In New Orleans, a white fence shows better days

In each part of Artists, T highlights a recent or less viewed work by a Black artist, along with a few words by that artist that put the work in context. This week we are looking at a picture of Willie Birch, has its next show, at the Fort Gansevoort Gallery in New York City, opening March 3.

Name: Willie Birch

Grow old: 79

Based in: New Orleans

Originally from: New Orleans

When and where did you do this work? The work was done in 2020 and 2021 in an area of ​​New Orleans called the 7th Ward. One day I happened to be walking down my block and saw this fence, which I have never seen before. seen before. There was no one on the street; it was a beautiful sunny day, and when you think of New Orleans, you think of the people on the street, but in that particular time frame, it’s like a ghost city.

Can you describe what’s going on in the piece? It was an image depicting a crushed white fence, and had a ghostly quality; the fact is, the fence, with its fragments, seems to me like a skeleton. The white fence is said to be a symbol of prosperity, but this fence I’m reviewing says the exact opposite. It speaks to our place as a city and a country. The image is also lifelike – 60 x 90 inches I believe – so standing in front of it you can feel the tremendous impact of what it depicts. I’m a storyteller, as far as I’m concerned, and the footage seems to say all I want to say about this moment in history.

What inspired you to make it? To me, New Orleans is the most culturally relevant city in America and also a city in general. At the time I was working on this piece, it seemed like the idea of ​​America was falling apart. It was like a double disaster: not just a pandemic but an uprising, a coup, call it what you want – the overthrow of what we call America. I think we’re still feeling the effects of that, of where we are, who we are and how we put this together, if that’s possible. The image is also in black and white – I happened to receive a large stipend while I was living in New York to return to New Orleans and do some work related to growing up here, and when When I returned, I realized that the New Orleans I had grown up in was very different from what I had thought. New Orleans is known for its colors, but I returned with the deliberate intention of finding another way to talk about the city. It was my attempt to see this place through a different lens.

A work of art in any medium that changed your life? Maybe my answer goes back to the idea of ​​looking at things from a general point of view, rather than from an individual point of view; since my work is autobiographical, there isn’t a single piece of art that I can point to. And New Orleans To be music, so I don’t think I can point to a particular form of music either. That seems too restrictive. You can go to New Orleans and stay for a very long time and never really understand it, but I always tell people to visit on the weekend, because on Sundays there’s this thing called the second line really encapsulates the identity of the city. Those are the people who every day follow a band on the street, driven by the beat of the drums, the heartbeats of all of us. That communal ritual takes over and creates a revelry; there’s no way you can be second and not feel the full impact of where you are. It gives us a unified career. Everyone participates, but it is fundamental to Black communities. So it’s hard for me to define how I achieve what I do in terms of building my image, but the idea of ​​a collectivist culture gives me the opportunity to draw from a variety of sources. Everything I do is layered.

This interview has been edited and condensed. In New Orleans, a white fence shows better days

Fry Electronics Team

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