“Interpreting Katrina”, The Daily Advertiser

Interpreting Katrina

New Orleans artists exhibit visions of post-hurricane rebirth



As you walk up the stairway to the upper floor of the Opelousas Museum of Art, you hear the sound of running water and chirping birds. Above that, you hear a woman singing a mournful song, her voice reflecting pain and longing.

The sounds are part of Dawn Dedeaux’s offerings in an exhibit titled “New Orleans Rebirth: Significant Artists Return,” on display through Dec.20.

Hurricane Suite in Nine Movements, 2006-2007

“It’s a series of six broken pieces of culvert with speakers at the entrance and exit of each culvert,” said Dedeaux via her cell phone, on her way back to New Orleans from a visit to her family in Alabama.

Going past the source of the sound, you walk into another room, where a massive piece sits on the floor. More than 3,000 pounds of glass makes up the first installment of her planned series, Hurricane Suite in Nine Movements.

The first piece, composed of nine glass panels covered with shattered glass, was inspired by what Dedeaux saw when she emerged from a house in coastal Mississippi, where she rode out Katrina in a house that had survived Hurricane Camille, thinking it would be safer than New Orleans.

“I walked to where shopping malls had been on the beach. They were all gone, but the parking lots were covered with an infinite amount of shattered tempered glass. I saw pelicans flying overhead. That was the first glimpse that life would go on,” said Dedeaux, whose studio was flooded, had roof damage and was burned in a post-Katrina fire accidentally set by people who had taken shelter there.

The exhibition was the idea of museum owner Nan Weir, said museum curator Keith Guidry “Nan said she didn’t want any pieces concentrating on the destruction. She wanted it to be about rebirth. The artists are not just artists, now. They’re ambassadors, because they lived through it.