Monday, September 1, 2008

Arlene Elizabeth - New Work

My good friend, Arlene Elizabeth, shown here (L) with her partner, Ruth, and their son, Ian, has been featured on this blog previously. If you recall, she creates mosaics from folded paper cranes that result in the most incredible, thought-provoking works I've ever seen! Justice is a common theme in Arlene's work and her meaningful political statements are made with amazing visual impact.

Last week, I received an an email from Arlene with an attached photo of her latest piece, one I felt was so important, that I felt it warranted a blog entry all its own.

Memories of hurricane Katrina still weigh heavily on our minds as the partially rebuilt levees in New Orleans managed to hold against hurricane Gustav. However, authorities today warned of more storms to come after the weather system weakened and veered to the west of the city where my best friend and her two little girls sleep at night. Arlene's piece addresses Katrina and it's aftermath. May we never see another tragedy like that again!

This is the statement Arlene sent about her new work, unveiled to coincide with the third anniversary of Katrina. The current working title is "K-K-Katrina: Whitening Strikes Twice".

"Standing near a bloated body ten days after the levees broke in New Orleans, BBC reporter Matt Frei asked a question aloud that had been brewing in many peoples’ minds: “America is a country that will venture to the ends of the earth to recover the remains of the fallen. So, why won’t you just come here to pick him up?” Pointing to the body, floating face down in a shallow puddle, he then asked several different uniformed officials when the person would be removed, and exactly who was in charge of such procedures. He never got a satisfactory answer.
A few days later, I found a tiny figurine from 1939 in an antique store with the phrase “Educational Souvenir-New Orleans” on its’ pedestal. A caricature was sitting on a pin cushion eating watermelon. Researching its’ origin was a dead-end, and I was left to assume that the object was intended as a stark reminder of dehumanized portrayals of African-Americans in this country. Finding this object on that day cautioned me to consider what has changed.
At the end of Frei’s report he speculates; If 9/11 changed America’s view of the world, perhaps Katrina has changed America’s view of itself."

New Orleans 2005

Here is a picture of Arlene and my husband, John, standing by the piece before it was completed. I'm posting this one to give an idea of the scale and process.

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