After Katrina, New Orleans Artist’s Work Fueled By Obsession With Water
Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans sculptor Christopher Saucedo’s home and studio, leaving gallons of water behind in the wreckage.
But all that destruction became a sea change for his artwork.
As he sat in his FEMA trailer in the backyard of his home and studio in Gentilly, water, and the containers that held it, gained a new reverence for the artist. At that point, access to clean water meant life or death: H2O from the tap wasn’t safe and bottled water was at a premium. Just weeks after the hurricane, water containers began filtering their way into Saucedo’s drawings and one thought especially lingered — how much space he took up in the world according to his water weight. It can be argued that his vessel-filled artwork is, in a way, self portraits.
Full Coverage: Hurricane Katrina 10 Years Later
The artist’s home had taken on 8 feet of water during Katrina, some of which remained captured in his beer pints, martini glasses, and crystal vases after the flood waters receded. The storm’s liquid leavings fascinated him. “They were the physical record of Hurricane Katrina,” he told the New Orleans Advocate. “They weren’t an allusion to it; they were it.”
Instead of dumping the flood water, Saucedo kept it — and a decade later, still has it, sealed into a 5-gallon jug and duct-taped shut. Keeping it, he says, is empowering.
“The untold trillions of gallons of Katrina water that came into New Orleans wasn’t invited and humans couldn’t control it. If I can hold it and I can control it, then it’s a different situation. The idea is it is in my possession for me to use as I wish, not the other way around,” he said.
Bottles, cans, jugs, quarts, pints, and more, which have worked their way into dozens of exhibits over the last decade, are now Saucedo’s obsession — and it’s led to some striking art. Much of it will be on display in New Orleans this October at LeMieux Galleries, with two others at the Contemporary Arts Center through November. We pulled some of our favorite examples together, here.
And it’ll take more than a great flood to keep Saucedo away from ‘Nawlins, though he currently splits his time between New Orleans and Rockaway Beach in New York, where he teaches art at Adelphi University.
“I take great pride being a part of the post-Katrina rebuilding,” the artist has said. “I love New Orleans, and I’m at my best there.”
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