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NOMA Ogden Museum of Southern Art

New Orleans, LA

Ogden Museum of Southern Art
925 Camp Street
New Orleans, La. 70130
504/539-9600 phone
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Exhibitions:

The Guardian of the Wetlands: Works by John Taylor

Sheldon Scott Portrait, number 1 man (day clean ta sun down)

Outside In, Improvisations of Space The Ceramic Work of MaPó Kinnord

Preservative Force Recent Acquisitions to the Collection

BUILT Sculptural Art from the Permanent Collection

Events


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The Guardian of the Wetlands: Works by John Taylor
Through May 30, 2021

Presented in Collaboration with the National Wildlife Federation

Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the National Wildlife Federation present an exhibition of works from John Taylor, storyteller, environmentalist, self-taught artist and life-long resident of New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward. This exhibition features a variety of works by Taylor, including eight walking sticks carved from wood found along the banks of the Mississippi River and eight photographs of the Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle. The exhibition also features historical information about Louisiana wetland loss, and provides a number of ways people can get involved with restoration efforts.

Born in 1947, John Taylor has explored and celebrated the Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle his entire life. The only part of the Central Wetlands system that is located in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans, the wetland was once a place for the community to fish, catch turtles, go crawfishing and, for the children of the area, a magical place to explore. Cypress wood harvested from the swamp was used to build many of the homes that are still standing in the neighborhood today. As a boy, Taylor collected herbs and roots from the wetland and sold them to make money. Later, his dream to become a game warden was dismissed when he was told that there were no Black game wardens and that he should pursue other work. Consequently, Taylor dropped out of school and spent his time learning about the ecology and wildlife of the wetlands on his own.

Today, Taylor is not only a naturalist, but also a talented artist. His father taught him to whittle and, as a child, Taylor would hang around and carve with him instead of going out to play. As an adult, Taylor uses a simple utility blade and whittles on his porch every day, creating walking sticks made of driftwood collected from the wetlands and the river.

“The materials that I use, mostly driftwood, come from the swamps and wetlands that I walk through every day. Driftwood often has its own unique form that has been shaped by the water, so I help the wood express itself and let the beauty that is already there present itself… I am somewhat of an environmentalist, and I hope that if people see beauty in my art, which is derived from the natural environment, that they will find beauty not only in my art but in the place from which it comes.” [1]

After a trip to Haiti sponsored by LSU, Taylor also acquired an interest in landscape photography. Taylor now has a large portfolio of work, documenting the flora and fauna that he visits every day. He believes creating art is a kind of meditation.

Over his lifetime, Taylor has witnessed the 400-acre Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle transform from a vibrant freshwater cypress-tupelo swamp to a ghost swamp of brackish water. What used to be an old-growth swamp filled with cypress trees, water lilies and freshwater wildlife, such as fish, alligators, otters, birds and crawfish, is mostly open water today. Taylor observed that the swamp “used to be so thick with cypress trees that my brother and I boated it without paddles. We just grabbed onto trunks and pulled ourselves forward.”[2] However, in the early 1960’s, a newly built deep water shipping channel named the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO), allowed saltwater to encroach into the wetland. Consequently, many species died, such as the cypress trees Taylor remembers so fondly, along with numerous other species that had, up until then flourished, in the environment’s brackish water.

There is also an ongoing effort to restore the Bayou Bienvenue Wetland Triangle to its natural state, and with the closure of the shipping channel post-Katrina, Taylor has seen a resurgence of the wetlands. A historian, storyteller and now a staunch advocate for wetland restoration, he has spoken to hundreds of visitors and locals about the loss of protective wetlands and how it made his community more vulnerable to the levee failure and surge of Hurricane Katrina. Using his voice and his art, he continues this work, so that generations to come may also have access to the unique environment he holds so dear.
Coastal Louisiana Land Loss

Coastal Louisiana is made up of millions of acres of wetlands built over thousands of years by the Mississippi River. As floodwaters deposited huge amounts of sediment at the river’s delta, the new land ultimately formed a coastal ecosystem that makes up 40 percent of the wetlands in the lower 48 states. Louisiana’s wide array of coastal habitats are home to millions of birds, fish and other wildlife, including endangered or threatened animals like the Louisiana black bear, piping plover and green sea turtle. The wetlands also protect the homes of millions of people in South Louisiana. The coast’s unique culture is made up of people whose way of life is tied to the bayous and nearby wetlands, including Native Americans, Acadians (Cajuns), Creoles and other peoples who have settled here from all over the world.

The wetlands that make up the Mississippi River Delta are an extremely valuable resource that provide critically important regional and national services: providing seafood and wildlife for us to enjoy; improving water quality by filtering out pollutants and absorbing excess nutrients; replenishing aquifers; controlling erosion; and helping to dissipate storm surges.

At one time, there were extensive wetlands around New Orleans and other coastal communities that provided a natural resilience to storms. But the amount – and strength – of Louisiana’s wetlands has diminished drastically in the last century. Today, coastal Louisiana is losing 24 square miles of wetlands each year—roughly equivalent to a football field every 100 minutes. Since the 1930s, Louisiana has lost an area of coastal land equal to the size of the state of Delaware.

