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Ten Years Gone, the New Orleans Museum of Art’s exquisitely curated meditation on time, memory and loss, begins in the Great Hall, where the walls are hung with the dreamlike Underworlds of photographer Isabelle Hayeur.

Shot from below the water’s surface in Louisiana and the Northeast, her waterworld views of swamps and industrial canals play with normal perspective and are both disturbing and mesmerizing, setting the stage for what’s to come.

Enshrined at the top of the stairs is Dawn DeDeaux’s Water Marker. The towering translucent slab, part of a set of four scattered around the museum, is embedded with a digital image of an actual waterline left by the levee breaches, and is one of the few Gone pieces created directly in response to Katrina. But like everything else in the exhibit, which runs through September 7, it is also strangely beautiful and alludes to a passage of time marked by eons, rather than decades.

Christopher Saucedo, 'World Trade Center as a Cloud, No. 5'

Nicolas Nixon, 'The Brown Sisters, New Canaan, Connecticut'

Dawn DeDeaux, 'Water Markers'

Spring Hurlbut, 'Airborne'

The entrance to Gone’s main second-floor installation can be hard to find; I climbed the stairs twice (and took the elevator once) before a helpful docent pointed the way: inside the 19th Century Gallery, just past the Rodin nude. But the sense of finding your way in the dark also sets the tone for what awaits you when you open the black curtains and enter the heart of Ten Years Gone.

Inside, on a video screen, wisps of smoke waft mysteriously through the air with no sign of their source. Then a single name appears, followed by an otherworldly image of Airborne artist Spring Hurlbut in a respirator mask; she’s bearing a box of human ashes that emanates plumes of smoke when she opens it.

Over the course of the video, shot in her homeland of Canada, Hurlbut releases the spirits of five cremated loved ones, including her own father. It’s a simple, elegant gesture that invites viewers to memorialize the spirits of their own departed in the smoky tendrils dancing toward the sky.

The spirits of an entire city take flight in Christopher Saucedo’s Floating World Trade Centers, which sets ghost images of the iconic towers adrift in a clear blue sky. Startling in their beauty, the pieces evoke memories that exist outside time and space, and situate Saucedo’s personal loss – his NYC firefighter brother perished in the 9/11 attacks – inside the vast expanse of the universe.

Things come back down to earth in the adjoining gallery, where Willie Birch takes us into his own backyard. There, in the wake of Katrina, Birch discovered strange mounds of packed mud created by crawfish displaced by the floods, and cast these ad hoc mudbug homes into bronze sculptures. Set amid Birch’s microscopically detailed drawings of encroaching vegetation, the alien-looking landscape echoes the displacement felt by post-K New Orleanians.

Some events will never fade from the collective map of human memory. The New Orleans Museum of Art

The relentless passage of time isn’t always marked by catastrophic events. It happens every day, minute by minute, in the faces we see in the mirror, and in the faces of those we love. In the final Gone gallery, photographer Nicholas Nixon traces the ties that bind in a series of portraits of his wife and her three sisters, taken every year in Connecticut for the past 40 years.

The sisters are all still among the living. But, like every one of us, they are destined to be Airborne spirits one day. It’s a fitting conclusion to an exhibit that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit in the wake of immense loss, while reminding us that loss is an inevitable part of the human condition.

In the crucible of time, 10 years is a blink of an eye. But Ten Years Gone puts you right where you need to be to contemplate the past and future: the present moment.
It’s NOMA’s gift to the city and speaks to anyone who cares about New Orleans, locals and visitors alike.

New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) provided all images, including the banner image by Isabelle Hayeur, ‘Etang 04’. NOMA is located at One Collins Diboll Circle in City Park. Hours: 10am-6pm Tuesday-Thursday; 10am-9pm Friday; 11am-5pm Saturday-Sunday. Closed Monday. Admission: $10 adults; $8 seniors; $6 children (7-17). Wednesdays are free admission days for Louisiana residents.

Our Local Publisher Partners

The Arts Council of New Orleans

The Arts Council of New Orleans is a private, non-profit organization designated as the City’s official arts agency. The Arts Council serves as one of eight regional distributing agencies for state arts funds and administers available municipal arts grants and the Percent For Art program for the City of New Orleans. The Arts Council works in partnership with the City of New Orleans, community groups, local, state, and national governmental agencies, and other nonprofit arts organizations to meet the arts and cultural needs of the New Orleans community through a diversity of initiatives and services.

WWNO

WWNO, the NPR member station for New Orleans, serves southeast Louisiana and parts of southwest Mississippi by broadcasting balanced news, thought provoking analysis, classical music, jazz and other musical styles, intelligent entertainment, and unique local content. We broadcast on 89.9 FM, and KTLN 90.5 FM in the Houma-Thibodaux area as a public service of the University of New Orleans. All of WWNO’s programs, including its growing local news coverage, are available online at WWNO.org.

WWOZ

WWOZ 90.7 FM is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Station offering listener-supported, volunteer-programmed community radio. WWOZ covers many events live in and around the city and across the United States, and broadcasts live from the famed New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival annually. WWOZ’s mission is to be the worldwide voice, archive, and flag-bearer of New Orleans culture and musical heritage.

PRC

Preservation Resource Center (PRC) has been preserving, restoring, and revitalizing New Orleans’ historic architecture and neighborhoods since 1974. Throughout its history, PRC has acted as an advocacy agent on a local, regional, and national scale, spreading the word about the city’s rich architectural heritage and the economic importance of preserving this heritage. PRC also takes a hands-on approach to preservation, with a history of successfully restoring over 1,400 properties. The center strengthens and revitalizes New Orleans in a way that is forward-looking and sustainable, yet sensitive to the city’s past and its heritage.

NOMA

As a nexus for the arts in New Orleans, NOMA is committed to preserving, interpreting, and enriching its collections and renowned sculpture garden; offering innovative experiences for learning and interpretation; and uniting, inspiring, and engaging diverse communities and cultures.

The Historic New Orleans Collection

The Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC) is a museum, research center, and publisher dedicated to preserving the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. Its holdings comprise more than one million items from more than three centuries, documenting moments both major and minor. Its four exhibition spaces–the Williams Gallery, the Louisiana History Galleries, the Boyd Cruise Gallery, and the Laura Simon Nelson Galleries for Louisiana Art–faithfully depict the multicultural stories of the region, from permanent displays exploring the evolution of Louisiana to rotating exhibitions showcasing history and fine art.

Southern Food

The Southern Food and Beverage Museum is a nonprofit living history organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding and celebration of the food, drink and the related culture of the South. While based in New Orleans, the Museum examines and celebrates all the cultures that have come together through the centuries to create the South’s unique culinary heritage. The Museum is also home to the collections of the Museum of the American Cocktail, the Galerie d’Absinthe, and a demonstration kitchen.

Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities

The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities to all Louisianans.

The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities’ mission is to provide all Louisianans with access to and an appreciation of their own rich, shared and diverse historical, literary and cultural heritage through grant-supported outreach programs, family literacy and adult reading initiatives, teacher professional development institutes, publications, film and radio documentaries, museum exhibitions, cultural tourism, public lectures, library projects, and other public humanities programming.

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