Making Art from the Wreckage of Katrina

Lori Gordon

The artist Lori Gordon. hide caption

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Lori Gordon's 'Rebirth,' shows a green bird on a green background.

In Gordon's 'Rebirth,' spring returns to Mississippi. hide caption

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Lori Gordon works on a collage. i i

Lori Gordon at work. Howard Berkes, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Howard Berkes, NPR
Lori Gordon works on a collage.

Lori Gordon at work.

Howard Berkes, NPR

In Bay Saint Louis, Miss., artist Lori Gordon has quite literally picked up the pieces in the wake of Hurricane Katrina... and is trying to make sense of the storm with bits of the rubble left behind.

Gordon's "Katrina Collection" is full of mixed-media collages that are meant for wall space in living rooms or display space on bookshelves. They're attempts to draw meaning and order from hurricane debris.

As early as a week after the storm hit, she began combing through muck and mud for pieces of her life and the lives of her neighbors. She found a copper frying pan bought in Mexico, smashed flat as a tortilla. She found bits of furniture, the bleached appendages of dolls, scarred and twisted metal, a pastoral sketch of a tree-lined country road turned ghostlike by sludge and mold.

Gone were the coastal landscapes Gordon painted before Katrina. But she began to see artistic promise and peril in the massive piles of debris that remained.

"I started doing this out of some kind of psychological desperation," she says. "I was so desperate to be doing something productive."

She says her series is about "rebirth" and "rebuilding" and "taking whatever it is you have left — even if you have lost everything — taking whatever it is you can find and starting again."

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