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Blake Pontchartrain: Eleven sculptures on Elysian Fields

Neutral ground sculptures honor the 11 men who died in the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion

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Hey Blake,

There is a new group of sculptures near Elysian Fields and Dauphine. There are 11 slightly larger-than-life figures, facing outward in a circle in the neutral ground there. There is a plaque with a list of names in the center. I imagine that there is a story to go with this installation?

J.R.

Dear J.R.,

  The sculpture project on the neutral ground at Elysian Fields Avenue and Dauphine Street is titled Eleven and is a tribute to the 11 men who died in the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. Mississippi artist Jason Kimes unveiled the art project in September. According to The New Orleans Advocate, it was the brainchild of Michael Manjarris, a sculptor who runs the nonprofit group Sculpture for New Orleans.

  Manjarris says he was inspired to organize the public tribute after a chance encounter three years ago with the father of one of the victims. As they sat next to each other on an airplane, the father told Manjarris he felt the deaths of the rig workers had been overlooked by media coverage of the environmental disaster. Manjarris chose Elysian Fields Avenue for the public art tribute because of the street's name; in Greek mythology, it is the place where the souls of dead heroes go.

  Kimes was tapped to do the sculpture and created the steel figures over the course of eight months using a mold of himself. Each of them weighs 450 pounds and is composed of hundreds of tiny discs punched out from salvaged steel. "Each one is just tweaked a little bit," Kimes told The Advocate. "Some are thicker, some are narrower, and each one has [its] own perspective."

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