Pumped

I’m super pumped to announce that I’m having my first solo exhibition.

Pump Up

Nope, this photo won’t be part of it. It didn’t quite meet my exacting standards of quality. However several other photos from the same site and other locations in Louisiana and Indiana will be featured. Come on down to the Lower Nine and take a gander. It’s at the Martin Luther King Library, 1611 Caffin Ave., and it’ll be up for the entire month of December.

The name of the show is After the Peak, and it’s a fantasy about post-oil America. Every schoolchild knows that fossil fuels are not renewable resources. Someday, we will run out. The question is when. Some say we’ve already passed the peak of production, while others say we haven’t reached it yet. Currently our species seems hellbent on extracting all the petrochemical deposits from the Earth’s crust as quickly as possible. That only hastens our approach to depletion. As I photographed abandoned gas stations and automobile dealerships, I imagined a future when all such sites are neglected and left to fall into ruin.

Come join me for the opening reception on the 7th of December, 6-8pm. More details on PhotoNOLA.
Continue reading “Pumped”

Upcoming

  1. There’s a postcard show at Skewer Gallery (located inside Kebab at 2315 St. Claude) which opens this Saturday, 9 September 2017. My daughter and I will have several postcards on display. (Mine all have an autumnal equinox theme.) All postcard art will be on sale for $5 with proceeds going to support L’eau Est La Vie Camp and efforts to stop the Bayou Bridge Pipeline. Make it a part of your second Saturday art stroll. Have some dinner too.
  2. I’m honored to be reading my work at Antenna Gallery at 3718 St. Claude on Wednesday, 13 September 2017, for Letters Read: Regrets. This series focuses on “current and historically interesting letters written by culturally vital individuals.” If I am known for anything, surely it is my cultural vitality. Free and open to the public.
  3. Come out to Banks Street Bar on the autumnal equinox to catch the debut of Half Pagan — my musical collaboration with Michael Homan. That’s Friday, 22 September 2017 at 8pm. Come early, we’re playing a short set.

Speaking of the autumnal equinox, if you are in Bloomington be sure to snag a copy of the current issue of The Ryder magazine. I’ve got an article in there on the subject. The rest of you can read see it online or better yet buy my book — it will be at a reduced price (Kindle only) until the equinox.

Here’s a review of the essay from one reader, who happens to be my father-in-law:

Loved “The Other Equinox.”  Truly entertaining and well-written, and of much interest indeed!  I love the weave of the themes of metaphor and gratitude, and the notion of how a certain childlike innocence (trees as entities, etc.) might actually involve a higher truth. Most of all, I loved the way it came off as highly intelligent yet down to earth. Done your pappy-in-law proud, son!!!

Comiskey Shot

Comiskey Park Brandsource Community Center

Now that school’s back in session and my daughter’s back in daycare, I’m back to riding on the Jeff Davis bike path each morning on my way to work. That takes me past Comiskey Park and a sad tableau of signage for a community center that never materialized. I thought to myself a couple times over the past couple weeks that I should stop and take a photo. It would be one of those shots that tells much of the story all by itself.

Then, yesterday morning, I opened the paper to discover Eliot Kamenitz beat me to it. Imagine — scooped by a professional photographer.

So on the way home yesterday I snapped my own version. Better late than never.

I remember in late 2006 that a company named DNA Creative Media approached Mid-City Neighborhood Organization with a somewhat unusual proposition. They wanted to make a “reality show” about building something in New Orleans. One idea being floated was a community center at Comiskey Park in Mid-City, but they were also looking at other sites. MCNO rallied a bunch of neighbors to turn out and greet the producers when they visited Comiskey on November 29th of that year. I stopped by on my way home from work to support the cause. Many neighbors had made signs with slogans like “DNA + Mid-City = A Perfect Match.” In short, as a community we pulled out all stops to land this deal.

Apparently the producers were impressed by the warm reception. In some other neighborhoods they’d visited, people were more skeptical.

Perhaps we should have been more skeptical too. The whole thing struck me as bizarre. But remember, we were still in full-on recovery mode. Our future was far from clear. We were still living in a surreal landscape of destruction. We were desperate.

For a while things looked like they were proceeding according to plan. It was announced that Louis Gossett Jr. would host the show. Neighbors developed a wishlist for features they wanted to see. Soon, plans for a beautiful community center were unveiled. Here’s a description from the neighborhood discussion group:

The center will be a 2-story building which will include an indoor NBA-sized basketball court; a 4-station kitchen with commercial grade appliances (to be used for cooking classes and demos); and a general purpose room for meetings, theater, dance & exercise. A state-of-the-art computer lab with Internet access will encourage research by students of all ages as well as allowing families and friends still divided by the Katrina evacuation to keep in touch by email. The contract between DNA and the City was signed on February 6th. Demolition of derelict buildings on the site and construction of the new center is planned for later this year.

You can even listen to Damon Harman of DNA describe the project.

Some preliminary work began. In May of 2007 I took this photo.

Cranes on the Skyline

Some time after the piles were driven, work stopped. In October we read in the paper that the project was bogged down in governmental red tape. In March 2008 we learned that DNA was filing for bankruptcy. They were also facing a lawsuit from Paul Davis National, the contractor (based in Wisconsin) they’d hired. Paul Davis claimed DNA still owed them money for work completed.

And that’s brings us back to yesterday’s article by Masako Hirsch and Gordon Russell. It seems the City of New Orleans will have to pay the $700,000 owed to Paul Davis National.

Doesn’t seem quite right, does it? What I have to wonder — was the whole thing a scam from the beginning, or was it an “honest” bit of incompetent business, or did this run afoul of the global economic downturn, or did government bureaucracy slow things down so much it wrecked the project?

“I’ve lost all sense of what’s normal.”

I’m famous at last, quoted in an article on the Village Voice website by Anya Kamenetz, a former New Orleanian.

“I’ve lost all sense of what’s normal,” says New Orleans resident Bart Everson. His house, which took on five feet of water, stands at a crossroads in the city’s recovery — one of the points where people staring at destruction must decide whether to stay or go. At the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, he and his wife are back in their Mid-City home, in a neighborhood where fewer than 30 percent of the families own the place they live in and which most visitors might see only on their way to Jazzfest.

Absentee landlords have abandoned more than half the nearby buildings in his district. His neighbors across the street, an elderly African American woman with her three grandchildren, are gone, replaced by someone who seems to be a squatter. Newly arrived Hispanic laborers are paying twice the pre-Katrina rents, yet some have no electricity or gas. Some pile their unbagged garbage in the street. The block around the corner is full of FEMA trailers, and across the street is a grocery store untouched since the storm. Inside, rats scurry over a floor slick with rot.

And yet Everson, who works at Xavier University, and his wife, who teaches school, have no plans to leave. They are renovating their flooded first story. They complained to their City Council member about the garbage and the rats, and used Spanish-language flyers to persuade new neighbors to clean up. And most of all, the Eversons are active in their neighborhood organization, which like dozens around the city is working independently to devise a plan for rebuilding. Their group is proposing to form a community redevelopment corporation to buy blighted houses and provide a path to homeownership for those willing to renovate them.

“We want to give people a reason to move to Mid-City,” Everson says, especially people from more wrecked neighborhoods who can’t afford to buy in the areas that stayed dry. “I really think we are the best of the worst, as far as a flooded neighborhood that’s coming back.”

Also quoted: fellow NOLA bloggers Maitri and Karen Gadbois of Northwest Carrollton.

They also put up a slideshow of my photos. They even paid me ($150) for the photos, a totally unexpected windfall and ego-boost. The photo editor said I should shoot for money. How flattering is that?