The series titled Ebb & Flow: Dialogues between art and water is the evolution of our Changing Landscapes residencies and reflects a movement to refocus our artists’ energies from the post-Hurricane Katrina landscape to the worldwide importance of water as underscored by the 2010 oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. Mark Davis, Director of the Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law & Policy, was instrumental in crafting the Ebb & Flow call to artists, explaining “The water we experience is not just hydrogen and oxygen but is the intersection of water as a physical, economic, legal, spiritual, cultural and artistic thing.” These factors frame why we believe this new residency theme will be of vital intellectual and visceral interest to both our artists and audiences in the coming years. The call is open to artists of all disciplines who have demonstrated an established dialogue with environmental issues and a commitment to seeking and plumbing new depths. Ebb & Flow is based on the premise that Southern Louisiana can be seen as a microcosm of the global environment, manifesting both the challenges and possibilities inherent in human interaction with urban and natural ecosystems. We ask artists to describe in detail how the region will affect their work, to propose a public component to their residency and to suggest ways in which they will engage with the local community.
2012-2013 Ebb & Flow Artists
Sarah Quintana, composer, New Orleans, 2012
“It is hard to imagine that I have been here six weeks. I don’t feel like I’m leaving and maybe a part of me will always be walking through the trees down to the levy. Maybe I’ll be back here soon. Let’s call this an opening statement instead of a closing statement. While I am leaving with new videos, songs, and hours of improvised music with nature and water, my work is not done. It has not even begun.
I came here with some clear intentions, of making music with water: composing songs, experimenting with cups bowls, mason jars and singing bowls. This residency has been one giant lost and found sound ceremony. While I desire a show and album, I came here a student and I learned about service. I am impressed at the quality of service A Studio in the Woods offers to its environment and to its resident artists. The Carmichaels, staff and forest have taught me about the preciousness of life and the responsibility of the artist to serve and protect life. These are the pearls of my residency.
The first week I was here, Lucianne Carmichael says, “I just let the forest do her thing out there.” This is pretty much how they treat the artists too. A Studio in the Woods is more than a home it is a habitat. It has been so nice! I have shaken off the weight of conventional song writing, jazz, the music business and any ideas or notions of what I would make, like dead leaves. Well, I tried to as much as I could. It’s scary! But in doing so, I found my work.
The work was the tea cup glockenspiel, the mason jar pitch drum, singing tubes, tears, tireless improvising in the black willow forest, straws, dawn recording sessions, field recordings, a free improvisation water and tea party, the bathtub steel drum saxophone, singing to ducks spiders, echoes off a barge, singing folk-anthems down drains, singing the river an written apology, singing for friends, folks and the fern forest.
Half of the work is showing up and the other half is doing it. Then you do it again and again and again, regardless of countless mosquitos and failures. And you wake up the next day and you ask the work what it needs and then you do it. My work needed opening, experimentation, new instruments, more listening, and water. It needed to be honest. It needed to be outside and awake at 4 am. It needed to be shared with others and given away. It needed to happen right here in the heart and hands.
Being alone for 6 weeks was intense. But, if you put the words alone and all one together they are the same. Having the Carmichaels, Cammie, Ama and Dave here really made the experience informative and complete. Having the tea party and letting the public come and play with all the new water instruments I found was essential to blessing this new project wherever it goes. Performing is a part of who I am— and there is this need to create. But the need to give is a human need. It is a deeper need. It is life acknowledging its own generosity. Life just gives. Lucianne taught me so many things but one of the biggest is that when you give paradise away you prove it exists. I am in awe of this place, all around.
I am leaving the studio today with the rare kind of openness that comes from the mud. Like the fertile soil here at the mouth of the river. I wonder what is going to happen! Thank you so much to Cammie, Ama, Dave, Lucianne, Joe and the Board for this rare and life changing blessing.”
