Sunday, September 6, 2009

Susan Neely "Open House" 2761 Dreux, Gentilly LA video

AORTA Projects is pleased to announce the unveiling of Open House, architect Susan Neely’s aesthetic intervention with her Gentilly neighborhood. Ms. Neely writes, “Open House is an installation conceived with the intention of reminding us of the past, celebrating the present and provoking discussion about the future. Equal parts architecture, art and design, the work sits on the slab of a home that was flooded and later demolished by the Army Corps of Engineers. One can see where walls stood, and it’s fairly easy to imagine how each space was occupied. In its current state, 25 functional pieces of furniture fill the rooms. Each piece was designed and built specifically for Open House and visitors are encouraged to take a seat, hang out, and imagine the best way to move forward. In keeping with AORTA Projects’ long-standing commitment to the Gentilly Gardens community, Open House can contribute to the growing sense of optimism in the neighborhood. As more people return, it seems reasonable to expect a common urge to gather and meet one another in a gracious, safe and clean environment. To that end, Open House will be maintained as a free interactive exhibit for two months.”

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Site #35 Jennifer Odem "Blue Fence" Intersection of Poland Avenue and N. Miro, Upper 9th Ward

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Please join us Sunday July 12th at 6 pm to celebrate the formal unveiling of "Blue Fence". Light refreshments will be provided compliments of Whole Foods Market.

"My current work explores feminine and masculine aspects of earth related to natural and unnatural or artificial land formations. Through an integration of materials and forms that allude physically and metaphorically to human characteristics this work questions the ways in which we incorporate land. By focusing on the pre-historic and geographical relevance of a site or place, I work to create a parallel with a 'forgotten reverence' for land and contemporary exploitations.

Mythologies about the earth holding histories, fertile with the capacity to contain and reveal, are countered with uninformed ideas that nature can be synthesized, 'fertilized' and controlled. My work aims to assimilate some of the varied qualities and formations that make up the earth, both surface and subterranean, with ancient and contemporary practices and beliefs that regard the earth." - Jennifer Odem

“Blue Fence” is an open-ended rhythmic line made of sturdy yet lightweight materials echoing the contours of the site. In a vibrant blue palette, “Blue Fence” brings colorful relief to the landscape and makes a subtle yet potent statement regarding the conditions of its neighborhood. In keeping with AORTA’s mission of collective responsibility, Ms. Odem has formally adopted this site through Parks & Parkways and has worked for a year removing debris, excavating the sidewalk and mowing the grass. Through this process she has built lasting relationships with the surrounding community and included them in her process of designing "Blue Fence". Ms. Odem will also facilitate a complete dismantling and removal of the sculpture at the installation’s closing at which time donated trees will be planted to continue with the site's revitalization.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ongoing Installation: Jonathan Traviesa "Native & Contemporary" St. Bernard

New Orleanian photographer and performance artist Jonathan Traviesa is working with AORTA on another on-going installation in St. Bernard Louisiana. Set deep on the grounds of one of the oldest churches in the state, St. Bernard Church, in this culturally rich community of the last descendents of the Islenós immigrants and native French Houma Indians, "Native & Contemporary" is a large scale art garden composed of indigenous Louisiana plants. A contemporary artist humbled and inspired by the demanding realities of this community, Jonathan has been working tirelessly to establish this garden of text in challenging conditions and near total obscurity (echoing the residents' post-Katrina life). We are deeply indebted to the church parish for their continued support of "Native & Contemporary" and look forward to the garden's unveiling in the Fall of 2009.

"Native & Contemporary" is supported by a generous grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation. Jonathan Traviesa is represented by The Front, an artist's collective/gallery located in the St. Claude neighborhood of New Orleans.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Site #34 Courtney Egan "Deep Water Markers" Franklin Avenue: Lakeview to 9th Ward

AORTA Projects is pleased to announce the unveiling of mixed media artist Courtney Egan’s “Deep Water Markers” installation along Franklin Avenue. Expanding on her 2007 AORTA Projects installation, "Deep Water Dates", in Mid-City, Ms. Egan has installed approximately 25 ionidized steel plaques along Franklin Avenue marking flood levels of the Federal levee break catastrophe at each specific point. This installation evokes the physicality of the floods and pays tribute to the survivors of that tragedy. Using personally collected stories from first hand witnesses, “Deep Water Markers” aims more for cultural than historical accuracy and in the process keeps one engaged with the intimate task of honouring one’s history while moving forward with one’s recovery.

