There are so many articles, debates, photos, artwork, and yes, blog posts, about Hurricane Katrina...and I'm adding one more to the pot. It has been almost 10 years since life in New Orleans took an unexpected detour...
I decided to go back to college and get my degree just a few months before...and already completed the summer semester. I enrolled for Fall term and even started a few classes when the call to evacuate came. Of course, I did not think too much of it so I packed an overnight bag with a few outfits and whatever artwork was already in my car (basically a sketch pad and a small collection of drawings) and headed to Alexandria, Louisiana, where my family lives.
I lived out of that bag for a month! The university was out of commission and for how long, no one knew. I enrolled at a local junior college, but honestly for what? I was in my senior year of school so what good was that? Well, I killed the time away taking art history, literature, and an oil painting class.
The university in New Orleans announced they were opening their satellite campus in October. I immediately made plans to return. I stayed with a friend for two weeks before moving into a bed and breakfast in the Irish Channel neighborhood. It was a self-serving arrangement for us. No housekeeping, no cooked meals - we used the laundry room and kept things tidy ourselves...me, some construction workers, and disaster volunteers mostly. The city had a 9:00p or 9:30p curfew and the best place to get groceries was Walgreens. The most upsetting thing was a lack of art supplies! I had on me what I left town with, plus whatever supplies we received in our art classes (donations, I was not unappreciative about this). I did not technically have a job, but I was helping with gutting homes and treating mold. In between classes and doing recovery work, I was in a small room... drawing and painting. My mind had no desire to be creative so I started collecting magazines around the house I lived in. In flipping through these pages, an urge to draw came over me. I had charcoal (still a big favorite of mine) and a large sketch pad. I drew as many models and celebrities as I could. Some of them came out great - others a little "wobbly" (as I like to say). Overall, I created a new body of work over a week's time, I think close to 15 drawings. Unfortunately, I threw away about five of them and a couple of others have just disappeared over the years... and I'm okay with that. The ones that remain with me will continue to do so.
They are not for sale.
I like to look at them occasionally and remember.
Although I've been making visual art for more than 15 years, I kind of consider my 6 month journey through post-Katrina New Orleans my transition phase from student to artist. However, my Katrina themed artwork never came, unlike other creatives, who ran toward their art supplies and spoke their opinions in a myriad of visual and performing genres. I just couldn't find it. It wasn't there. I had my own opinions, rants, and disagreements about the news and politics involved in the current discussions of the time, but no energy to exhibit them to the public. Honestly, this probably still rings true. I have no problem talking about what happened and what didn't, what should have been done and the consequences (both good and bad) of every decision made. But ask me to create a visual representation of it all and you will not get anything out of me but a blank stare and an empty page. Maybe that's just the way it is for me. Maybe I prefer to have conversations about it all instead. Using spoken word allows for me to say what I need to say...and then it's over. To express myself artistically, having to sketch, draw, and mull over a rather depressing subject matter, just seems very hard for me to do. Maybe one day I can let it all go and finally finish something...maybe not....
...and I'm ok with that.