As we approach the ides of July, the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina looms large. What a Katrina anniversary means depends on who you are, and what you saw or lived through, but we all know what it looked like thanks to endlessly recycled news photos of the cataclysm. Following Katrina and the floods, the messy rebirth of the city brought out traits we didn't know we had, as laid-back residents morphed into human pit bulls determined to reclaim our neighborhoods. That kind of energy can be contagious, and the creative community expanded as new artists, galleries and institutions took root. This Ogden Museum of Southern Art expo features the work of 11 photographers, including many newcomers, whose diverse visions reflect their perceptions of New Orleans' recent evolution.
Local folk have always had multiple personalities — in the form of masks and costumes — and that proclivity to extend dreams into reality propels Vanessa Centeno's Saint Thing series of images that meld the cultures of Mexican wrestlers and Catholic saints into a new strain of metaphysical gothic action figures. Tammy Mercure's Immortals series relates local folk to mythic archetypes, so here a purple specter in an LSU jersey harks to the Orpheus in Hades legend. Sophie Lvoff's photograph of the Saturn Bar (pictured) examines incremental changes like the new Saturn ceiling mural that replaced the damaged original while capturing the old tavern's eternally smoky aura of misplaced dreams and spilled beer. No less dreamlike is AnnieLaurie Erickson's photomural of refineries at night, glowing like ghostly afterimages of the industry that ravaged our coast even as its own extinction looms ever closer thanks to technological advances. Cristina Molina explores linear visual sequences as the tight channel of I-10 pours into the broad basin of a city where modernity and antiquity intermingle unpredictably. But life begins and ends with the sea, and William Widmer's image of a Mariner's Cross memorial rising from scabrous coastal ruins resonates like a bronze bell tone, a reminder of all things final yet eternal.