Following is a series of short texts, vignettes if you will, that accompany the exhibition, NOLA NOW, Part I: Swagger for a Lost Magnificence on view at the Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans through January 29, 2012. Rather than attempt to address the work of thirty-five artists in one large encompassing text, I’ve chosen to write about the artists in the exhibition through a number of essays that give more focused time and weight to their creative output. The first entry listed below is the introductory text to the exhibition. Subsequent entries will explore various subthemes within the exhibition as well as random musings about life in New Orleans. Writings will be posted regularly and irregularly as time dictates.
–Amy Mackie, Director of Visual Arts, Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans
Swagger for a Lost Magnificence - 10/01/11
Ashley Brett Chipman. Video still, Swagger for a Lost Magnificence,
2010. Courtesy the artist
A snapshot reflecting a community, NOLA NOW, Part I: Swagger for a Lost Magnificence, brings together thirty-five artists (thirty-four artists and one collaborative team) producing work in a culturally specific geographical locale that has been strongly impacted by recent sociopolitical and economic circumstances. Made within the last two years, the work encompasses a multitude of impressions and imagery presented through drawing, film, installation, painting, performance, photography, sculpture, sound, and video. One of the many links is what can best be described as a pining for the past. Thus, Swagger for a Lost Magnificence, 2010, a film by Ashley Brett Chipman—aptly titled after a line from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night—serves as a subtitle for the exhibition. Many of the works in the exhibition are not necessarily nostalgic, but express a desire for an economy we once knew, an environment less scathed, or even a stronger sense of purpose in a world where things fall apart over and over again. Also found in many of the works is a sense of movement, a physical traversing from one place to another, or, in the Surrealist tradition, a philosophical or psychological journey that seeks to expand the possibilities of human experience. And finally, the notion of “home” and how it defines the individual is overwhelmingly apparent in Swagger for a Lost Magnificence. The influx of a new creative class to New Orleans, paired with the return of many who were displaced as a result of the events that unfolded following Hurricane Katrina, has undoubtedly affected artists living in this city. Swagger for a Lost Magnificence thoughtfully considers our sense of place and self, exploring a landscape of ideas and visions that embodies where we are as much as where we dream of being.
Finding and Losing New Orleans - 11/07/11
Exterior, Civic Theater, New Orleans, circa 1950s
My apartment, housed in a building that was once Mintz & Mintz Furniture, overlooks the Civic Theater. Built in 1906 by local architect Sam Stone, it is the oldest surviving theater in New Orleans. First a playhouse known as the Shubert (intended by the Shubert Brothers of New York to be the New Orleans branch of their nationwide chain of theaters), later called the Lafayette, the Star, and the Poche, over the years it also functioned as a movie theater as well as a venue for live acts. For a short time in the 1970s it was a Studio 54-esque discotheque called simply, Civic Disco. From Vaudeville to John Coltrane, the Civic served an important role in the cultural landscape of New Orleans. Ask any taxi driver in the city and he’ll tell you a story about this theater. Since I arrived in January, I’ve spent countless hours staring at the roof of this empty building and finally, a few weeks ago, I got a peek inside. I was not disappointed. Remnants of its magnificence remain and though it now bears the mark of time, it stands as a repository of memories and moments that permeates the structure. It is, but one of numerous such buildings throughout a city that seems to have found a way to outwit time. The legacy of this building has remained on my mind over the last several months as I began visiting artists’ studios in an attempt to gauge the creative temperature of the city (even more so, when I discovered that it is in the midst of being renovated). In many ways it has become a metaphor for me, encompassing all that is lost and found in this mythical place. Unstable at best, New Orleans is relentlessly resilient—and its large population of musicians, writers, performers, and artists are the heart and soul of the city.
Interior, Civic Theater, New Orleans, October 2011
As we considered the placement of his work in the exhibition, composer Duane Pitre and I discussed “sympathetic vibrations,” the spontaneous response to sound energy that is most often experienced when sound waves reverberate on glass or even another instrument. The notion that creative practices are also a series of this same kind of vibration has directed me through the body of work that populates Swagger for a Lost Magnificence. Quite fittingly, the exhibition occupies a space that has in many ways been lost. Like so many buildings in New Orleans, the history of the building at 900 Camp Street where the Contemporary Arts Center is located is rich. I was told it once stored pelts, but it is most commonly remembered at the headquarters of the beloved drugstore chain K & B (more on this in future posts). Founded in 1976 by a group of artists, writers, and patrons who were active participants in the city’s art scene at that time (and many who still are), the third floor of the Contemporary Arts Center was never used for exhibitions. The creaks and groans of the old warehouse, and the third floor in particular, are a constant reminder of its past.