Sarah Quintana is a charming performer, a dedicated instrumentalist and composer, and her voice is instantly recognizable. A graduate of NOCCA and Loyola in New Orleans, she received a CODOFIL scholarship to study in France. Quintana has a background rich in roots music- New Orleans jazz, blues, folk and Cajun– and playfully incorporates these styles in her songwriting and interpretations of classics. Quintana splits her time between New Orleans and France and tours with the project Omax to Lomax and La Companie Nine Spirit led by saxophonist Raphael Imbert from Marseille. She is on the 2012-14 Jeunesse Musicales de France, artist’s roster— France’s largest touring agency. In New Orleans, Quintana has played and recorded with the New Orleans Moonshiners. An upcoming documentary by Monique Verdin and Sharon Linezo Hong called “My Louisiana Love” features Quintana’s voice and in May, Quintana released her first studio album of Jazz-folk originals— The World has Changed.
Andy Behrle, sculptor, Washington, 2012
“Winding down my time at A Studio in the Woods, I take a moment to consider the impact that this experience has had on my artwork. I have been given an amazing opportunity to create a large scale sculpture that will be accessible to the public for over a year. A Studio in the Woods made amazing contacts with Longue Vue House and Gardens and set the groundwork for my project to take place. With the help of the program, a publication has gone to print documenting the inspiration of this enormous undertaking. Having the opportunity to collaborate with the Garden Staff of Longue Vue will add a new element to my work which I undoubtedly would never have been able to accomplish alone. My work and my resume have taken a giant leap forward.
These have all been wonderful art opportunities which I will always be grateful to have been able to accomplish with the help of so many. But, these opportunities do not speak for what this residency has truly given me. The friendship that Joe and Lucianne Carmichael have entrusted to me will forever change me. Spending time around the fireplace in the evening talking about the day’s events and tomorrow’s challenges has provided priceless moments. The gift of their stories, their warmth, and their generous spirits will forever be a part of me. To see firsthand how Joe and Lucianne offer their whole selves, all their belongings, and their home to strangers for a higher purpose is simply inspiring. Being witness to their life together has given me insight into what being in a symbiotic relationship really means. They have moved me in many ways.
Beyond my life as the live-in friend of Joe and Lucianne, many other experiences have given me a greater understanding of life in Southern Louisiana. Walking in the woods with Dave Baker, the resident botanist at A Studio in the Woods, pointing out species that belong and those that don’t will forever change how I look at my surrounding environment. Strolling along the levee and spying on the ships waiting for port has added to my understanding of this great city. Breathing the fumes of the refineries as I drive between the West Bank and the city and passing a field of longhorns showcases the dichotomy that exists throughout South Louisiana. Taking a tour of the wetlands in the Manchac Wildlife Area, I’ve seen the impact of humanity’s harvesting of natural resources where a cypress forest once stood and may never again. I had the chance to drive through St. Bernard Parish, collecting some materials for my art project along the way, and witnessed the breakwall that has appeared almost overnight. Along the way, I also bore witness to the littered landscape left behind by Hurricane Isaac just months earlier.
My time at A Studio in the Woods did not revolve around me spending time in my studio in the woods. My process was much different – requiring time spent in the many cemeteries of New Orleans, on the grounds of Longue Vue (planning and then assembling my artwork), and many trips to the hardware store to gather materials. I wish I had more time to wander the grounds and sit in the quiet of the woods, but I am grateful that I was encouraged to create my artwork each and every day. I am honored to be included in the list of amazing artists who have shared this experience.”
Born and raised outside of Boston, Massachusetts, Andy Behrle pursued and received a Master of Fine Arts at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona in 2003. In the Southwest, he found a correlation between the vastness of the ocean and the desert and a new-found interest in Time and the footprint of humanity on our planet. The combination of Behrle’s upbringing and interests coalesced in the creation of his first large-scale time-based immersive installation and changed the direction of his artwork. Behrle has received solo exhibitions at 621 Gallery in Tallahassee, Florida and the Mary G. Hardin Center for Cultural Arts in Gadsden, Alabama. Recent work by Behrle was honored with a Merit Award at Huntsville Museum of Art’s triannual exhibition, Red Clay Survey in 2012 and will be on display in Grand Rapids, Michigan for ArtPrize 2012.