“Deep Water Markers” will be unveiled Saturday Dec 20th from 1-4 pm at the corner of Franklin Avenue and Frankfort. Light refreshments compliments of Whole Foods will be served. Please feel free to contact us with any questions @

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Site #33 Cynthia Scott "New World Wailing Wall" 2761 Dreux, Gentilly/New Orleans

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"New World Wailing Wall" was unveiled in January 2009 as a Prospect 1 Satellite exhibition and was dismantled in May 2009 to clear the site for the next installation (Susan Neely's "Home", which will unveil in early Fall 2009).

"I can personally attest to AORTA’s premise that the creative process involved in making a large, publicly-sited art installation can heal personal trauma because it has helped to heal my own. The process in this case was markedly different from installing a piece in a commercial or even a nonprofit gallery setting in that the Director of AORTA, Elizabeth Underwood, being an artist herself, was familiar with the specific needs and problems that can arise in both large scale installation and work created for outdoor settings. At every stage of the process I felt understood and supported in tangible ways – help that actually helped.

Ms. Underwood made sure that she fully understood my concept and what was needed by me, then recruited volunteers to assist with constructing the piece. When none were available, she got up on a ladder and worked for many long hours herself. A minor misunderstanding about exactly what could and could not be done on my particular site was skillfully negotiated with the site owners. Due to her extensive neighborhood outreach before the project began, I felt totally at home in the space and welcomed by the neighbors.

The weather was harsh during my installation. Several times, stronger than anticipated winds – and even a freak snowstorm – took down parts of my piece. Each time the Director made sure I knew about it and offered any help she could provide in order to bring it back to wholeness. She was very clear that a “failing” sculpture in this struggling neighborhood would not serve to boost morale!

Despite the weather and my frozen fingers, during the long hours of construction I found a place of peace from which I could draw strength to work on my own storm recovery. Making a piece with many repetitive elements served as a sort of construction meditation, and being able to talk to neighbors on the weekends (when they were around more) relieved the solitude. Even so, I anxiously awaited the “reveal,” because there was no guarantee that the sculpture I had so painstakingly worked on would be something they wanted to look at, or live next to. Would they find it as healing for their lives as I had for mine?

The reception that Elizabeth organized got a great turnout. Neighbors seemed really happy to be in the space, snapping pictures of themselves and me in front of the piece. The Google Earth drawing I had made on the slab turned into a giant grown-ups party game as people identified their own properties and ran to stand on the appropriate squares. At one point I turned around to see a small woman standing at some distance from the group staring at the piece, obviously pausing from walking her dog. When I walked over to thank her for coming and invite her to have some refreshments, tears started rolling down her face. “That’s about the height the water was here,” she said, indicating the wall. Dismayed, I started telling her about the purpose of the piece, but she stopped me. “No, I get it. It’s beautiful.” Then she spent the next hour or so walking around the 35-foot long piece, touching it, and talking to the neighbors. When she left it seemed to me that she had a lightness in her demeanor. So maybe it worked.

What I learned:
- It wouldn’t have been possible to make a piece of this scale and complexity in this time period without the help of others.
- Consulting a structural engineer would have been advantageous!
- (When doing site specific installation in the landscape) prepare to work in all types of weather, even in the sunny South.
- People who have no background in art have a great capacity to “get” abstract contemporary art and are underestimated by the art establishment." - Cynthia Scott

AORTA Projects and Cynthia Scott would like to thank our site sponsors Susan Neely and Doyle Gertejensen for their generous investment in this project. We would also like to thank Ron Palmer and Luis Colmenares for their tireless support and of "New World Wailing Wall".

