The New Orleans Drawing Project was started in 2006, as a way to respond to the Hurricane Katrina disaster. I lived in New Orleans from 1991-1997, working as a public school teacher, and have loved the city ever since. Each year, sometimes twice, I travel to New Orleans and draw in the streets, trying to understand where the city is in the recovery process. This public way of working is contrary to my normal private artistic practice, and is one of the ways this project has pushed me creatively and emotionally.
When I started these drawing trips, I worried some might feel that I was exploiting this tragedy; but instead most residents encourage me to share their stories through this work. As I draw in the streets, people come up to me, and share their struggles. These conversations are gifts, and encourage me to return.
New Orleans, in many places, is physically recovered, but Hurricane Katrina simply exposed to the country the environmental, governmental, and racial problems that led up to, and contributed to the disaster.
And if I am to be honest, I have not personally recovered from Hurricane Katrina, which exposed many of my own failings, some of which I address through this work.