Mary O’Brien and Daniel McCormick, visual artists, California, 2013
“Our work as environmental artists was realized in a new way in the wetlands of Coastal Southern Louisiana. We worked in Plaquemines Parish—the parish with the most combined land and water area in the state of Louisiana. By focusing on a series of site-specific activities employing protective components, we conducted an inquiry into the relationships between people, land, and water. We sought ways to give aesthetic weight to the restoration process of coastal wetlands in Southern Louisiana. We worked to design a project that could serve as a catalyst for public engagement and involvement. We presented a design for interventions to the non-scientific community—property owners, residents, civic organizations and academics.
Designed as an installation in the Mississippi Delta community of Venice, a hub for commercial and recreational fishing and offshore transportation services, we developed a restoration device that dealt with the site-specific issues interfering with the restoration of bald cypress planting in this area. We tested and adjusted our implementation of this device, and our desired outcome was realized. We designed this effective device in a way that is easy for individuals and groups to manage, so that it could have application to other communities and restoration groups in the greater New Orleans area. Our installation becomes an easy-to-use and re-use, cost effective method to protect bald cypress seedlings through their first two years of growth—past the time they are vulnerable to predation from nutria. It consists of devices that can easily be removed from the growing trees, and reused each year for new plantings.
Line of Defense is aimed at helping restore the constantly eroding lands in Southern Louisiana, but more importantly, it provides tools citizens can use to help re-create the natural storm surge barriers needed during hurricanes. While government and commercial interests are a factor, local landowners have access to a large portion of the land in the Delta. In this area, individual efforts could become one of the biggest advantages in pervasive wetlands restoration.
Our completed installation is aimed at both resident and visitors alike. We flagged our installation site so boaters could see and avoid the planting area. We created a graphic symbol to identify the restoration effort, distributed it in the form of flags and stickers, and linked it to our website for additional information. Our installation, and the on-going aspects of the project allow us to continue inquiries into present day relationships between community, land and water and investigate more ways in which they influence each other.”
Daniel McCormick and Mary O’Brien create sculptures that have a part in influencing the ecological balance of compromised environments. They are an artist team who collaborate to create environmental art installations that have a remedial trajectory. These works are intended to give advantage to natural systems, and after a period of time, as the restoration process is established, the artists’ presence diminishes, and the end result is remedial. Daniel McCormick is an interdisciplinary artist/design professional with integrated skills in the fields of environmental design, sculptural installation and ecological restoration. He was educated at the University of California, College of Creative Studies and has a BA from UC, Berkeley College of Environmental Design. Mary O’Brien is a sculptor and creative director. She has a BA in Political Science from Marquette University and a Certificate in Studio Arts from UC Berkeley.
Isabelle Hayeur, visual artist, Canada, 2013
“My ongoing body of work Underworlds takes me through North America to probe various underwater environments, especially polluted ones, but also fragile and threatened ecosystems. Working with an watertight housing that allows me to photograph submerged environments of all kinds, I dive into troubled waters of dubious, uncertain origin. At this point, I have photographed in many rivers, lakes, swamps and in the Atlantic.
During my six-week artist-in-residency at A Studio in the Woods, I documented some Southern Louisiana bayous and The Mississippi River. I had the chance to work with Monique Verdin as my assistant and guide for those shootings. I learned a lot from Monique, about the region, the ecosystems and the people.
I have been working of images on a daily basis at the studio. My stay has been really productive; I have never worked so much in a six weeks period. I have created many new images and I have taken a lot of video footage. As a final residency project, four photographs have also been exhibited on billboards throughout the city of New Orleans, from April 5 – 28. It was important for me to get some of those images out of the studio and to make them available to the inhabitants of New Orleans.
I also worked on a blog (http://hayeur.tumblr.com/) and I published images & comments every day until final project. I have published 32 posts. This journal was a way to share experiences with others but also a good tool for me to reflect on my experiences and to remember them. The residency was a great experience to reflect on the interconnectivity between human and nature.
I came here to find if that relationship was harmonious or not, knowing in advance that Southern Louisiana had experienced environmental disasters. I am interested in altered landscapes and I knew I was going to find them here and I did. But I found also something else. Spending so much time at A Studio in the Woods made me experience something different. A lot of things here have been thought and constructed in respect with nature. The house itself is a good example of balance. It has been built from recycled woods and with respect of the forest around. The land is being restored and studied by Dave, who is doing a remarkable work. So my stay in Louisiana has been contrasted in that sense, because I saw dying and disappearing ecosystems, but I also that it was possible to change that non-harmonious relationship. The whole place: the house, the land and the people at the Woods serves as an example for people to see that another relationship is possible.”
