Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sandra Russell Clark at Loyola's Diboll Gallery

Stuff happens. Sometimes it’s big stuff and sometimes it’s not, but stuff always happens. As jarring as stuff can be, the tricky part may not even be what happened, but how we deal with it. In the art world, as in the rest of the city, recent history is divided into pre-K and post-K, and artists, like most folks, are still dealing with it. Sometimes we wonder if there will ever be an end to all the Katrina-related art exhibitions, but this may not really be the most pertinent question. The real issue, for artists and others alike is: where are we now, and how are we dealing with it?

Sandra Russell Clark has for ages been a photographer of trees and landscapes, sensually ethereal views of misty gardens and windswept Gulf Coast vistas that reflect her own impressionistic, neo-romantic approach. A New Orleans native and longtime Bay St. Louis resident, Clark endured the ultimate photographic nightmare when Katrina’s tidal surge claimed the negatives that were a large part of her life’s work. Her new digital photographs on view at Loyola are very different from anything she has done in the past. A colorful series of portraits of little dolls and figurines rescued from the storm rubble, there is little that suggests hurricanes—at first. Look again, and we see that while a Shoney’s BIG BOY figurine came through unscathed, a LONELY RANGER’s uniform, top, looks like he got into a fight with Smokey the Bear. And a SAMMI DOLL, above, in a blue chiffon gown appears to suffer the ravages of PTSD as she reclines in an unkempt daze. She looks like she might have benefited from the mental health services of that Adolescent Hospital the Jindal administration is moving to Mandeville. But maybe she should receive counseling from the pudgy good luck BUDDHA figurine dispensing advice over a telephone. When the state pulls the plug, a hot line to enlightenment may be just what the doctor ordered. ~Eric Bookhardt
JUJU: Recent Photographs by Sandra Russell Clark
Through Oct. 23
Collins Diboll Gallery, Loyola U., 6363 St. Charles Ave., 865-2186; www.loyno.edu/dibollgallery
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