Alfred Taplet

Artist Statement

Alfred “Big Al” Taplet

Born 1934

New Orleans/Jackson Square Artist

Hurricane Katrina Survivor 

Currently living in Houston, Texas 


Big Al Taplet began shining shoes as a boy, growing up in New Orleans. “Shines with a smile” is his catchphrase and that’s just what you get. Inspired by an enduring love for his vocation, Big Al began applying paint to slabs of slate and pieces of metal, creating signs to hang near his Jackson Square stand to advertise his shoeshine business. His bold and colorful paintings began to attract folk art collectors from around the world and a new career was born.

Big Al explains his flourishing reputation in more simple terms, “I like to paint and I like to shine shoes. When you’re good, the blessings come to you!” And blessed is how everyone feels when he or she comes away with a shine or a sign and a Big Al smile. Big Al’s art shines as brightly as his shoes, and his slogans reveal his infectious spirit and his uncanny ability to find delight in commonplace things. Whether he works his magic on your shoes or through his paintbrush, you are getting a piece of the spirit of New Orleans.

Al and his identical twin brother, Alvin “Little Al”, survived Hurricane Katrina only to find themselves in the Superdome and, later, the Astrodome. Both were hospitalized with health issues after the storm but have recovered and picked their lives back up with a zest and optimistic spirit that we all can take a lesson from. “The Als” plan to make Houston their new home. They have settled in an apartment, are working in a salon shining shoes and both are painting their unique signs for new and old fans alike.

Big Al is listed in the Rosenak reference book “Contemporary American Folk Art, A Collector’s Guide” as well as the book “Self Taught, Outsider and Folk Art” by Betty-Carol Sellen. He is also a featured artist in the award-winning documentary “Outside the Lines/Encounters with Self-Taught Artists*