Nearly every title of a Steve Hanks painting has more than one meaning. Each has an obvious tie to the image you see and then there is the message he intends the painting to send. On the surface, Companions of the Big Easy shows a woman and a cat on a street in New Orleans and their relationship is easily understood. But this is a Steve Hank’s painting, so there is always more.
It’s renowned as an easy-going, friendly way of life is at the heart of this big city’s moniker. But New Orleans is a big city and big cities can be complicated and unfamiliar places – a good allegory for how life can feel at times. The street is not teeming with people enjoying what the city has to offer and is covered in shadow, a somewhat lonely place.
The cat is a stray. There is no collar and the girl’s reaction is one of compassion, not familiarity. Perhaps she too is a stray. Though the cat looks away, it has approached her and a window of opportunity between the two has been opened. What will happen?
Unlike the cool street before her, she is becoming bathed in the light a new day. Even in the Big Easy, the companionship you find will come by the warmth you offer those that stray into your life. "Companions of the Big Easy" is as fine an example of contemporary realism as you are going to find. Steve Hanks is recognized as one of most important figurative artists of his time. His sense of beauty and technical skill combined with his captivating storytelling set his work apart from the crowd.