Laura Palmer Lives: “A David Lynch-Inspired Group Show” at Arrow Cafe

Brooke Sauvage visits a coffee-shop exhibition of art celebrating director David Lynch’s return to television.

Installation view of “A David Lynch-Inspired Group Show” at Arrow Cafe, New Orleans.

Who killed Laura Palmer? I mean, did she really die?

Because whoever did kill her also bestowed everlasting life on her: as a trope, as a tagline, as a gauzy portrait in the canon of David Lynch fandom. The recent reboot of the cult-classic TV show Twin Peaks has catapulted Lynch fiends atop a righteous wave in the cultural zeitgeist: Social media is awash with spoiler alerts, local bars are hosting watching parties, and Arrow Cafe in the French Quarter presents “A David Lynch-Inspired Group Show,” up now through early July.

The show feels like a wall-bound scrapbook of fan favorites, with artists responding individually to the question: What does David Lynch mean to you? Coffee-shop co-owner and artist Sarah Corsiatto, who organized this show, recounts watching the first episode of the new Twin Peaks among friends at a bar on Decatur Street.

“As soon as I heard the theme music, I just started crying,” she says, “like, bawling.”

To Corsiatto, the music transported her to elementary school—an age when her parents definitely shouldn’t have let her tune into the surreal world of this little town in Washington State and probably didn’t know—long before the era of online streaming, long before binge-watching. To her, Twin Peaks’ resuscitation this past May meant a reunion with characters, plots, and dreamscapes that had lived inside of her all these years under nostalgia’s filmy veneer. It was a tender moment for her.

Arrow Cafe opened in 2014 as a coffee shop-cum-community space, with hopes for meaningful collaborations with local artists and nearby businesses. (The shop previously shared a storefront with Dashing Bicycles.) For this show, Corsiatto took care to select work produced by local artists—all of whom live in New Orleans, with the exception of one artist from Miami, who was here for ten years before moving across the Gulf.

This isn’t an exhibition of artistic pretension: It’s a warm-hearted rally around kitsch. Kiernan Dunn’s silkscreened print, Wild At Heart, shows a snake coiling around a black Corvette with “This whole world is wild at heart and weird on top” in blue script, a quote from the titular Lynch film. Ellie Lahey pays homage to the signature curtains and black-and-white floor from Twin Peaks’ Red Room with a well-constructed men’s shirt, adorned with rickrack, fringe, and gold embroidery. Corsiatto contributes two cross-stitch hoops with portraits of Laura Palmer and Betty Elms from Mulholland Drive.

The sense of familiarity with Lynch’s worlds made it feel as if the characters themselves had attended the opening; after some PBRs, furnished from the cooler under the counter, one could believe that it was their long-awaited arrival that drew so many people to the little cafe after hours. Therein lies the power of media: What we create for screens possesses the potent capacity to leak into our imaginations and real-life desires, for better or for worse.

“I heard there’s a cafe that only sells black coffee, like Dale Cooper drinks in Twin Peaks,” Corsiatto’s friend says, “but they went out of business, of course.”

Editor's Note

“A David Lynch-Inspired Group Show” is on view through early July 2017 at Arrow Cafe (628 N. Rampart Street) in New Orleans.