With so much ambient noise, it was important to think carefully about how a composition of ambient sound might resonate in this kind of space. Pitre composed Feel Free, 2011 when he moved to New Orleans in 2010 after spending nine years in New York City. Back in his hometown, Pitre embraced a return to silence that is virtually impossible to attain in a metropolis like New York. The subtle nuances of silence, which is never completely absent of sound, inspired this composition. Pitre describes it as “touching on the sporadic, yet orderly nature of self-organizing systems, such as wind chimes.” Using pre-recorded guitar string harmonics, the forty-five minute composition of Feel Free is “constantly changing and subtly evolving, creating melodic patterns that never repeat, though seem familiar.” Filling the gigantic warehouse floor that hosts Swagger for a Lost Magnificence, Pitre’s composition creates a hauntingly enchanting atmosphere. As the only sound work in the exhibition, Feel Free sets the tone for the visual works presented in the space and in the best possible scenario, it is the soundtrack visitors take with them long after they’ve left. The composition is audible from my office on the second floor of the building, and sometimes, I still hear it, even when the speakers are not on.
Listen to an excerpt from Feel Free here:
Courtesy the Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans. Photos: Tom Macom
Only the Best - 11/28/11
Sometimes the best things in life are cultivated: wine, relationships, a good story, an art collection. Cultivation has been on my mind quite a bit these days and even more so since I recently participated in a panel discussion about collecting art in New Orleans. I came home after the panel and re-watched the inspiring documentary about one of America’s most famous pair of collectors, Dorothy and Herb Vogel. The story of the Vogels is seemingly unreal. The couple began buying art in the 1960s in New York City on the modest salaries they made as a librarian and a postal worker. Decades later, after many years of research and investigation, they had accumulated one the most important collections of contemporary art ever amassed. Their only rules were that it had to fit into their small one bedroom Manhattan apartment and that it had to be affordable. It is doubtful that a collection such as the Vogels could be compiled in today’s inflated art market, making their story even more fascinating.
Luba Zygarewicz. Detail, Petrified Time: 12 years, 4 months, and 15 days of my life folded and neatly stacked, 2011. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Tom Macom
I’m particularly interested in the ways in which artists collect. Not only art, but objects that serve as creative fodder or materials for art production. In New Orleans, the accumulation of “things” seems commonplace and yet, it is a complete mystery to me why so many people in one community would hold on to such an insane number of objects when the possibility of them being damaged or displaced is overwhelmingly likely. Several artists in Swagger for a Lost Magnificence have created works that have taken many months, if not years to create. Others are accumulations of many individual objects to make one whole. Luba Zygarewicz’s Petrified Time: 12 years, 4 months, and 15 days of my life folded and neatly stacked, 2011, as the title indicates, was a very consuming endeavor. Her use of dryer lint (as well as tea bag tags in a previous piece) brings to mind the work of Tom Friedman, well known for his transformation of commercially produced items such as sugar cubes and toothpicks into elaborate geometric sculptures. Zygarewicz’s use of personal detritus, however, points more to issues of domesticity and the passing of time, rather than a direct comment about consumerism. This sculpture would have been a fantastic companion to many of the works presented in the group exhibition at MoMA PS1 in New York in 2006, Altered, Stitched and Gathered (including Friedman, El Anatsui, Shinique Smith, amongst others), which brought together artists “exploring or transforming familiar objects and social practices through a deliberate methodology.”
Robin Levy. Threshold, 2011. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Tom Macom
Robin Levy. Detail, Threshold, 2011. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Tom Macom
Robin Levy’s Threshold, 2011 confronts the viewer with the evidence of an action that has taken place over an extended period. Using her body to wear away her studio floor (with assistance from gravity and a bit of sandpaper), the artist has pushed herself and the wooden plank that demarks the center of the space to their limits. Like Carolee Schneemann’s infamous Up to and Including Her Limits, 1973-1976, Levy’s action in the most literal sense, transforms the body into a medium for mark making. It is impossible to engage in this conversation without recalling Ylves Klein’s use of the female body as a paintbrush, but Levy and Schneemann, reclaim their own bodies, in complete control of the evidence they are imparting. Made in solitude and ultimately a reflective, almost meditative endeavor, Threshold speaks to the fragility of a life lived and the possibility that it may crumble or fall apart at any given moment.