Since the late 1990s, Isabelle Hayeur has been known for large-format digital montages her videos and her site-specific installations. Both appealing and alarming, her work presents vast landscapes that denounce the no-man’s-lands that modern and contemporary civilizations allow to emerge. Hayeur was born in Montreal (Quebec) in 1969. Her artworks have been shown in the context of numerous exhibitions and festivals. She has taken part in several important exhibitions, including the National Gallery of Canada, at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), at the Musée d’art contemporain of Montreal (MACM), at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts (MassMoca), at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago (MoCP), at the Tampa Museum of Art, at Bruce Silverstein Gallery in New York, at the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein in Berlin, at Akbank Sanat in Istanbul, at the New York Photography Festival and at Les rencontres de la photographie in Arles, France. She is represented by Division Gallery in Montreal.
2011-2012 Ebb & Flow Artists
Rebecca Snedeker, writer, New Orleans, 2011 & 2012
“My three-week daytime residency kicked off the “Ebb and Flow: Dialogues Between Art and Water” 2011-2012 residencies at A Studio in the Woods. A light sprinkle began when I first arrived, and Lucianne and Joe greeted me, delighted that the sprinkle was quickly becoming rain. A severe drought had been devastating the pond and weakening the forest. We took some pleasure in the idea that their invitation to artists to consider the qualities of water had beckoned the first rain in some time. Later, from the porch swing by the studio, I took deep breaths and watched rain become pond. This was just the beginning of a magical time in the woods. In just a few days and during what became Tropical Storm Lee, the grounds were transformed from dry to spongy; the low, algae covered pond rose and started teeming with life.
“The residency was instrumental for the early phase of “Immortal City: A New Orleans Atlas”, an imaginative book that Rebecca Solnit and I are creating in collaboration with cartographers, contributing writers, visual artists and researchers.
“My daily commute, which varied from 40-90 minutes, gave me opportunity to traverse the city, to see the city from street, highway, and bridge levels, and to wonder about this small metropolis perched on subsiding land along the final drain of the big river. This travel time was a key ingredient of my residency — a perfect time for thinking about how to map this place in new ways and also an important time for transitioning between my home life and the studio time.
“I spent my days at ASITW imagining maps for our atlas, writing preliminary descriptions of them, reading about this place, meeting with collaborators, observing the life around the pond, and talking long walks along the levee. The three weeks were a gestational period, during which I had the mental space to consider the book as a whole and time for particular tasks that pushed the project along. I completed the book proposal the first week, and we were offered a book contract by the end of the residency.
“The staff at ASITW is exceptional. The choice to connect each artist with community members and resources is outstanding (and rare, I’d suspect). Ama and Cammie carefully listened to me describe both my hopes for the project and some acute challenges, and they offered introductions to various community members who could be of support. These introductions are already impacting the project! Similarly, the residency dinner they hosted had a pivotal impact on the project. The dinner created a space to bring the previously confirmed collaborators together for the first time, introduce the project to a larger community, and rope in people who are now formally involved, all igniting the local life of the project.
“Being in New Orleans city limits and within a forest impacted me deeply, particularly in how it helped me imagine other time periods, past and future. Walking with Dave in the woods and seeing the forest through his eyes fundamentally changed my understanding of where I was and what I was looking at. And Joe shared his research with me about the peninsula, which helped me understand where we were. I’ve lived my whole life in New Orleans and before the residency hadn’t even understood how that peninsula is (literally) shaped.
“Being around Lucianne and Joe was grounding personally. They inspire me to try to lead a life in which I continually evolve, take creative risks, and be accountable to others and to this place that we love.
“All of the components of the ASITW residency: its location (and for me the commute), the Carmichael’s presence and their respect for the artists’ creative process and solitude, Ama and Cammie’s choice to connect the artist with community members, and botanist David Baker narrative of forest life, all enriched this creative atlas project and my personal path immensely, in tangible ways and more mysterious ways that are just beginning to be revealed.”
