Sunday, 11/04/07

Multimedia exhibit evokes ravages of hurricanes Rita and Katrina

More than two years have passed since hurricanes Rita and Katrina hammered the Gulf Coast, and people are still talking, writing and creating art about it.

With Storm Stories, Karen Edmunds of New Orleans and Mary Perrin of Lafayette, La., have done all three of those things. The two women will be sharing their work in a multimedia event on Friday at Tennessee State University's Avon Williams campus downtown.

"It's not just a Katrina story," said Edmunds of the show. "We're talking about the largest diaspora in the United States, and it's going to happen again. It's happening right now, in fact, with the wildfires in California. People are being traumatized all the time."

For their performance at TSU, the two women will take turns reading reflections on their hurricane experiences while slides of their artwork, which is being exhibited at the Elliot Gallery on the university's main campus, loop silently behind them.

The impetus for the show, Edmunds said, was to help people process the trauma they experienced, whether vicariously or directly, during the hurricanes.

"Everyone has their own way of dealing with it, but maybe because visual art is not as intellectual as, say, writing, people can look at our pieces and get a feeling without verbalizing."

'Waiting to be saved'

The images created by the two women run a broad gamut of emotion, from whimsical to heart-wrenching. They don't so much tell viewers what they should think or feel as invite them to draw their own conclusions.

In one particularly prescient collage, Perrin superimposes dozens of her family members onto the roof, porch and front lawn of a house that looks like it was photographed in the 1920s or '30s.

"That is one of a group of collages I did before the hurricanes, but after the storms passed, I began to look at them with new eyes," she said.

"I thought later, 'I see all of the people we all saw on TV in Katrina's wake, standing, waiting to be saved outside the Superdome and the Convention Center and on the rooftops and freeway overpasses.'

"Those people were anonymous, in the way that the people in this collage are all anonymous to its viewers. And yet the people in the collage are not anonymous to me. They are beloved members of my own family in the same way that the people we saw on TV were all beloved members of other people's families."

Mary Perrin made her collage Waiting before the storms, but after Rita and Katrina hit, she began to look at the piece with new eyes. Images such as this pair of children's shoes capture the stories, personal and universal, that are the heart of Karen Edmunds' and Mary Perrin's multi-media presentation Storm Stories.

Images such as this pair of children’s shoes capture the stories, personal and universal, that are the heart of Karen Edmunds’ and Mary Perrin’s multi-media presentation Storm Stories.

 If you go


What: Storm Stories, a multi-media exhibition/performance by Karen Edmunds and Mary Perrin
Where: Tennessee State University, Avon Williams Campus Auditorium, 330 10th Ave. N.
When: 6 p.m. Friday
Tickets: The event is free and open to the public.
Contact: 963-1599

Bill Friskics-Warren writes about arts and culture for The Tennessean. Reach him at 726-5957 or at



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