Carolee Schneemann. Up to and Including Her Limits, 1973-1976. Courtesy P.P.O.W., New York
Curling In On Itself, 2010, an installation of hand-carved relief prints mounted on Sari fabric was created by Teresa Cole for an exhibition in Kolkata, India. Patterns are repeated and reworked throughout the piece and together the unique individual parts become one powerful organic mass. With this piece and several other recent works, Cole’s two-dimensional prints assume a three-dimensional quality, making the viewer’s body an integral component of their presentation. Hanging so that one walks right into the installation, viewing Curling In On Itself, is a physical experience as much as an aesthetic one. Not only did this piece take a significant time to produce, it also requires a substantial amount of time to install. Cole’s system of hanging the prints with paperclips and colorful string was devised for its presentation in India. The piece has been modified slightly to accommodate the corner of the gallery at the Contemporary Arts Center, hovering just above the floor, creating an imposing presence upon entering the exhibition. Each piece has been curled and over time, the title also becomes its description. Like Levy’s Threshold, it emphasizes a state of being that could unravel with even the slightest gesture.
Teresa Cole. Curling In On Itself, 2010. Courtesy the artist and Gallery Bienvenu, New Orleans. Photo: Tom Macom
Teresa Cole. Detail, Curling In On Itself, 2010. Courtesy the artist and Gallery Bienvenu, New Orleans. Photo: Tom Macom
Michele Basta works in a range of mediums. Her stop-animation video, Arachne, 2009 merges sculpture, installation, and photography through a compilation of thousands of digital images. Drawing on the history of Surrealism and recalling the work of Avant-Garde filmmakers such as Maya Deren and Luis Buñuel, Basta’s video brings to life an otherworldly creature. According to Greco-Roman mythology, Athena turned a talented weaver named Arachne into a spider when she refused to pay tribute to the gods and acknowledge the source of her great skill. Arachne invites the viewer into the bizarre journey of this transformation using objects laden with meaning such as skulls, beetles, and flower petals, concluding with a violent act that is simultaneously unsettling and poetic. Louise Bourgeois, whose work often interrogated the depths of the psyche, was also quite fond of spiders, and used them as a symbolic reference for the nurturing, protective role of her mother. The duration of the video is quite short, but the layers of meaning and symbolic gestures are rich, encouraging the viewer to engage in repetitive viewings.
Michele Basta. Video still, Arachne, 2009. Courtesy the artist
Maya Deren. Film still, Meshes of the Afternoon, 1943. Courtesy The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Watch Arachne here:
Photographer Stephen Hilger often captures interior spaces in abandoned buildings or the evidence of urban decay. The three carefully composed black and white photographs included in Swagger for a Lost Magnificence, point to the ephemeral nature of the world around us such as the growth of cat’s claw on the side of a building or the shadow created by a string of pendants. Though seemingly the opposite of Zygarewicz’s stacks of lint or the evidence of a repetitive action as in Levy’s installation, I would argue that what he has captured has perhaps been in the making for many years. It is the incisive eye of the photographer who choses the exact instance to eternally capture the moment.
Stephen Hilger. Highway Overpass, 2010. Courtesy the artist
“Only the best,” the slogan of K & B, a drugstore chain that originated in New Orleans, seems to be a standard of time’s past. Though the many stores that populated the Gulf Coast have come and gone, their legacy remains for those who experienced the stores filled with more inventory than any other of its kind and with a guarantee of satisfaction at every turn. Life in the twenty-first century, however, has become increasingly focused on swiftness and convenience, leaving little space for slowly cultivated objects or ideas. Will we look back one day and contemplate all that has been lost? Well-made objects, beautifully constructed or de-constructed buildings, relationships that have been nurtured over decades, lasting ideas. Or will be simply be moving too quickly to bother with what has past?
