Noel Rockmore by Doug MacCash
on December 28, 2007 at 5:00 AM, updated January 01, 2008 at 10:41 AM

On Nov. 24, friends and admirers of Noel Rockmore gathered at Preservation Hall at the request of Rich Marvin to discuss the abundantly talented yet troubled New Orleans artist who died in 1995. Baton Rouge-born Marvin hopes to pin down biographical details of the widely traveled Rockmore and the whereabouts of his works. In the end, Marvin hopes to produce a book, video and Web site dedicated to Rockmore, whom he considers "an artistic genius and an unrecognized American Master of the 20th century."

Photo - New Orleans French Market by Noel Rockmore, 1959

Marvin's "Noel Rockmore Project" began as he helped his 84-year-old mother, Shirley Marvin -- who lived in New Orleans -- clean up after Hurricane Katrina. Shirley Marvin had been a longtime collector of Rockmore's work, and the two corresponded by mail -- the curmudgeonly Rockmore didn't appreciate Shirley Marvin's occasional criticism. Rich Marvin was stunned to discover that his mother had packed away more than 1,400 Rockmore drawings and paintings, plus 30 years of letters.

Photo - Eureka Brass Band Sketch by Noel Rockmore, 1960

Shirley Marvin was unwilling to sell the trove. Instead, she hoped to use it to better establish Rockmore's artistic legacy. Rich Marvin and his wife, Tee, decided to make Rockmore's memory their cause. They have since visited Rockmore's relatives, collectors and friends across the country, photographing works and videotaping interviews.

Photo - Gone with the Wind by Noel Rockmore, 1983

Rich Marvin said he was surprised to discover, during the Preservation Hall gathering, that Rockmore has a youthful following that continues to discover him.

If you wish to share your Rockmore art or reminiscences with Rich Marvin, send him an e-mail at or call (508) 577-5059. He plans to be in New Orleans Wednesday through Jan. 10.

Doug MacCash writes about art. He can be reached at (504)¤826-3481 or