"New World Wailing Wall" was supported by a generous project grant from Transforma/National Performance Network thanks to the generous support of the Andy Warhol Foundation of Visual Arts.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Site #32 The Secret Gardeners "GROWTH" 5670 Hawthorne Place, Lakeview

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"Growth" was unveiled in November 2008 as a Prospect 1 Satellite exhibition. It was dismantled in February of 2009 to make way for continued renovations of the property.

The Secret Gardeners constructed an environmental art installation in the sadly desolate Lakeview community to promote awareness of the interconnectedness of all life. This installation honored the cycle of life as evidenced by the new growth provided by the uprooting of a 100 year old pecan tree by the federal levee breaks of Hurricane Katrina. That disaster has been a catalyst for abandoning old ideas and pursuing new paths on physical, psychological and spiritual levels with the potential to imbue us with a passion to be deliberate and mindful in our actions.

Cutting a jungle-like path in a backyard grown wild since Katrina, The Secret Gardeners created a meandering labyrinth, revealing small shrines installed in the growth, leading to unexpected surprises. Seeds sprouted into trees and one witnessed that when left alone the earth regenerates itself. One path lead to the uprooted pecan stump, symbolically leading one to a new path in life. Another path lead to a campfire circle where a performance of Native American style drumming was held. Visitors were invited to participate in a simple healing ritual around the small campfire, accompanied by meditative song. Above this poetic enclave, colorful streamers made from deconstructed fragments of flood-destroyed clothing were woven.

"GROWTH" functioned as a memorial to the sacrifices necessary for new growth. The altars made of endless piles of other-wise rejected flood refuse provided spontaneous opportunities for personal reflection and play. Participating in "GROWTH" mimiced the sensation of magically discovering hidden treasures in nature and provided an experience that can inspire a reverie of recovery and hope. The rituals at the campfire offered an opportunity to bury the past and envision a positive future, cultivating a healthy community spirit and investing in the future of this struggling neighborhood.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Site #31 Rajko Radovanovic: Precondition; N.Villere @ Marigny Street, Upper 9th Ward, New Orleans; UNVEILING SAT NOV 1, 2-5 pm

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Rajko Radovanovic originally employed the above statement in a series of works and installations dealing with the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Frequently combining text and image, Radovanovic explored the ways in which people’s moral standards can be ‘re-set’ and modified to allow them to support and accept the brutalisation of their fellow citizens. Radovanovic comments, “Our modern political establishments, by influencing public opinion through the media, create the notion of ‘other’ – the modern word for ‘enemy’. It is through this concept of ‘difference’ that they seek to provide a moral justification for harming or oppressing fellow human beings.”

The most successful component of "Precondition" remains the abiding relationships that grew out of AORTA's community outreach in this neighborhood. As our mission statement explains, our goal is not to bring attention to "the artist" but to the people who live and survive in the post-disaster landscape. It is AORTA's belief that "the art object" and all subsequent modernist notions of "artistic success" are secondary to the process of humbly witnessing the daily struggles of thses communities - if one presumes to be doing legitimate community-based work. Being of the post-disaster community of New Orleans myself I never cease to be amazed by how relevant and vital working from this point of view continues to be.

Though St. Roch is generally "recovered" post-K (at least by AORTA standards, given we usually work in areas that are still living without grocery stores and gas stations), there remains an incredible imbalance between the opportunities for the citizens of St. Roch compared to those in wealthier, less traumatized neighborhoods. AORTA certainly doesn't presume to solve the deep cultural problems of classism and racism with something as simple as a mural that merely echoes a political reality that this community has long since internalized. Again, "Precondition" is secondary to it being there at all - and as such it functions wonderfully as a signpost for outsiders to connect with, a sort of billboard describing the daily realities of living under oppression.