Tragic, yet Celebratory - 12/18/11
My brother recently sent me a copy of “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In this brief, but poignant short story, a stunningly beautiful, enormous man washes ashore in a small village. The men, women, and children who inhabit it are first in awe, then horror, and finally they glorify this man who seems to have arrived from another planet. His size paired with his handsome face throws the women of the village into a near trance as they clean and dress him in preparation for a proper burial.
Download a PDF of “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World” here:
Reminiscent of Marquez’s 1967 masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude, “The Handsomest Drowned Man In The World,” published the following year, weaves together the celebratory, yet tragic aspects of life and death. The corpse of this unknown stranger mysteriously draws together an entire village and in the end they don’t want to let him go. His presence became so important during his short stay that when they finally release him into the sea, they paint their houses in bright colors and plant flowers on the cliffs to make his “memory eternal.”
Andy Cook. Six Flags Theme Park, New Orleans East, 2011. Courtesy the artist
I initially intended to title this essay "Celebratory, yet Tragic," but after a recent trip to Miami, I began to think that its glitzy, yet empty façades can more easily be categorized as such, but that New Orleans is quite the opposite. For a city that has endured the brutality of Mother Nature time and time again, New Orleans never stops celebrating. It’s kind of incredible that Mardi Gras occurred in 2006, less than six months after Hurricane Katrina raged and the levees failed the city. At the same time, places such as the Six Flags Theme Park in New Orleans East (first opened as Jazzland in 2000), somehow still stands though there appears to be no sign that it will ever be resurrected. This rotting land of amusement, however, has served as a backdrop and inspiration for many artists who have shot footage in or around the park (including Ashley Brett Chipman and Andy Cook).
Andy Cook. Bonnet Carré Spillway, 2011. Courtesy the artist
Photographer Andy Cook has taken pictures all over the United States from his hometown of Baltimore to his new home in New Orleans. He has recently photographed abandoned places and empty spaces throughout the state of Louisiana. His image from Six Flags is paired in Swagger for a Lost Magnificence with a photograph of rapidly rushing water that resulted when the Bonnet Carré Spillway was opened to combat rising river levels in New Orleans in May 2011. Both images address the powerful beauty of water as well as its destructive nature. In a city that is largely located below sea level and, which requires an elaborate pumping system to keep it from flooding during heavy rainfall, water is omnipresent here. Walking the line between fine art and commercial photography, Cook’s photographs reveal the beauty in the tragedy we bypass everyday.
Carl Joe Williams. Soul at the Crossroads, 2010. Courtesy the artist
Like many New Orleans’ artists, Carl Joe Williams paints on doors and other found surfaces. What sets him apart is his subtle nod to Harlem Renaissance painters like Aaron Douglass and Palmer Hayden. Williams’ creation of figures through monochromatic shapes and shadows is very much in line with Douglas’ paintings from the 1930s and like Hayden, he has mastered the ability to paint the likeness of an individual in a manner that captures an expressive quality, a moment of melancholy perhaps. Also evoking feelings of humble grandeur, Sally Heller’s site-specific installation, Terrain Wreck, 2011, is made entirely from man-made materials such as pipe cleaners, Mylar surfaces, neon-colored netting, and bright pieces of felt. As she describes it, the installation represents a world where nature is replaced by artificial materials. In an artist statement that accompanies the installation, she elaborates: “It is this conflict between the permanence of the objects and the deceptive fragility of the structures that mirrors our cultures’ delusional balance between consumerism and the environment.” Though her work recalls other installation artists such as Judy Pfaff or Sarah Sze, Heller’s composition of color, light, and material are uniquely her own. Within the context of New Orleans, it speaks to the fragile environment of the wetlands, and in a larger sense, it offers a commentary on the chemicals and objects that are all too quickly subsuming our oceans.
Sally Heller. Detail, Terrain Wreck, 2011. Courtesy the artist and Gallery Bienvenu, New Orleans. Photo: Tom Macom
Sally Heller. Detail, Terrain Wreck, 2011. Courtesy the artist and Gallery Bienvenu, New Orleans. Photo: Tom Macom
The work of Brooke Pickett similarly comments on mass consumerism and “throw-away objects.” Although she primarily makes paintings, she begins by accumulating broken, discarded items. The photographs of these sculptures (described by Pickett as “drawings”) seem to be more akin to three-dimensional sketches. They are her starting place, but they are also her end point. When I was organizing Pickett’s solo exhibition at the CAC last summer, I found it particularly interesting that she included these preparatory works on her website. It made clear that process is as important to her practice as product. I was pleasantly surprised when she expressed interest in showing two of these photographs in Swagger for a Lost Magnificence since it was something she hadn’t done before. The lines and composition of the objects presented makes it possible to envision the paintings that might eventually come to be.
