PONCHATOULA, La. – Louisiana artist Mandy Poche needed something to wear to her exhibit opening the next day. Instead of making a last-minute dash to the store, she turned to her creative skills and painted a white off-the-shoulder cocktail dress to match one of her artworks. The result has been an internet smash sensation.
Poche lives in Ponchatoula, a town of about 8,000 people in southeastern Louisiana that is known for its annual strawberry festival, antique stores and the live alligator it keeps as a mascot. It's now being noticed for a piece of art that people from around the world have connected with — Poche's dress.
When she painted the dress and made a video of it, she joked with her family that it would be a hit. “Y’all just watch, this is going to go viral,” said Poche, who owns Mandi Mae Fine Art.
The video, titled “When you need something cool to wear to your art release tomorrow night,” shows her making an initial turquoise brush stroke on the dress and ends with the finished, brightly hued garment next to a similarly colorful painting.
In the three weeks since she posted it on Facebook, the video has been viewed nearly 9 million times, generating a stunning amount of interest in her work from all over the United States and as far away as Australia.
“It’s been nonstop. Messages in the middle of the night coming in from other countries that I didn’t expect,” she said.
Poche, originally from Luling, Louisiana, is a self-taught artist who creates abstract impressionist works with a Southern twist. Her gallery is filled with variety, much like the dress.
She said she has since made and sold four similar garments but most likely will never part with the original.
Now Poche is trying to capitalize on the interest generated by the dress to contribute to her community. She plans to work with local women business owners to hold a charity event soon.
“Anything I can do to draw people here, I’m all for it,” Poche said.
She added that she is happy to have inspired others, including fellow artists: “I connected with these people on a whole different level.”