Friday, April 2, 2010

New Orleans: Mad for Art

Not a work of art, but a photo taken from the windows of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, looking toward the World War II Museum across the street.

New Orleans: Mad for Art
by Carol Joynt

New Orleans is a city that’s mad for art and artists. Creative expression of every sort always had a home in the Big Easy, but in the five years since Katrina, the love and appreciation deepened. The museums and the community learned in the storm’s aftermath that each could help the other to heal. During a one-week visit we toured three aspects of the museum scene: the traditional, the contemporary and the purely southern.

E. John Bullard, director of the New Orleans Museum of Art, welcomed us for a private lunch as he prepared for an evening event called Art in Bloom, hosted NOMA with the New Orleans Garden Study Club. Our group included Joseph Dunn and Etienne Dages-Desgranges of the French Consul General’s Office. Bullard led us through the museum, delighting in dozens of flower arrangements designed as homage to the art, and then proudly showed-off the just re-opened Sculpture Garden.
Flowers by Georgette Fortino, art, "Mick Jagger," by Andy Warhol.
Flowers by James Henderson, painting, "Breath," by Lee Krasner. Flowers by Glenda Ivy, art by native New Orleanian Dawn Dedeaux. The work is called "John Wayne 1/4."
Flowers by Walter Cockerham, art, "The Red Disk," by Joan Miro.
Flowers by Christine McKay and Jeanine Fabre; art, "Little Tchefuncte," by Gail Johnson Hood.
As NOMA Director John Bullard will proudly tell you, when Indianapolis lost the Super Bowl to New Orleans they also lost this Joseph Turner, "The Fifth Plague of Egypt," to the art museum (for a little while.).
NOMA's sculpture garden is just reopened.
Cajun artist George Rodrique created the worldwide phenomenon known as the "Blue Dog." Here is a rendering called "We Stand Together." It is three dogs in one - blue, yellow and red.
NOMA Director John Bullard does not tire of showing off the revamped Sculpture Garden.
The trees are hung with Spanish moss and giant Mardi Gras beads.
"Overflow" by Jaume Plensa. Originally installed in the Lower 9th Ward, as part of a supportive arts project, this sculpture by Leandro Erlich is called "Window and Ladder - Too Late for Help."
"Riace Warriors I, II, III, IV" by Elisabeth Frink
The art museum viewed from the Sculpture Garden.
Bullard explained that when Katrina hit, the museum did not flood, but was surrounded by water – like a moat – and was evacuated and shut down by authorities. For weeks they went without power, but fortunately with no harm to the art. Dozens of staff lost their jobs, but today most of those jobs have been re-filled, with more on the way.

“Fundraising has been strong,” Bullard said. He’s particularly grateful to the French government for orchestrating a special exhibition – “Femme Femme Femme” – that was NOMA’s first big post-Katrina event. When it comes to the French and New Orleans, the love seems to go both ways and in equal portions. NOMA’s next big social and cultural event is the gala Odyssey Ball in November. Buy tickets now (504-658-4100).
Contemporary Art Center's executive director Jay Weigel with Harry Shearer.
Our friend, the satirist, comedian and actor Harry Shearer, took us to the Contemporary Art Center to meet its executive director, Jay Weigel, and to tour Harry’s installation, “The Silent Echo Chamber.”

It is the latest chapter of a project Harry created years ago – to capture from live satellite feeds the raw, off-air moments when notables wait to appear on television, whether for an interview or to host a news show. Generally they are figures from the headlines; politicians and media stars. The moments are eerie, penetrating and amusing.
An exhibition of "exotic raw materials" — familiar faces in the pause before "air time" on television.
David Gergen in repose as he waits to be interviewed by someone.
Barack Obama reads a newspaper.
James Carville ponders ... perhaps the racetrack?
Keith Olberman flicks some lint off his jacket.
Brian Williams reads while Tom Brokaw checks his email.
Joe Biden has a sip of Dunkin Donuts coffee.
John McCain: lost in thought.
Anderson Cooper looks worried. Henry Kissinger.
Larry King scratches his eye.
Ben Stein's eye.
Hillary Clinton just waits, motionless.
If body language means anything, Chris Matthews and Keith Olberman do not make a happy couple.
Chris Wallace.
Robert Storr of Yale wrote in a review, “What Shearer has done is edit out the ‘content’ portion of television interviews and leave us with ... moments stretching to eternity in some cases. The subjects think no one is paying attention. In reality, it is usually alive with self-betrayal.”

Since a cluster of museums are in one neighborhood, Harry walked us from the CAC across the street to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art to see an exhibition of the realist paintings of Bo Bartlett, a Georgia native who paints in Maine and Washington state. The first work we came upon, dominating the entrance, was a large canvas depicting a southern stereotype – a confident young man, a long gun resting on his hip, a woman leaning on his shoulder and a dead deer on his pickup truck.
"Young Life" by Bo Bartlett, which hangs in the main hall of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.
"Object Permanence" by Bo Bartlett, a native of Georgia who paints mostly in Maine
Bo Bartlett's "Parents."
All the Bartlett paintings overwhelm with their size, every canvas is larger than life. A reviewer for Inside Art New Orleans compared Bartlett’s show to “going to a multiplex theater where dramatic, if stationary, narratives cover theater-size expanses of wall space ... not everything is convincing but his dramatic flair is never in doubt.”

In other galleries of the Ogden we viewed exhibitions that reflect the city’s last five years of renewal, both with art and architecture. The Tulane City Center Exhibition shows many of the entrepreneurial ideas for rebuilding New Orleans, applying perhaps a modern face but keeping the heritage and charm intact.
David Bates post-Katrina work, "Storm."
Also post-Katrina, Chuck Hemard's "The Beginning," three digital chromogenic prints.
At the Ogden, an exhibition of post-Katrina housing from a variety of architects and firms.
How to use architecture to recover from a disaster.
"Mules to Market," 1937, by John Kelly Fitzpatrick.
From the 1970s, oils by Clementine Hunter.
Photographs by Carol Joynt. Carol is the host of The Q&A Cafe in Washington, D.C.

Visit her at: caroljoynt.com. Follow Carol on Twitter.
 
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