More about Brooke Pickett’s CAC exhibition here:
Brooke Pickett. Interior Accessories #4, 2011. Courtesy the artist
Ashley Brett Chipman’s Swagger for the Lost Magnificence, 2011, from which I borrowed the title for this exhibition is quite possibly the most tragic and celebratory work in the show. The phrase is from a passage in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, published in 1934, where one of the main characters reflects on the death of his friend and the passing of time:
"He slept deep and awoke to a slow mournful march passing his window. It was a long column of men in uniform, wearing the familiar helmet of 1914, thick men in frock coats and silk hats, burghers, aristocrats, plain men. It was a society of veterans going to lay wreaths on the tombs of the dead. The column marched slowly with a sort of swagger for a lost magnificence, a past effort, a forgotten sorrow. The faces were only formally sad but Dick’s lungs burst for a moment with regret for Abe’s death, and his own youth of ten years ago."
Chipman changes the main character to a woman in her video and removes the specifics of Fiztgerald’s storyline, though the sentiment remains. Writers, artists, musicians, creative thinkers have continuously oscillated between an embrace and a disavowal of nostalgia, but it perseveres as an unavoidable symptom of the human condition. This passage from Fiztgerald paired with Chipman’s ruminations also bring to mind Aldous Huxley’s After Many a Summer Dies the Swan, a novel published in 1939 about the quest for the eternal. Nostalgia, in this sense, appears to be more than an obsession with the past, but also a yearning for a never-ending future.
Watch Swagger for a Lost Magnificence here:
Landscape as Metaphor - 01/08/12
Fontainebleau State Park, Mandeville, LA
Over the holidays, I took my family to Fontainebleau State Park on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Filled with canopying Oak trees laden with Spanish moss, it is a magical place. As we kicked about the sandy beach and took in the expansive backdrop, I began to think about how one moves through this space we call “landscape” and why it occupies such an important place within one’s psyche. Meantime, I’ve been watching the first season of “The Twilight Zone,” one of my favorite television shows of all time. Rod Sterling’s knowing voice never seems to disappoint as each episode transports me to a place that is indeed “as vast as space and as timeless as infinity.”
Debra Howell. Li River Triptych, 2009. Courtesy the artist
20 yuan note, 2005
It was impossible to overlook work that addressed landscape when organizing Swagger for a Lost Magnificence. Southern Louisiana is filled with lush flora and fauna, which many artists have successfully navigated over the years, but I was also interested in exploring the more universal notion of landscape. Debra Howell’s Li River Triptych, 2009 captures a river in China that has served as the backdrop for numerous paintings, posters, and screens and is in fact one of the country’s most documented landscapes. It has become ingrained in the imagination of many Chinese citizens and was even featured on the fifth series of the 20 yuan note. In an attempt to answer the age-old question “is life about the journey or the destination,” Howell uses many images to create her photographs. Often times they are fictional locales, but in this case it is a real, almost journalist depiction of this often photographed place. In doing so, she creates a means of escape, a place for solitary contemplation. Like the Mississippi River, the Li River is somehow transformative. I can only imagine that the Li figures largely in Chinese literature, much like the Mississippi does in America.
Lala Rascic. Video Still, The Damned Dam, 2010. Courtesy the artist
Lala Rasic’s video, The Damned Dam, 2010, which was developed through public presentations in Sarajevo, Belgrade, and Banja Luka before being presented as an elaborate multi-media installation (including paintings, audio recordings, a blog, and performances) in Zagreb, Croatia in November 2010, also focuses on a body of water. Shot primarily at the site of the dam on Modrac Lake in Lukavac, Bosna and Herzegovina, Rascic relays a fictionalized narrative set in the future. The video is based on actual accounts and field research that were broadcast in 2000 when the dam broke and many people were forced to leave their homes. Even without in-depth knowledge of the nuances of this disaster in Lukavac, it impossible not to draw parallels to the failure of the levee system in New Orleans in 2005. The migration that occurred in both scenarios has altered the socio-political and economic landscapes of these areas. Recorded in Serbian, but dubbed with an English voiceover, Rascic adeptly weaves fact and fiction to create a compelling story that recalls the strong history of oral tradition that is unique to the Balkan region where she grew up.
