By Rolland Golden
The paintings I have produced about Hurricane Katrina is my attempt to express what I experienced, what I saw and what I did not see, but could mentally visualize.
I, along with my wife, daughter and brother weathered the storm in our home near Folsom, LA., 50 miles north of New Orleans. We spent a harrowing night with violent winds and rain; then the tornadoes came and toppled trees like huge toothpicks on our house and cars, completely blocking all roads and literally covering the ground.
After four days without electricity or communication in grueling 96 degree heat, the roads were cleared but neighbors, enough for us to weave our way out and escape to Jackson, MS. - about 150 miles north. After spending 9 days with my aunt, we were fortunate to find an apartment and remained in Jackson until late October, when our house was once again inhabitable.
I was not able to get into New Orleans until September 27th, when our daughter, Lucille and I drove into the French Quarter to again check on her business (gallery) and apartment. The drive was a shock in itself, as the magnitude of the destruction spread-out beneath us, as we drove along the elevated expressway within the city.
The next day, almost exactly one-month after Katrina struck, I drove alone into some of the areas close to the quarter, getting out of the car several times to take photographs as reference for paintings. I stood on the sidewalk in a neighborhood once teeming with people, activity and sound - greeted by absolute silence. The floodwater was gone, but signs of its effect were everywhere: four to five feet of brown-stain covered all that had lain in and beneath it. Levels of water lines clearly revealed its recession; the air itself had a distinct putrid odor; a brown haze hung in the sky, like a smoke from a distant, burning field.
Since that day, I have returned several times to New Orleans, much of which still remains devastated, months after the storm. Despite the pitiful condition of numbers of neighborhoods, some people have returned - to live in apparent squalid conditions. The brown has turned a pale tan, the sky once again almost blue, but heat increasing. Except for the foul water, the lower Ninth ward area remains much as it was the day after the levee broke - houses flattened, rocking chairs or baby carriages stuck high in the trees.
It is my hope these paintings will help those who see them better understand what occurred and that we continue to suffer, long after Katrina died. It will happen again somewhere; let us hope we will be better prepared.
Rolland Golden May 5, 2006
© 2006 Rolland Golden
Contact: Lucille Golden at email@example.com