A Decade Later, New Orleans Reflects on Hurricane Katrina in New Shows

These artists didn't give up on the city.

'Desperation' 2006, acrylic on canvas byt Rolland Golden. Image: The Historic New Orleans Collection.
Rontherin Ratliff, Things that Float (2012). Photo: Courtesy artist's website.

Rontherin Ratliff, Things that Float (2012).
Photo: Courtesy artist’s website.

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina swept into New Orleans, flooding the northwestern neighborhoods of the city and leaving a trail of damage in its wake. Since then, artworks made in response to the tragic event have been added to museum collections and gallery exhibitions throughout the US.

Two years after Hurricane Katrina, the artist Kara Walker curated a selection of objects and her own work into a show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York that explored the immense effect that water has on our lives. In a 2014 solo exhibition at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, artist David Bates included painted portraits of Katrina survivors.

In New Orleans, the city hit hardest, it is particularly difficult to avoid mention of the monster that ate through the southern coast.

For the tenth anniversary of the storm, a number of New Orleans art institutions reflect on creativity and artistic innovation in an effort to celebrate the future while commemorating the past.

Nicholas Nixon's 'The Brown Sisters, New Canaan, Connecticut' 1975. Image: New Orleans Museum of Art. Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery.

Nicholas Nixon, The Brown Sisters, New Canaan, Connecticut (1975).
Image: New Orleans Museum of Art. Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery.

“Ten Years Gone” at the New Orleans Museum of Art

Ten Years Gone looks at the way in which a community chooses to remember. Void of haunting images of extreme flooding and families atop collapsing houses, this show of six contemporary artists considers how we rebuild and recover. “Psychologists and psychiatrists are kind of preparing for this moment and preparing for an onslaught of those kinds of images and the effect they might have on people in terms of PTSD,” the show’s curator, Russell Lord, told NPR.

It’s a surprising collection of works—some pieces were made in response to the hurricane and others speak to familial life or separate environmental issues. For example, the exhibition features an image from Nicholas Nixon‘s iconic series of photographs of the Brown sisters, for which the artist snapped his wife with her three sisters once a year for 40 years.

In looking at how we document our lives, the works on display showcase a lost past with a newfound sense of solidarity.

The exhibition is on view until September 7th, 2015.

'Caroline Koch, Mandeville Street in the Migny, New Orleans', Tom Neff, 2005

‘Caroline Koch, Mandeville Street in the Marigny, New Orleans’, Tom Neff, 2005

“50th Anniversary of Hurricane Betsy and 10th Anniversary of Katrina and Rita” at the Louisiana State Museum

Now with eight different locations in New Orleans’ French Quarter, the Louisiana State Museum is hosting a roster of shows and events to commemorate three storms that have marked the city. At The Presbytère, a building previously inhabited by Capuchin monks, a group of works from the museum’s extensive collection has been arranged into a permanent exhibition.

The group show includes a piece by photographer, Tom Neff, of a young woman standing atop a roof with the words THIS IS NOT AMERICA written in capital letters across its surface. It’s a powerful slogan that screams of the anger and tragedy in the aftermath of the storm.

The exhibition is permanent.

Angel P., Explosive Effort  (2015), at University of New Orleans Fine Arts building . Photo: Courtesy artist's website.

Angel P., Explosive Effort (2015), at University of New Orleans Fine Arts building.
Photo: Courtesy artist’s website.

“REVERB: Past, Present, Future” at the Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans

“REVERB traces the aesthetic fissures and openings that grew out of a physical breach,” the exhibition’s press release reads. The show approaches Hurricane Katrina as a catalyst for artistic and social collaborations within local communities.

Ti-Rock Moore, one of 17 women included in the show, made headlines earlier this month for her all too real installation in Chicago. Her work often addresses race and representation, confronting issues many white artists choose to ignore.

But not all of the exhibition’s 30 participants considered themselves artists before the hurricane hit. New Yorker Skylar Fein moved to New Orleans and enrolled in a pre-med course in mid-August of 2005. In the disaster’s aftermath, Fein began gathering and composing pieces of debris for his work; four years later, he had his first solo show at the New Orleans Museum of Art, and his New Orleans-inspired work was acquired by the Brooklyn Museum in 2011.

The exhibition is on view until November 1st, 2015.

'Desperation' 2006, acrylic on canvas byt Rolland Golden. Image: The Historic New Orleans Collection.

Rolland Golden, Desperation (2006), acrylic on canvas.
Image: Courtesy the Historic New Orleans Collection.

Rolland Golden’s “Hurricane Katrina Series: A Selection” at the Historic New Orleans Collection

Rolland Golden was 74 when the hurricane hit New Orleans.

After Katrina, he watched the news and listened to the radio obsessively. He soon started to create his own memory bank by drawing and photographing his surroundings. The artist describes his work as borderline-surrealism, an appropriate term for a body of work depicting scenes with colors and compositions not altogether impossible, but unlikely. “It is my hope these paintings will help those who see them better understand what occurred and that we continue to suffer, long after Katrina died,” he writes on his website.

The exhibition is on view until January 16, 2016.

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