Rebecca Snedeker is an independent documentary filmmaker whose work supports human rights, creative expression and her native city, New Orleans. Her directorial debut, By Invitation Only (2006), premiered at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival and screened at festivals, conferences and PBS stations nationwide. More recently, she produced Land of Opportunity (ARTE France, 2010), Siskel/Jacobs Productions’ Witness: Katrina (National Geographic Channel, 2010) and Choices, featuring Terence Blanchard and Dr. Cornel West (Concord Records, 2009). As Archival Researcher and/or Associate Producer, she has contributed to numerous documentaries, including A Village Called Versailles (Independent Lens, 2010), Faubourg Treme: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans (National PBS Broadcast, 2007), and Desire (Free Speech TV, 2007). Snedeker serves on the board of Video Veracity, a fiscal agent for independent media projects, and is an active member of New Day Films, the 40-year-old filmmaker-owned distribution company. Snedeker received her B.A. in Fine Arts from Wesleyan University.
Benjamin Morris, writer, New Orleans, 2011
“In my time here, I have come to think of A Studio in the Woods as a beacon. In the physical sense, certainly, as a house full of light, guiding one home from the darkness of the forest, but moreso in the symbolic sense: as a place of rest and refuge, where the weary feel restored and wanderers find anew their path. Each day I asked myself again: could it really be true? That a place of such limitless warmth and hospitality could exist, a place which serves as much a sanctuary for the storm-battered as it does an inspiration for the seekers and strivers? There’s a word for that kind of place, but for some reason, it’s falling just outside of reach.
“Undoubtedly, the refuge the Studio offers is the rarest of its gifts: the unbroken consciousness that this time makes possible, the freedom, outside the intrusions and distractions of the modern world, to pursue any question that arises to the depth required, and to move seamlessly from an insight gained into the practical application of that insight into the work. To work at one’s pace, free from constraint, able to explore purely at will: when, except as children, are we afforded such luxury?
“In sum, my time here was spent in equal parts reading, writing, and exploring. Because my project focused on the life of the forest, and the nature of forest landscapes, I aimed to immerse myself in that landscape as fully as possible: in order to learn as much as I could about it, and in order to understand the complex interactions between the species – flora and fauna from Betula to Bostrichid. Those interactions, situated within the broader physical landscape of the region, form the core of this project, a new poetry collection provisionally entitled Ecotone. Suffice to say that, apart from the insights they offer, the pleasures of that immersion are many. Here are a few: returning to the studio each day covered in mud, sweat, blood, stains of unknown origin, leaves in my bag and larvae in my pocket, twigs in my hair and burrs on my boots, and countless numbers of spores, seeds, samaras, and other particles of woodland life invisibly affixed to every article of clothing I wore.
“I only vaguely remember coming home from work any other way. I’m not sure I want to go back.
“The practical aspects of the residency are not to be understated, either: with the support of the Studio I was able to obtain new tools and methods of working that I never would have been able to otherwise, and its support has led directly to the production of my first book, Coronary, a limited-edition letterpress poetry book produced by Fitzgerald Letterpress here in New Orleans. But most of all I am grateful for the relationships that the Studio nurtures as part of its mission – connections to others in the field, opportunities for further development, and a growing community of artists, researchers, thinkers, and activists engaged in preserving this precious landscape. The beauty of this work is that it does not end when one drives back up the river road: these relationships are ongoing, and as a New Orleans resident, I look forward to giving back to that community however I can.
“But. All material considerations aside, the image of the beacon endures. A beacon where our finest selves are let loose to roam, permitted – no, encouraged – no, enabled – to do what we want to do, what we’re in this life to pursue. There’s that missing word: it’s as close to heaven on earth as it gets.”
A native of Mississippi, Benjamin Morris is a writer and researcher whose work occupies the space between cultural and natural worlds. His work — poetry, fiction, plays, and essays – appears in such places as The Oxford American, The Southern Quarterly, Horizon Review, Dark Mountain, and BBC Radio, and has won such awards as a fellowship from the Mississippi Arts Commission, the Poetry at Noon contest from the United States Library of Congress, and the Chancellor’s Medal for Poetry from the University of Cambridge, where he recently completed a PhD in Archaeology. Editor at-large at Forest Publications, and affiliate researcher at the Open University, he lives in New Orleans.
