Katrina’s Kiss – Al Reisz, artist
This may very well be the only artwork enhanced by Katrina’s flood waters.
Al Reisz is a writer and creative woodturner who was born and grew up in the Gentilly section of New Orleans. He moved to Slidell in the mid-1980s, where for the next twenty years, he and his wife Jean reared their three children in the Yesteroaks Subdivision on the south side of Slidell.
The family had weathered many minor storms in their home, including the infamous flooding event of 1995. It would be two years before those post-flood restorations were completed.
Then came Hurricane Katrina. The massive storm damaged the family’s home beyond repair, and as a result, they relocated to Houston, Texas.
As is the case with many Louisianans, the Reisz’ family roots grew deep. After nine years in Houston and the loss of two close family members, Al and Jean made the decision to return to their roots, opting for a home close to Louisiana in nearby Waveland, Mississippi.
In the artist’s words:
The story of the Katrina vase is a long and arduous one. It initially was created for a Slidell Art League show in early 2005. At the time it was intended to be of replica of a 5000-year old Chinese vase. Made from North American cherry wood, it imparted a warm brown finish with gold leaf enhancement on the rim and on the raised band of its mid-section.
When Katrina threatened the area in August of 2005, I carefully wrapped the vase and additional wood turnings, placing them on the top shelf of a closet in our home. I felt confident that the works would be safe from whatever water the storm night bring. But Mother Nature had other ideas.
Though Katrina’s storm surge level reached shortly below the shelf, with the resulting humidity and passing of time, the shelf buckled and eventually collapsed into the muddy “gumbo” left behind by the flood.
That bag of artwork lay untouched for about three weeks after the event. When it was finally opened, I was heartbroken to see that nearly almost all of the pieces it contained were damaged either by the weight of the shelf’s additional contents or by the post-Katrina heat and humidity.
As is the case with most art, the mark of time and history usually enhances the intentions of artists and their works. And so none of the pieces in that bag were restored, but instead were left as they were. The Chinese vase’s wood had cracked, its lacquer finish had alligatored and the gold leaf had flaked. The once gleaming, bright piece had received Katrina’s brand of enhancement and had come out better for it. Katrina’s Kiss is now a poignant reminder, not only of the power of nature but also of the strange beauty that it can bring into our lives.
Katrina’s Kiss artwork is available for purchase. $350.
For additional information, please email Kim@RightBrainDiaries.com.