P.S. Satellite Exhibit
The Stories We Tell Ourselves
In this exhibition developed for Prospect 4: the Lotus in Spite of the Swamp, artists Catie Colvin Sampson and Jeanne Vockroth have brought into conversation their distinct, yet parallel photographic narratives depicting the bayou communities outside of New Orleans.
The photographs chosen by Catie Colvin Sampson for The Stories We Tell Ourselves illustrate the ways in which our coastline is changing over time--both by natural means and at the hand of man--including the effects of natural geologic subsidence, wetlands dredging by the oil and gas industry, and our massive line levee system. Several years ago, borne out of a curiosity to better understand the issue of coastal land loss and how it was affecting communities in southeast Louisiana, Sampson began to explore that which lies beyond the levee system south of New Orleans by boat with her large format camera. As a city-dweller she expected to find images of a dark, foreboding, inaccessible world where people surely didn’t belong, but she instead discovered in this vanishing landscape some of the most beautiful and remote places she'd ever witnessed.
In this body of work by Jeanne Vockroth, she has dissected her childhood memories of Jean Lafitte National Park, the same landscape depicted by Sampson, and reconfigured them through digital collage, placing characters from family photographs into present day snapshots of the swamp. Using the historic process of cyanotype printing with tannic toning, she has placed her infant self in the murky elegance of the bayou, creating tension between the timeless beauty of the natural landscape and the child's capability to survive within it while also questioning the survival of the landscape itself, which is threatened by both natural and man made processes. Vockroth here reclaims her family history in New Orleans by creating a new narrative that is both fantastical and apprehensive.
The images in this exhibition are united by the Japanese aesthetic concept known as Wabi-Sabi that stresses the beauty of things impermanent, including both that which is made by nature and that which is made by man. This philosophy also places import on the art inherent in the mending process of that which is decidedly broken or fragmented. And indeed--a reminder that while the efforts of coastal restoration and sustainability are complex, even overwhelming, there is beauty in the mending of our inimitable vanishing wetlands and the stories that lie within them.