Roy Staab, installation artist, Wisconsin, 2011
“On the flat lands of Louisiana way down the river road along inside the levee and then you turn right into a driveway at 13401 to find a house back in the woods. This house has a large oak tree just above the roof, a protection and cover to be part of nature. The focus is back into the woods and the pond. The artist studio [once an art gallery] has a deck that is over the pond and the woods. Here I write and think and come up with ideas for my art making.
“I am fascinated by the Mississippi River near by so my first day I went along the river and found a beach for my art, the black willow grove on the batture. I used a past technique to make a drawing –with my footsteps in the mud. On the same site a few days later I use the dead sticks found in the grove on the beach. I watched the river flow with wave wanting the reflection. But the action of the waves proved to be very interesting with the work that I recorded on video – ebb & flow.
“In the discussion of making my art at A Studio in the Woods, no matter what I designed before coming here and in my proposal, they understood I came here to create and make the art that I designed while here. How open and healthy of an artist residence.
“This residency is special because it is near New Orleans; a special art scene in America, in the South and in a beautiful unique city.
“I came here and made art that I would not have done if I were home in Wisconsin. So coming here was forced creation. So I made six installations in my stay here that I would not have done otherwise.”
Roy Staab was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and received a BFA from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He traveled and worked as an artist in Europe for ten years before moving to New York City for 15 years. He currently resides in Milwaukee. It took ten years for Roy Staab’s art to evolve from painting, to line structure on paper, to installation 1979. In 1983 he started to make works in/over water — large works, using only natural materials gathered from near by. He became really a peripatetic artist making my art installations in many places in the world. He has received various awards including a Japan/American Artist Exchange Creative Artist Fellowship, Pollack/Krasner Grant, Gottlieb Foundation Award and the Joan Mitchell Award. His paintings, drawings and photographs can be found in the collections of the Musée d’art moderne and Le fonds national d’art contemporain in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Recent installations are: SCULPTURE Omi Sculpture Park, Ghent, New York; EarthArt, Royal Botanical Gardens, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; Marbaek Beach near Esbjerg, Denmark, ENERGY CENTER, Guandu International Outdoor Sculpture Festival, Taipei, Taiwan; Roy Staab: Four Seasons/Four Corners, Inova, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; INVASIVE SPECIES, Cheng-Long Wetlands International Environmental Art Project, Taiwan; EcoArts Festival, Manyunk, Philadelphia; Eau Claire Currents, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Katie Holten, mixed media artist, Ireland, 2012
“A Studio in the Woods is a special place.
“I was invited to develop a project for the New Orleans Museum of Art. Specifically – to make a new work addressing the ecosystem of the city and its relationship with water. So, I needed to find a space in New Orleans where I could spend time researching and developing the project. ASITW was the perfect place and I was thrilled to be awarded a six-week residency.
“Lucianne and Joe Carmichael are kind and gracious hosts. With an understanding and appreciation of the local environment they have created a beautiful home and studio right on the edge of the Mississippi River. While their neighbors have replaced oak trees with lawns, the Carmichael’s have let the native hardwood forest do its thing.
“The luxury of working at A Studio in the Woods allowed me to split my residency between quiet and active research.
“Active Research = Site visits and expeditions around the city and further afield. ASITW introduced me to various experts in different fields who were gracious enough to meet and give me tours. Experts included Daniel Etheridge (Tulane), Alex Kolker (LUMCON), Richie Blink (coastal restoration) as well as the on-site environmental curator Dave Baker. I was lucky to have local artist/filmmaker Monique Verdin as my driver.
“Quiet Research = Reading and drawing and reading some more. I spent most of this time on the porch swing outside my studio. This has to be one of the most beautiful places that I’ve ever worked. The steady stream of birdsong, and river boats, was the soundtrack, while the little anole lizards were my reading companions. During my time at ASTIW I began a series of new drawings and made lots of notes for other works – the residency will continue long after I depart on February 16.