Though I truly believe that the skill and care Mr. Radovanovic invested in the painting of "Precondition" honors the site and survivors very poignantly, it is my experience that he true art of this installation is how my understanding of my neighbor's struggles has deepened, how genuinely interested and insightful the neighborhood remain about the relevance of our mission, and the new friendships that have evolved as a result. Again, AORTA never assumes that we enter these communities with something to teach - it is always and only the other way around. In this regard, "Precondition" was a terrific success and we are very proud to have been able to initiate this process with Mr. Radovanovic and my amazing St. Roch family. - Elizabeth Underwood, Director

AORTA Projects thanks site sponsor Thomasine Bartlett for her passionate support of AORTA Projects. We also thank Miss Jordan, Miss Jackie, Miss Tia, Colby, D-John, Joseph, and the other neighbors of this site who have imbued "Precondition" with its meaning. We also thank the musicians of Bye and Bye and Whole Foods for their continued support and investment in the post-disaster communities of New Orleans.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Below please view a selection of the past two years' AORTA Projects installations. You may also visit to view the complete catalog of our work, including more images and maps to each former site.

Site #30 Jacqueline Bishop "Field Guide" June 2008 - Present; Milne Boys Home Driveway: 5420 Franklin Ave, Gentilly

"With the help of a crew of appx 20 volunteers I painted the asphalt driveway of the Milne Boys Home with approximately 5000 simple black bird silhouettes that were individually cut from original drawings and applied with Industrial Zone and Marking paint. Much of my work focuses on the natural environment and its inherent connection to our lives. Considering there are approximately 460 bird species in Louisiana we stenciled a variety of these species in an effort to celebrate and raise consciousness about our unique and fragile environment.

The bird silhouettes covering the ground are designed to create a sense of birds in flight above, reminiscent of shadows coming from imaginary birds in flight. In reality these bird species would never interact with each other, but in this project the diversity of bird species migrating together symbolizes the need for human diversity to walk and work together to rebuild our landscape. The graphic nature of the black silhouettes can symbolize the absolutely critical state of our environment – it is a “black and white” issue that cannot be ignored. The eco-system that many of our native and migrant birds depend upon is under attack; as landscape changes or disappears the birds are threatened with extinction; many see this as the beginning of the end of life as we know it. Birds are important pollinators - they plant trees, flowers, fruit, eat biting insects, and deliver messages about our shared environment to those who are intuitive enough to listen. When powerful human leaders dismiss our wounded landscape, it is birds that can help regenerate it. Leading the "Field Guide" migration through the Milne Boys Home driveway are stencils of hummingbirds - which for the Biloxi Indians represented the symbol of truth. The word Biloxi means “First People”. This native tribe from Mississippi became nearly extinct, but the few survivors ended up in Louisiana.

After experiencing the power of Katrina while sitting in my house, the most immediate, haunting memory after the storm was the deafening silence. There were no birds for ages. It seems appropriate that this project can bring attention to birds who in turn bring life to abandoned areas in post-K New Orleans. I hope that "Field Guide" will also support the Milne Foundation in their efforts to renovate this amazing property and reinvigorate the Milne Boys Home as a destination for academic study and community activism." - Jacqueline Bishop

Ms. Bishop is represented by Arthur Roger Gallery. Please visit

Site #29 Morgana King "I Miss My Neighbors" June 2008; 610 Lesseps, Upper 9th Ward (*NLP)

(*NLP = No Longer Physical)

"Since Hurricane Katrina, the city of New Orleans population has been cut down to roughly a third of its size, leaving neighborhoods full of abandoned houses. On top of people choosing not to return, the city has still not redeveloped public housing units at all – 2.5 years later. This is a major source of controversy because it is widely believed that the government, through its neglect, is intentionally keeping poor, black and elderly people from returning to their homes. One of these vacant small brick apartment buildings is across the street from my house, where I lived before the storm.
I spent the year after the hurricane away from New Orleans and missed everything about my old life. When I finally did return, I was saddened by how much it had lost - especially the people who were missing. Many slogans have been made into T-shirts and yard signs promoting levee protection, or railing against FEMA, and I was always trying to come-up with my own phrase that would sum up my feelings living in this strange abandoned place. It came to me one day, and I think it sums up my local feelings about the specific people I miss on my street and addresses the city's Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) inaction. I feel that this slogan is relevant to everyone in New Orleans. The slogan is: "I Miss My Neighbors".
I created a large handmade banner that stretched above the railing on the second floor balcony of the afore-mentioned abandoned building on my street. On the boarded up windows and doors of the building I painted remembrances of people who used to live there. Like the loud guy who lived in the corner apartment who would always shout "Hey Neighbor!" and "Howdy!" when I was on the street. Or the elderly lady who would sit on a chair on the balcony for hours and hours everyday. I don't intend for this work to be overtly political - I feel this statement is more about sharing a personal feeling." - Morgana King

