Algiers Bonfire Fueled By Hurricane Katrina Art
By Eileen Fleming
New Orleans, LA – Thousands of people attended the celebration at the Algiers levee, some not knowing the source of the fuel. It was a collection of more than 700 drawers assembled by New Orleans artist Jana Napoli. She recorded the addresses where she retrieved the drawers from trash piles along the streets and attempted to contact the owners. She decided last Christmas that the piece she called "Floodwall," which was on exhibit throughout the world, should be a cremation of Katrina pain.
She donned a protective suit and helmet and set it on fire. Here, so close to the flames that gusts of heat slaps the skin, she speaks about what it means to see her work go up in flames:
"Relief? All that work?"
"I carried all that sorrow with me all those years. I collected drawers October through February. I went out every day October, November and December. We sent out cards with a picture of their drawer to every single household. We only got 30 replies because everyone was lost. We kept the nobs as memories because all the pictures of the drawers are on the website with their addresses. I thought it would be nice, because it was hard for some of the people to think everything was gone, though they'd already thrown it away when I picked it up. It was nice to be able to touch something that was yours. I left something for them to touch again, or their children, or their grandchildren. It was a hard day."
"And now what are you going to do?"
"I'm going to sleep."
"Floodwall" burned brightly for about an hour before it was gone.
For WWNO, I'm Eileen Fleming