by Doug MacCash, The Times-Picayune
Photo by Eliot Kamenitz, The Times-Picayune
No art exhibition could better bridge the gap between the joyous chaos of Carnival and the quiet contemplation of Lent than “Ersy: Architect of Dreams,” a 40-year retrospective of works by the New Orleans sculptor at The Ogden Museum of Southern Art through Sunday.
As your eyes wander among the toylike bronze figurines in Ersy’s miniature parade “Homage to the Society of St. Anne,” you will naturally smile at the charming costumes and fanciful floats arranged at eye level on a tall custom tabletop.
For a moment, you are a child again, swept up in wonder. But soon you’ll recognize, from the bird skulls, empty doll boots and unlit birthday candles, that Ersy’s whimsical symbolism is clouded with the specter of mortality.
Suddenly you are an adult once more, aware of life’s limited span.
Everywhere in Ersy’s meticulously crafted sculptures, a certain surrealist silliness runs snack dab into the Grim Reaper. Look for the mouse carcass in the Lilliputian bathtub — Ersy’s retelling of David’s “Death of Marat.” Look for the alligator shoes that comically fuse fashion excess and taxidermy. Look for the empty Egyptian-like ship of the dead, suspended in midair among magical Magritte-like umbrellas.s “Oyeme Con Los Ojos (Hear Me With Her Eyes)” exhibit is installed in adjacent galleries. [sic]
Combining Ersy’s sculpture with Josephine Sacabo’s eerie landscape photographs in this part of the exhibit was an inspired touch. The rest of Sacabo’ s “Oyeme Con Los Ojos (Hear Me with Her Eyes)” exhibit is installed in adjacent galleries.
To many in New Orleans, as the season of feasting gives way to the season of fasting, heroic images of classical gods and goddesses are displaced by humble images of the saints.
In Ersy’s exhibit, the saints are everywhere. Look for the sparrow-man pierced with tiny arrows like an avian St. Sebastian. Look for a cabinet that grimly evokes the torture of St. Agatha — the patron of bakers, whose breasts were amputated.
Best of all, behold the stunning craftsmanship in Ersy’s tribute to St. Leger, patron of the blind. Ersy’s sculpture of an anthropomorphic antique camera transfixed on a glass eye is like a scene from the movie “Hugo” come to life.
Ersy, a teacher at The New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts since 2000, commands the complex poetry of Crescent City life as well as she commands the materials in her demanding sculptures.
In “Ersy: Architect of Dreams,” the Ogden provides an artistic dream come true.
Ersy: Architect of Dreams
What: A 40-year retrospective of what works by the New Orleans sculptor Ersy Schwartz. The exhibit is paired with the photo exhibit by her friend of 30 years, Josephine Sacabo, called “Oyeme Con Los Ojos (Hear Me with Her Eyes).”
Where: Ogden Museum of Southern Art, 925 Camp St., 504.539.9600, ogdenmusuem.org.
When: Today through Sunday. Museum hours are Wednesdays through Mondays, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursdays from 6 to 8 p.m. for Ogden After Hours concert/receptions.
Admission: Adults, $10; seniors $8; children $5; free to Louisiana residents 10 a.m. to 5 Thurs. Visit ogdenmuseum.org.