Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Rising: An Exhibition of Photography in Post-Katrina New Orleans at the Ogden Museum

As we approach the Ides of July, the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina looms large. What a Katrina anniversary means depends on who you are, and what you saw or lived through, but we all know what it looked like thanks to endlessly recycled news photos of the cataclysm. Following Katrina, the messy rebirth of the city brought out traits we didn't know we had as laid back residents morphed into human pit bulls determined to reclaim their old neighborhoods. That kind of energy can be contagious, and the creative community expanded as new artists, galleries and institutions took root. This Ogden Museum expo features the work of eleven photographers, many newcomers, whose diverse visions reflect their perceptions of the New Orleans' recent evolution.

Local folk have always had multiple personalities--in the form of masks and costumes--and that  proclivity to extend dreams into reality propels Vanessa Centeno's Saint Thing series of photographs, above left, that meld the cultures of Mexican wrestlers and Catholic saints into a new breed of metaphysical gothic action figures. Tammy Mercure's Immortals, above, relates local folk to mythic archetypes, so here a purple specter in an LSU jersey harks to the Orpheus in Hades legend. Sophie Lvoff's photograph of the Saturn Bar, top, explores incremental changes like the new Saturn ceiling mural that replaced the damaged original while capturing the old tavern's eternally smoky aura of misplaced dreams and spilled beer. No less dreamlike is AnnieLaurie Erickson's photo-mural of refineries at night, glowing like ghostly afterimages of the industry that destroyed our coast even as its own extinction looms ever closer thanks to technological progress. Cristina Molina explores linear visual sequences along the tight channel of sights defined by I-10 as it eventually pours into the broad basin of a city where of modernity and antiquity unpredictably intermingle. That sense of familiarity tinged with possibility is evidenced in L. Kasimu Harris' The Road Ahead, above left, a car-window portrait of a nattily dressed young couple in a vintage car. But life begins and ends with the sea, and William Widmer's image of a Mariner's Cross memorial, left, rising from scabrous coastal ruins resonates like a bronze bell tone, a reminder of all things final yet eternal. ~Bookhardt /  The Rising: Photography in Post-Katrina New Orleans, September 20, 2015, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 925 Camp St., 539-9600.