Yesterday August 29th in New Orleans many of us reflected on 10 years since Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005 devastated much of the Gulf Coast. I moved back to New Orleans in July 2006 after teaching at Tuskegee University in Alabama for four years. I wanted to help my family rebuild, since they lost their home and their city was in recovery mode. I was able to reflect on how so much of my experience in New Orleans since the storm has been affected by how people, places, and institutions were affected by Katrina.
The masks above were created in 2006 and 2007 in response to Hurricane Katrina. The image at the top was a banner using photocopies of the masks that was created this month for a memorial event yesterday. Unfortunately, it disintegrated before it could be displayed and, fortunately, I will put it together again.
Here is the story behind my masks, my art to share:
1st Post Katrina Masks #1, #2, and #3 were inspired by Hurricane Katrina’s devastation in 2005 in my hometown, New Orleans, LA. They were created in 2006, incorporating collaged family photos on a baked polymer clay surface. Most of my family’s photos were lost in Katrina, since my family home was flooded in 8 feet of water. However, my mother rescued some damaged photos then digitally scanned them.
Post Katrina Masks #1, #2, and #3 include collages of inkjet printed images of rescued Hurricane Katrina photos that reflected my childhood memories. They all show remnants of the azaleas that grew in my family’s front yard. My family used to take pictures in front of them every Easter Sunday. Many times the azaleas, that only blossomed once a year, would blossom in time for Easter. We would take pictures on Easter in front of the bushes even if the azaleas were not out, but we considered ourselves especially blessed if they were. My father would then drive them to church in his comfortable Oldsmobile and later Cadillac. We would only ride in his car on Sundays and it was a special treat.
My mother cared a lot about taking family photos on Easter and at other important family events. She also cared a lot about the azaleas blooming. My mother told me when she first saw the house after the storm she was sad because the azalea bushes had died. They must have been symbolic to her of continuity, growth, and life.
2nd Post Katrina Masks were created at a residency I participated in at Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont in June 2007. These masks were also influenced by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the symbolism of the azaleas representing continuity, growth, and life. They included fabric, paper and metal symbols collaged on fired terracotta or white clay. They were more abstract than the first set of masks, not including any photos.
That was the inspiration for my Post Katrina Masks.
Also, we are having an exhibit that opens on Saturday, September 12th. The opening reception will be 6-9PM at the New Orleans Healing Center. It will be on display until October 3rd.
Left: Myesha Francis Agwe "Mercy" (detail), Middle: Amy Bryan "Man Looking" (detail), Right: Alma Bryan Powell "Baby Wonderland" (detail)
Until Next time,
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