Sunday, January 04, 2009

Art amidst emptiness

I just got back from spending New Year's Eve in New Orleans. I got there a few days early to visit a friend who lives in the Lower Ninth Ward. She was gracious enough to let me and my other friend crash in her trailer on Tuesday night (her house is still under renovation). Then on Wednesday she cooked us breakfast and gave us the nickel tour of the area.

I hadn't been to the Lower Ninth since December 2005, mere months after Katrina. It looked awful then, given all of the flooding and destruction, but in many ways it looks worse now. In 2005 there were still houses standing shoulder to shoulder. Now, the houses have been torn down and the place is nothing but empty fields and roads to nowhere. True, there are a number of folks who have chosen to come back and try to start their lives over again, but the area near the Industrial Canal breach is eerily empty. It's an indescribable feeling to be standing someplace you know was once a vibrant community but now is just a whisper of its former self.

Several of the empty lots were selected as sites for Prospect.1 art installations, perhaps as a way to bring continued attention to the plight of the Lower Ninth Ward. Prospect.1 is an international art show that opened in sites across the city in October 2008. This particular piece is titled "Mithra" and was created by Mark Bradford. Bradford often uses materials he finds around Los Angeles. In this case, he used wood from the Lower Ninth Ward. I really liked the idea that the piece would continue to evolve as it was exposed to the elements.

My friend Miranda Lake also has a connection to Prospect.1. She was involved in the Prospect.EveryOne show and her piece "Swallows Whole" was a part of the Downtown Development District's Artification exhibit that coincides with Prospect.1. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to go visit the bus shelter that was graced with her artwork. It seems like I never have enough time to do all the things I want to on my visits to New Orleans. Sigh.

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