Site #27 Kerrane/Koerner/Pelias "The Apostolic Project" Mar 2008; 725 Forstall Street, Holy Cross (*NLP)

(*NLP = No Longer Physical)

"The Apostolic Project" was installed in the former parsonage of the former Apostolic Church of this Holy Cross neighborhood. The interior of the gutted house was filled with thousands of hand folded paper boats - a resonant symbol in a complex historical site. These sculptural boats were made collectively, many in collaboration with people from all over New Orleans - sharing this process added a vital layer of meaning to the work. Also included were representations of pomegranates which have a rich mythology in many cultures, symbolizing birth, death, and rebirth - perfect metaphors for a city struggling to rebuild post-disaster. A hand-made decorative crown was installed on the roof, honoring the church’s purposeful benevolence. This installation was intended to question the responsibility of a city consumed with catering to a tourist industry's idea of celebration while neglecting its own people, from whom tradition and celebration naturally emanate." - Artist's Statement

Site #26 NOCCA VIsual Art Renegades "Black Blue White" Mar 2008 - present; Milne Boys Home: 5420 Franklin Ave, Gentilly

In their efforts to address the Milne Boys Home's history of segregation as well as the city's negligence regarding the removal of the blue tarps installed on the Milne rooftops post-Katrina, the NOCCA Renegade Artists worked with old and new blue tarps to "segregate" the blue with the surrounding landscape. Creating obviously sculpted mixed-media works amongst the tattered remaining tarps, a narrative is initiated exploring the tension between good intentions and neglect. At what point do the traces of disaster become integrated into the "new" environment? How responsible is "the human hand" in the construction (or deconstruction) of the aesthetics of a post-disaster community? Should a community that is fighting for attention embrace or critique the signs of this lack of attention? By raising a blue tarp on the flagpole, the artists make an ironic and proud statement expressing the power of victims of disaster to not just survive but thrive.

Site #25 Sean Derry "An Interlude To Stillness" Nov 2007; Broad @ Bienville, Mid-City; (*NLP)

bottom photo © Jonathan Traviesa

(*NLP = No Longer Physical)

"In reaction to the condition of abandonment and loss, "An Interlude to Stillness" attempts to re-animate an abandoned retail parking lot. The vacuous nature of the lot is subverted through the inflation of dozens of car-shaped balloons, which are sewn from second-hand bed sheets. A network of bellows powered by stationary motorbikes provides each inflatable with a continuous supply of air, while participants continually modify the composition of the inflatables, effectively performing the activity of a lively retail parking lot." - Sean Derry

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Site #22 Jessica Bizer "Multi-Purpose Device" Aug 2007; Jean Lafitte Pkwy @ Jean Lafitte Court, St. Bernard Parish (*NLP)

(*NLP = No Longer Physical)

"This piece was intended to continue the feeling of surprise that I felt when I first encountered the overturned sign. My idea was to create a small, positive, diversion in an otherwise bleak landscape. It wass made mainly of pipes, plastic (which I have warped and melted), ducts and streamers. I connected, painted and decorated these disparate objects to suggest that they were related, or part of a system. However, I wanted the work's functional traits to be balanced a sense by ambiguity and mystery while the disparate elements of the piece appear organized, their overall purpose is not clear. Also, it was important that I used decorative, appealing colors and materials. These characteristics of the piece added a fanciful element to the work and contributed to its purpose as an appealing, mysterious diversion." - Jessica Bizer

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