“The Ebb and Flow Residency is an important program, for not only New Orleans, but also the country and internationally. At a time when ‘peak water’ is increasingly an issue it is vital that we have places such as ASITW where people can spend focused time investigating the issues. It was the ideal location for me to contemplate the river, the city, our place in it, the relationship between man and river, the history, the future…
“I look forward to returning to New Orleans in a few months to install my work at NOMA.”
Katie Holten (Dublin, 1975) is a visual artist motivated by cultural, political, and social circumstances. In 2003 she represented Ireland at the 50th Venice Biennale. During her residency she will investigate, through the specific condition of New Orleans and the Mississippi River Delta, mankind’s relationship with the natural world “in the Anthropocene.” The Anthropocene defines Earth’s most recent geologic time period as being human-influenced, or anthropogenic, based on overwhelming global evidence that atmospheric, geologic, hydrologic, biospheric and other earth system processes are now altered by humans. Building upon the critically acclaimed public artwork prototype she created in Tree Museum (New York, 2009), Holten plans to research the historical, current, and projected ecosystem of New Orleans and the Mississippi river delta, through site visits and engagement with local communities and express these scientific and ecological investigations through drawings and sculpture.
Nina Nichols, performing artist, New Orleans, 2012
“I am leaving the woods with an intense sense of gratitude and peace of mind. The work that i have been doing is based on the untainted Delta region, before industrialization. I think that Lucianne said it best when I was working on a puppet and she said, “you want it to look as if it just grew there”. You always hear about “site-specific” installations but, this time I feel like I have had the opportunity to finally make something true to this land and that the intensely diverse and colorful ecosystem here has become part of the way that I smell, feel and see. I have gone to sleep with a chorus of owls hooting every night and woken to the frogs chirping in the pond. I have been stirred from sleep by armadillos and acorns and gotten to run along the levee where the egrets hunt every morning. The most amazing part of this is going to be presenting this body of work in France and Spain. As Louisiana artists I think that we forget about the richness of our culture until we take it to a foreign city. I could not be more excited to be able to present these puppets and costumes at an international festival where we will stick out like a sore thumb, a thumb covered in rhinestones and glitter with a sad and beautiful song to sing.
“It strikes me that this is a wholly unique experience for artists. Never have I been able to give focus to my work like I was able to during my residency. My most difficult stumbling block as a working artist is to manage the web of needs, demands and dreams whilst giving the entirety of myself to the project at hand. This residency is constructed in a way that gave me a sense of liberty from all daily stresses. The space itself is set up so that all of the windows face the serene pond and surrounding wilderness, allowing for privacy and deep meditation. I feel like for the first time I have had the liberty to make as many mistakes as I wanted to, be more specific and neurotic that I usually let myself be and invent new processes. Every time that I am making a theater piece or family of puppets it has been with limited time and space and with a million other things on my mind and I have oftentimes had to go in front of an audience with something not entirely complete, but this has been immersive.
“I realized early on in my stay that probably the most valuable resource that I had were the keepers of this magical place, Joe and Lucianne. Because I am creating a theater piece based in the 1930s in the Delta, it has been a gift to be in the presence of two people who were actually alive at the time and whose wealth of information on the area is immense. The act of living with them for this time and listening to their stories can give you a clear sense of how life was before the land was altered by sprawl and industry. They make it clear immediately that their only wish is to give you a space, without worry, to complete your objective.
“I will be forever grateful for the space and time that you have allowed me. I am so proud of the show that I have been able to create and I hope, for the sake of environmentalists, Louisiana artists and visitors to this area that this residency can continue forever and I will do anything needed to assist in it’s prosperity.”
Nina Nichols is the active president of “The Black Forest Fancies Non-Profit Organization”, an experimental community arts promotional group, helping to extend the gifted members of the arts community of New Orleans to work with dreamers all over the world. Nina is a theatrical designer, parade arts teacher, playwright and installation artist working and living in New Orleans. Her work emerges from a fascination with sustainability, natural diversity, wild pollination and mutation. For her work with local parade arts workshops and theatrical puppetry, Nina and her company received grants from the Andy Warhol Foundation, the Jim Henson Foundation, The Puffin Foundation, The Black Rock Arts Foundation and the Annenberg Foundation. Nina’s most recent play, The Lead Paint Libretto was the number one “must see” at the 2010 New Orleans Fringe Theater Festival.