New Orleans artist Stephen Paul Day at the Arthur Roger Gallery
Archaeological of the Absurd
By Doug MacCash, New Orleans Times-Picayune
Stephen Paul Day is the master of fake history exhibits. In past years, he has produced a selection of spurious opera memorabilia, nontraditional interpretations of fairy tales, unreal Tennessee Williams ephemera and a traveling exhibit of factually inaccurate New Orleans souvenirs (with his wife, artist Sibylle Peretti). Now he has invented a set of anachronistic artifacts from an imaginary antebellum community known as Cabin Land.
The people of Cabin Land were obsessed with childhood memories the way the Minoans were obsessed with bulls. That explains the bronze statue of a rustic Pinocchio, the play table stacked with tiny tea cups and saucers, and the marvelous 5-foot-tall porcelain jigsaw puzzle.
Cabin Land was apparently saved from the great drought of 1863 by a miraculous spring that erupted from beneath one of the cabins. The event is retold in a detailed diorama featuring apparently real (you can”t be sure) antique cardboard house models. But the mysterious society died out anyway. Was the reason deforestation? That would account for the porcelain axes and stacks of porcelain firewood.
Day is a marvelous multimedia craftsman. Though his creations may be tongue-in-cheek, they have a way of tapping into the deep-seated wonder that real relics evoke. Cabin Land exists, if only for the time it takes to tour the gallery, if only in our minds.
“Cabin Land,” an exhibit of relics from an imaginary lost society, continues through May 30 at Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St.
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5.