In May 2016, I was given the opportunity to be a part of the Aquarium Gallery and Studios as artist in residence, located in the Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans, LA.
I spent a month creating new work to show at a solo exhibit in Rochester, NY, making figures on maps mounted on circular plaster backs. The intention of the series was to draw parallels between systems of celestial and earthly bodies; I called it Naked Planets.
Early on the morning of June 1, 2016, I received a message that the Aquarium Gallery had burned down. The artists who worked there and the people who lived there lost everything in the fire. When I arrived to see what I could salvage of the 20 pieces I had made for the show, I found that everything was soaked from the fire hose, damaged by smoke, and crushed under parts of collapsed ceiling and walls. For some reason in that moment I couldn't bring myself to pull the pieces together.
That night I started making new paintings with what I had-- remaining paints, and cardboard from a local bicycle shop. I was thinking about the fierce kindness and resilience of the community as we supported each other because of what happened, but that for anyone who didn't know me, there was no way to know what I was wrestling with. I remembered that I cross paths with people everyday who might be invisibly deeply struggling, and I thought, "What if we committed to see each other as if we are all recovering from a great personal challenge?"
The next day was my scheduled flight out of New Orleans. I met with a few of the other artists before leaving, and found out that one of them had picked the remnants of several pieces from Naked Planets from the rubble, cleaned them, and brought them to me. I was so touched by this act, and they now hang opposite the new work. The whole show is called re/cover.
This experience has been a reminder of the power of community, and the importance of seeing each other.
This show is dedicated to Jacob Martin, Ursa Eyer, Sadie Sheldon, Jenna Bonistalli, Maddie Stradt, Logan Ledford, and other artists and individuals connected to the Aquarium Gallery. Many thanks to Hannah Sadtler, Lauren Blair, Alex Kriegsmann, Ursa Eyer, and Sadie Sheldon.
P.S. There will be more information about how to support the rebuilding of the Aquarium Gallery and Studios soon.