The Queen of the Mardi Gras Poster

February 19 2022

From New Jersey to New Orleans: Meet Andrea Mistretta,
the Poster Child of Mardi Gras Posters.

Mistretta's studio on White's Pond in New Jersey, 1,300 miles from NOLA.

For the last 37 years, Carnival posters by New Jersey artist Andrea Mistretta have hung proudly in St. Charles Avenue mansions, dorm rooms, restaurants and other businesses  – even at Disney World's Port Orleans. While former mayor Sidney Barthelemy made Mistretta an honorary citizen, the thing that makes her a real New Orleanian in our eyes is her complete and utter love for New Orleans – that and the fact that her New Jersey attic is filled with Mardi Gras beads and she has a Mardi Gras tree. If that doesn’t make her one of us, what would?

Mistretta may not have been born in New Orleans but she’s been to almost every Mardi Gras since launching her poster series in 1986. She confided she would live here if not for her husband Perry's business. Over the years, she’s attended several balls, been in parades and signed thousands of her posters at local shops.

“New Orleans is my muse,” Mistretta said, “Watching my NOLA fade in the distance over Lake Ponchartrain when flying away, makes me teary-eyed, like Cinderella after the ball.”

Andrea’s first Mardi Gras painting was commissioned by a dear friend in the early 80s at the time when the AIDS crisis touched the lives of many they knew. The metaphoric Mardi Gras theme of the work was inspired by her friend who she sensed wore a mask of joy to cover anxious and sad emotions. “I’ve always been fascinated with the idea that masking with a Mardi Gras façade helps set the inner-spirit free,” she said.

In late 1985, Mistretta gave a Polaroid photo of the painting she had been commissioned to do to another friend who planned to visit New Orleans for a convention. Mistretta’s friend stepped into one of Margarita Bergen’s galleries (at one time she had three in the French Quarter). Bergen saw the potential to publish a poster and phoned Mistretta to say the life-changing words, “Dahling, I would like to do a Mardi Gras poster with you!“ Margarita and her brother Lorenzo published Mistretta’s first poster in 1986.

When Bergen discovered that Mistretta had a solo exhibit at the Society of Illustrators in NYC during the 1986 Carnival season, she flew to NYC with her brother and threw Mistretta a poster launching reception the likes the Society had never seen. Afterwards, they flew Mistretta home with them for her first New Orleans experience. She stayed with Bergen at her 3rd floor Pontalba Apartment where she signed 500 of the thousands of commemorative posters that were sold that year. Mistretta's love affair with the city had begun there on that Pontalba balcony. Little did she know, this would be the beginning of the longest, continuously running Mardi Gras poster series in New Orleans’ history.

Signing her first Mardi Gras posters in the Pontalba Apartments in 1986.

Because she lives in the northeast where there is less exposure to the sun, Mistretta used to experience S.A.D., also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder.

“I theorize that when I paint with the intense colors of Mardi Gras under bright lighting mimicking the full spectrum the sun that it tricks my brain into feeling the natural circadian energy of the spring/summer of the southern winters. I no longer feel SAD!” she said.

Mistretta’s 2022 poster is entitled “Front Porch Parade.” Each signed and numbered limited edition poster is hand-painted with real 23 karat gold leaf. Note the iconic Almonester-Pontalba monogram in cast iron hidden within the golden mask. You can also view her painting "Tricentennial," on display at the Cabildo in Jackson Square until 2024. 

“Front Porch Parade" by Andrea Mistretta.

The artist’s posters have been printed in New Orleans for many years. She is proud to support local small businesses. After Hurricane Katrina, Mistretta generously donated proceeds from the sale of her book and posters to the New Orleans area Habitat for Humanity and to Musicians' Village, right around the corner from her publisher's warehouse.

While Mistretta loves the art of New Orleans, she also is a big fan of the music and the food. When she comes, she tries to get her fill of oyster and artichoke soup with French bread, stuffed artichokes, raw oysters, snoballs and muffulettas with a nice cold local beer.

Oh, yeah…Mistretta is one of us!

Order Mistretta's highly collectable 2022 Mardi Gras poster before it sells out. Ciick here.

Andrea Mistretta is also taking private and corporate custom art commissions. Email [email protected] to book in advance. 

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