Of late, New Orleans in general and St. Claude Avenue in particular have emerged as something of a national epicenter of DIY emerging artist activity, and in some ways it is extraordinary. But it's also is a phenomenon with deep roots tracing back to institutions and galleries that have focused on emerging artists all along, not just in the present. In that sense, the 15th annual No Dead Artists show at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery marks a continuation of an old tradition. As always, it is something of a grab bag. The 37 works were selected by jurors Toby Devan Lewis, William Morrow and Susan Taylor from the roughly 1,500 submitted by more than 300 artists, and viewing them is like reading tea leaves as portentous trajectories of talents and trends converge to reveal names and ideas that, if history is any guide, may later resurface with increasing luster.
Many of this year's offerings focus on questions of identity and appearance with an emphasis of how traditional perceptions are affected by ongoing technological evolution. That things are not always what they seem is evidenced in Rebekah Miller's Skins sculpture of suspended birch tree trunks that, up close, reveal zippers in their bark with telltale traces of lace showing underneath in a kind of trans-species cross-dressing. But Britney Penouilh's mixed-media collages of technological breakthroughs suggest the scientific process may always have been more nuanced than we thought. Alissa Polan's psychodramatic portraits explore a realm where photography, identity and the subconscious coalesce in emotionally charged imagery, and Ema Sintamarian turns the visible world inside out, reducing it to colorful vortexes (pictured) in works that remind us that everything we thought was solid is really energy in motion. That energy reverts to gravitas in Meg Turner's meticulous photogravures of old industrial structures, suggesting the processes of entropy are like a slow dance in which the grandeur of the past yields, often grudgingly, to an ever more conjectural future. — D. Eric Bookhardt
Through Sept. 24
No Dead Artists: Juried Exhibition of 14 Emerging American Artists
Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, 400A Julia St., 522-5471; www.jonathanferraragallery.com