Wetland loss occurs because of both manmade and natural causes. Subsidence (natural sinking) and wave erosion are natural processes that can weaken and decrease wetlands over time. Humans cause wetland loss with the construction of river levees, which restrict the flow of river water, sand and mud into adjacent wetlands and stop the natural land-building process. Other human causes of land loss include channels, canals and dams. The Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) was a massive shipping channel completed in the 1960s that brought salt water into the freshwater wetlands, killing the trees, eroding the land and destroying tens of thousands of acres of protective wetlands that buffered communities like the Lower 9th Ward.

John Taylor witnessed the near-death of the beautiful and protective cypress swamp surrounding his community after the MRGO was constructed. During Hurricane Katrina, due in part to the wetland loss caused by the MRGO, the levees along the channel were decimated by storm surge, leading to catastrophic flooding of surrounding communities.

Hurricane Katrina underscored the importance of a healthy system of wetlands between New Orleans and the Gulf. Wetlands serve as nature’s first line of defense by absorbing much of the storm surge caused by hurricanes.

Today, the good news is that there are solutions at hand and restoration projects moving forward to help ensure the river delta is safe and sustainable for people and wildlife. National Wildlife Federation is a longtime advocate of coastal Louisiana restoration. They work with partner organizations and community leaders like John Taylor to advance landscape-scale, sustainable coastal projects. One of the keys to our success will be steady support from every person who cares.
About National Wildlife Federation

The National Wildlife Federation, America’s largest and most trusted conservation organization, works across the country to unite Americans from all walks of life in giving wildlife a voice. NWF has been on the front lines for wildlife since 1936, fighting for the conservation values that are woven into the fabric of our nation’s collective heritage. To restore the Mississippi River Delta, NWF works to expedite the design and implementation of large-scale initiatives that restore the Mississippi River’s natural capacity to build land, ensure the safety of communities and businesses in the river delta by advocating for hurricane protection that includes coastal restoration and non-structural measures, and create sustained national and state funding and political will to move restoration from plan to

Sheldon Scott Portrait, number 1 man (day clean ta sun down)
Through August 22, 2021

Portrait, number 1 man is a promised gift of Dale Mott and Ken Hyle, and this exhibition is made possible through their generosity.

HOST COMMITTEE
Brittany Bansak
Michelle Boudreaux & Toni Boyle Glassman
Jane & Ford Davis
Leake Family Foundation
Eclectic Home/Penny Francis
Kandice Mott
Mark & Michanne Mott
Jessica Stafford Davis
Henry Thaggert
Michael Wilkinson

Portrait, number 1 man (day clean ta sun down) is a performance film by D.C. artist, Sheldon Scott. With this work, Scott uses his own body to create a portrait of his ancestors, enslaved people from the Gullah/Geechee region of the Southeastern U.S. The 12 hour and 20 minute film documents an endurance performance by the artist, in which he processes rice grains individually with his hands. Through using his own body to represent an entire community of enslaved people, Scott restores humanity to the narrative of slavery in the American South.

“From sun up until sun down, the body will hull and winnow rice grains, then place the hulled grains, one by one, on a tomb-like vessel lined with burlap until the weight and value of the vessel equals that of the body laboring to fill it” he explains. “This rhythmic, inane process will communicate the transactional and the incalculable.”

Sheldon Scott is a native of Pawley’s Island, South Carolina. A former psychotherapist and professional storyteller, his fine art practice is primarily focused on performance and video installation. Scott mines his experiences growing up in the Gullah/Geechee South and his tenure in a mental health practice to examine the Black male form and expectations of usability and expendability as they relate to constructs of race, economics and sexuality. Portrait, number 1 man (day clean ta sun down) explores some of the most pressing social issues facing the nation and the region today: race, place, white supremacy and the brutal history and lasting legacy of slavery.

This film features a score by iconic singer-songwriter and composer, Tamar-kali, and features the cinematography of critically acclaimed filmmaker and artist, Jon-Sesrie Goff. Portrait, number 1 man (day clean ta sun down) was included in the exhibition, The Outwin 2019: American Portraiture Today, at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.

Outside In, Improvisations of Space The Ceramic Work of MaPó Kinnord
Through July 18, 2021

The ceramic work of New Orleans artist MaPó Kinnord is firmly rooted in the act of improvisation and explores space and form – both internally and externally – literally and symbolically. Through technical mastery and irreverent experimentation, Kinnord’s work in clay expands the traditional boundaries of the medium. Her studio practice pushes the potential of clay, as well as her own imagination, testing the limits of clay’s malleability and strength with her large-scale sculptures. By incorporating assemblage, collage, light, drawing and painting into her practice, she challenges the very definition of ceramic art.