Watch an excerpt from The Damned Dam here:
Ron Bechet. Symbiosis, 2011. Courtesy the artist
For Ron Bechet, nature is everything. He spends much of his free time along the banks of Lake Pontchartrain, observing and admiring the trees and plants that are unique to the state of Louisiana. Born and raised in New Orleans, Bechet has always drawn his inspiration from the natural world and finds in it a sense of solace and purpose. Though he often uses bright flashes of color, his charcoal drawings reveal the subtle nuances of light and shadow that transform the roots of a tree into a network of connective lines and shared ideologies. Created in a large format that is more frequently associated with oil paintings, Symbiosis, 2011 speaks to the human condition as much as it does about the lives of the organisms he captures.
James Goedert. RESET: Grass Drawing, 2010. Courtesy the artist. Collection John and Sarah Busch
Also inspired by nature, but recreating it through vastly different means, James Goedert’s RESET: Grass Drawing, 2010 is a tongue and cheek representation of grass made by means of a modified weed wacker. With the help of a sharpie and a bit of power, Goedert brings to life that which this instrument is intended to dispense of: living, vibrant, green grass. Much of Goedert’s practice focuses on the creation of machines and mechanisms that make drawings. Thus, it is no surprise, that he, like Bechet have been active organizers and participants in a local (and very well attended) event known as “Draw-a-Thon,” a series of workshops and conversations intended to encourage amateurs as well as professionals to make drawings for nothing more than the sake of drawing. The sixth annual Draw-a-Thon took place at the Old Ironworks on Piety Street in the Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans in November 2011.
More about Draw-a-Thon here:
Roxy Paine. Conjoined, 2001. Madison Square Park, New York, NY
During my last studio visit with Goedert we talked at length about the work of Roxy Paine who has been well known since the early 1990s for work that re-creates the natural world by means of manmade materials as well as his mechanical constructions that produce automatically manufactured paintings and sculptures. When I first heard about Goedert’s drawing machines I immediately thought about Paine’s PMU (Painting Manufacture Unit), 1999-2000, but there also seems to be an interesting parallel in their approach to landscape. Paine’s interest in kinetic sculptures has waned to some degree and in more recent years he has pursued a series of large outdoor tree sculptures. It makes me wonder what Goedert might do when presented with an opportunity of this scale. Only time will tell.
Angela Berry. Detail, Something More Concrete, 2008 – 2011. Courtesy the artist. Private Collection
Angela Berry. Installation view, Something More Concrete, 2008 – 2011. Courtesy the artist. Private Collection. Photo: Tom Macom
A photographer at heart, Angela Berry has recently begun merging sculptural processes with her imagery. Her installation, Something More Concrete, 2008-2011 in Swagger for a Lost Magnificence elaborates on a previous piece for which she cast open-ended spheres out of vines and bronze. For this installation she has added cement globes that mimic the ocular structure of the human eye. An obsession with the way we see has been one of the primary focuses of her practice, inspired in part by her need for glasses at a very young age. As she has stated, her work is “deeply rooted in photography, because of the medium’s ability to explore and share different ways of rendering vision.” Simultaneously she has embraced the natural world through materials such as organic rice paper, plants, and vines. Each miniature sphere holds a vision, not unlike one that might emerge through a static snow globe containing black and white photographs of landscapes and cityscapes.
Hannah Chalew. St. Phillip Takeover, 2011. Courtesy the artist
Berry’s studio-mate at T-LOT, an artist collective and studio space in New Orleans, Hannah Chalew, often depicts the landscape of her hometown. Born and raised in New Orleans, Chalew’s drawings are honest, meaningful, and extremely well executed. Though she often utilizes materials or techniques associated with textiles such as thread, fabric, and needlepoint, drawing is the driving force of her work. Since returning home after college, she has focused primarily on the vast number of blighted structures and empty lots throughout the city that are quickly being reclaimed by cat’s claw and other climbing plants. According to Chalew, these spaces “become statements about the inextricable link between culture and nature, our past and inevitably our future.” Poetic and true, it is easy to imagine Rod Sterling expressing a similar sentiment from somewhere in the Twilight Zone.
More about T-LOT here: