High Water: Hurricane Katrina Aftermath, by John L. Newman
Like many of us, U of A associate professor of art John L. Newman watched the events unfolding in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina with shock and disbelief.
But unlike most of us, Newman translated his response into works of art. "High Water," a series of graphite and watercolor images on display in Mullins Library, reflects Newman's raw emotional response to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
The pieces in the exhibit represent his attempt to "describe the plight of people uprooted from their comfort zones and plunged into life or death situations," says Newman. Many images depict the hardships faced by people who became trapped by the floodwaters. Some of them focus on the relief and joy of rescue, such as "Wading for Rescue," which depicts a small group of people in chest-high water wading toward a distant helicopter that floats like a dragonfly over the smooth surface of the city which became a lake. Other images, such as "Mourning the Loss" and "The Roof" focus on the individuals who did not make it to safety, and the impact of their loss as felt by their family groups.
Other pieces depict the difficulties faced by the individuals who remained in the devastated areas. "Entrance Denied," "Put the Water Down," and "New Orleans Police" all depict everyday individuals menaced by armed security forces in the open streets. Another image, "Waiting for Relief," depicts a group of dejected people sitting and waiting'"an image that was burned into the public consciousness in the days immediately following the hurricane and flood.
The images Newman created were based on stories he heard from friends and acquaintances, some of heartbreak and some of hope. Newman says he recently "traveled along our once-enchanting southern coast and witnessed first-hand the carnage of nature. The scenes I saw while traveling through Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana were horrific." But the force of nature's destructive power is not the focus of these pieces, which instead record the impact of the disaster on individual lives. Newman says, "I wanted to record my affection for the people involved in the calamity of the hurricane" as well as the "good and great people of our country who gave of their services, monies, time and prayers to provide shelter, food, and clothing for the people in need."
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