Outside In, Improvisations of Space brings together works from throughout Kinnord’s career to illustrate her practice in clay. Allowing herself to be led by the material, she finds her greatest joy in the physical act of creation “I work with clay because I love the physical interaction with the material,” she explains. “My current work embodies the technical challenges and creative dynamic of improvisation.” Her organic clay improvisations can be considered three-dimensional drawings in space, and the resulting forms represent the physical evidence of that act of creation.

Through the building of architectural forms, Kinnord creates empty spaces within her sculptures. Dark internal spaces become a platform for further improvisation and creation, a place where she builds internal worlds through collage, painting, drawing, assemblage and light. It is through bringing light to the darkness of inner-space that Kinnord deepens the narrative elements of her work, creating intimate landscapes to comment on history, culture, identity, spirituality and social issues.

MaPó Kinnord grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. She received her first training in ceramics through Cleveland’s Quaker-founded alternative high school, the School on Magnolia. She apprenticed with several production potters before receiving her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Massachusetts College of Art in 1984. She received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Ohio State University in 1994. Arriving in New Orleans in 1995, she now serves as an Associate Professor of Art at Xavier University. A well-respected educator, Kinnord has taught workshops in Matsue, Japan, as well as the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Maine and the Penland School of Craft in North Carolina. Her Contemplative Clay Project explores clay-working as a meditative practice. A lifelong scholar, she has researched the traditional and contemporary art of Ghana extensively, and has produced video documentation of the traditional pottery, kiln building and ceramic architecture of West Africa.

Preservative Force Recent Acquisitions to the Collection
Through August 22, 2021

ARTISTS FEATURED
Willie Birch
Lynda Benglis
Mel Chin
Jeffrey Cook
Jon Corbino
Charles Delschau
George Dureau
Roy Ferdinand
William Hawkins
Horton Humble
Clementine Hunter
Ronald Lockett
Hudson Marquez
Purvis Young
And others

HOST COMMITTEE
Roger H. Ogden & Ken Barnes
Kohlmeyer Circle
Mrs. WW Kreft
Laura & Sonny Shields
Donna Vitter
Michael Wilkinson

Preservative Force brings together recently acquired works from a diverse group of artists working in various styles and media. By presenting a range of voices that have been added to the collection to tell the story of the American South, this exhibition encourages the viewer to examine the myriad ways artists use their own private languages to poetically express concepts of place, identity and aesthetics.

The title of this exhibition, Preservative Force, is drawn from a line in Richard Hugo’s book of poetics, “The “Triggering Town” (1979). In this influential book of essays on writing, Hugo suggests that poets develop a private vocabulary in which they are emotionally invested. Through this private language, the poet can powerfully convey their vision. By extending this idea to the visual arts, Preservative Force explores the many private visual languages of Southern artists through recent additions to Ogden Museum’s permanent collection. The title may also be seen as a reference to the Museum itself as a preservative force, caring for the works contained within.

“With the private poet, the words, at least certain key words, mean something to the poet they don’t mean to the reader. A sensitive reader perceives this relation of poet to word and in a way that relation – the strange way the poet emotionally possesses his vocabulary – is one of the mysteries and preservative forces of the art.” – Richard Hugo, “The Triggering Town”

BUILT Sculptural Art from the Permanent Collection
Through July 25, 2021

BUILT features works of art by the following artists:

Lynda Benglis
Clyde Connell
Jeffrey Cook
William Dunlap
Lin Emery
Skylar Fein
Lonnie Holley
Nene Humphrey
William Monaghan
Sherry Owens
Martin Payton
John T. Scott
Ersy Schwartz
Robert Tannen

Host Committee
Anonymous
Linda Burgess & William Dunlap
Carolyn & Jerry Fortino
Karen & Cameron Rezai
Holly & Geoffrey Snodgrass

BUILT draws from Ogden Museum of Southern Art’s permanent collection to examine the various ways artists of the American South have explored the power of the sculptural form.

Unlike two-dimensional art such as painting, drawing and photography – sculptural art engages three coordinates, existing in the same space as our bodies. For that reason, the viewer experiences sculptural works in a different way. Sculptural art emerges from the floor, wall or ceiling to inhabit the same space as the viewer in a way that pictorial art does not. Although still a visual art form, the viewer experiences this work as a more physical interaction.

The artists in this exhibition engage scale, proportion, shape, form, space, color and texture to convey their personal visions in Euclidean space. These artists create work in a broad range of mediums and with varying degrees of representation, while pushing the boundaries of their craft and carrying on traditions. Some create purely non-objective objects, and some build gestural improvisations, while others yet craft figurative representations. Some work in traditional sculpture mediums such as bronze, wood and clay. Some engage new mediums such as hydrostone, CelluClay, vacuum-formed plastic or neon. Someuse found objects such as inner tubes or scrap metal, while still others engage natural materials such as crepe myrtle branches or palm bracts. Two are painters who have added sculptural elements to expand the narrative of their paintings by engaging the third dimension. Yet whether they are using papier-mâché, iron or light, all of these artists are articulating form and building volume, essentially drawing in space.

Bradley Sumrall
Curator of the Collection

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