Katrina Then & Now: Artists as Witness
An exhibition in two parts
Part I: Documenting, Describing & Dealing with Disaster | September 2 – October 10
Part II: The Rebirth of Art | October 22 – December 18
Exhibition curated by Holy Cross professor Daina Cheyenne Harvey featuring work by current and past artists from New Orleans
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery at the College of the Holy Cross will present the exhibition “Katrina Then and Now: Artists as Witness,” curated by Daina Cheyenne Harvey, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology. The exhibition will be presented in two parts, the first installation subtitled “Documenting, Describing and Dealing with Disaster” will be open to the public from Wednesday, Sept. 2–Oct. 10. The second installation subtitled “The Rebirth of Art” will be on view from Thursday, Oct. 22–Dec. 18. A talk by Harvey will precede the first opening reception on Wednesday, Sept. 9.
Marking the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, an event of tragic proportions for the city of New Orleans, “Katrina Then and Now” will focus on the relationship between Hurricane Katrina and visual art in New Orleans from 2005 to the present.
Harvey grew up in and around the city of New Orleans until the age of 14. In 2010, Harvey moved back to help rebuild homes and work on community projects in the Lower Ninth Ward with a consortium of nonprofits, community groups, and academics. He lived and worked there for 14 months while writing his dissertation for Rutgers University about the rebuilding efforts.
“One of the things that interested me, though I didn’t have time to do anything with it while I was there, was how much new art and artists I kept running into. When I arrived at Holy Cross to teach in 2012, I met Professor Susan Rodgers, a member of my department, who inspired me to curate an exhibition as a way of exploring how artists responded to Katrina,” explains Harvey.
In 2014, he spent seven weeks in New Orleans developing contacts with artists, gallery directors, and curators and found the community very supportive. A number of nationally known artists, such as Willie Birch and Dawn DeDeaux, will have work included in the exhibition, and DeDeaux will give an artist’s talk prior to the opening reception for the second installation Thursday, Oct. 22.
A special feature of the exhibition will be the creation of a site-specific installation by artist Jeffrey Marshall, associate professor of art foundations at Mount Ida College. The piece will be on view at the entrance of the Gallery throughout the academic year and is based on his documentation of the recovery progress he witnessed in New Orleans post-Katrina. The series, entitled “The New Orleans Drawing Project 2006 – 2015,” was created ‘en plein air’ style on the streets of the city. Marshall lived in New Orleans for seven years prior to Hurricane Katrina. Currently, Marshall is working and living in Gloucester, Mass.
Other work included in the exhibition – drawing, film, installations, painting and sculpture – will highlight art as a way of making sense of social disruption, art as a tool to document disaster, and the importance of art and culture for rebuilding communities in the aftermath of disasters. The exhibition will offer a series of artists’ talks, films and special events throughout the semester.
- Wednesday, September 9, Noon – 1 p.m., gallery talk by artist Maxx Sizeler; 4:30 – 5: 15 p.m., guest curator’s talk by Daina Cheyenne Harvey, Rehm Library; 5:30 – 7 p.m., opening reception, Cantor Art Gallery.
- Thursday, September 17, 4:30 – 5;30 p.m., talk by Malcolm McClay, artist and associate professor, College of Art and Design, Louisiana State University, Smith Labs 154
- Monday, October 5, 4:30 – 5:30 p.m., talk by Thomas Stubblefield, assistant professor of visual and performing art, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, Stein 120
- Thursday, October 8, 4:30 – 5:30 p.m., talk by artist Jeffrey Marshall, Stein 133
- Thursday, October 22, 4:30 – 5:30 p.m., talk by Dawn DeDeaux, artist and founding member of the Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans, Rehm Library; 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. opening reception.
- Wednesday, October 28, 5 - 6 p.m., talk by artist Tameka Norris, Stein 120
- Thursday, October 29, 4:30 – 7:00 p.m., film and talk by artist and filmmaker Robert Adanto, Smith Labs 154
- Friday, November 13, noon – 1 p.m., talk by Olga Shevchenko, chair and associate professor of sociology, Williams College, Stein 118B
Generic Art Solutions
Part II: The Rebirth of Art
Featuring talk by artist Dawn DeDeaux
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery at the College of the Holy Cross will open the second installation of the exhibition “Katrina Then and Now: Artists as Witness” subtitled “The Rebirth of Art" on Thursday, Oct. 22. An opening reception will be held in the Gallery from 5:30–7 p.m.
Part II of the exhibition will focus on the rebirth of the art community in New Orleans after the devastation wrought by the flooding of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Many artists lost studio spaces and artwork archives as a result of the flooding, which had a profound impact on their artistic practices.
“We staged Katrina Then And Now: Artists as Witness” in two parts to reflect two distinct time periods and purposes in and for which art was created,” explained Daina Cheyenne Harvey, assistant professor of sociology and curator of the exhibition. “As we turn to the second part of the exhibition, we go beyond documenting and describing to focus on the various social and political stories artists were telling in the long term aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.”
Harvey continued by quoting author Salman Rushdie, “Man is a storytelling animal, the only creature on earth that tells itself stories to understand what kind of creature it is.” Harvey’s purpose in telling the Katrina story through the assembled artistic voices in “The Rebirth of Art” is to pass these artists’ stories along so that we may gain a better understanding of who we are and how we are shaped by the experience of disaster.
To kick off the opening of Part II of the exhibit, artist Dawn DeDeaux, a fixture in the New Orleans art world for the last five decades and considered to be one of America’s pioneering artists in new media will be speaking in Rehm Library from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. Her talk will address the reemergence of art making in New Orleans and the role of artists as witness.
DeDeaux responded to the devastation post-Katrina by producing pieces such as “Pattern: The Order of Chaos” that focuses on the water, mud, and mold left in people’s homes and “Water Markers” a piece that references the height of the floodwater in various neighborhoods in New Orleans.
DeDeaux has recently been on-site at the Cantor Art Gallery to install her large-scale piece “Hurricane Suite in Nine Movements” constructed of glass and mixed media and illuminated from below. The beauty of this work belies the destructive power of nature.
The work of other prominent artists working in New Orleans will be in the exhibition, including: Tameka Norris, a multimedia artist who uses paint on patterned bedsheets to tell the story of the destruction of her New Orleans neighborhood; Rontherin Ratliff, a conceptual artist whose wide range of pieces include mixed media assemblages, art installations and sculptures that are created in direct response to everyday experiences and the surrounding environment; Dan Tague, a mixed media artist whose work post-Katrina reflects inadequacies in government policy toward education, environmental health and financial reform;.and Generic Art Solutions comprised of duo Matt Vis and Tony Campbell who utilize a range of mediums combining Classical, Romantic, and Baroque compositional elements with contemporary pictorial techniques and showcase a common thread that connects past histories with current events. A series of artists’ talks, films and special events will continue through the end of the semester. Visit the Cantor Art Gallery’s website for a current list of scheduled events.