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Restoring the Fragments 

Lately, we've had the pleasure of finally getting back some of the things we'd always taken for granted. Whether it's something as basic as getting the lights turned on or as nostalgic as the reopening of a favorite restaurant, just returning to normal can be a cause for celebration, as it obviously was for hundreds of people who turned out for the reopening of the Ogden Museum last month. But the bright lights and buoyant music at that event only heightened the contrast with the largely dark and silent Contemporary Arts Center across the street. What's going on over there? The bad news is that it took a fairly serious hit from the storm and is undergoing repairs. The good news is that it will reopen again in a few weeks.

"Fortunately, no artworks were damaged," said CAC Director Jay Weigel with a palpable sense of relief, as he described how 41 windows were blown out and parts of the roof were peeled away, causing water to eventually make its way down into the basement where it compromised the inner workings of the elevators and air conditioning system. But, says Weigel, the most pressing repairs should be finished in time to reopen with one of their Jazz Masters series on Jan. 6, 2006. Then on Jan. 7, the exhibition spaces reopen with Welcome Back: Contemporary Arts Center Limited Editions 1984-2005, an event that also marks the return of the Arts District coordinated gallery openings in a kind of after-the-fact stand-in for October's regularly scheduled Hibernia's Art for Arts' Sake season opener that never was.

"We'll also be doing more projects in collaboration with the Ogden Museum, especially family-oriented activities," says Weigel, noting that activities for children have been more difficult to come by in recent times. Meanwhile, CAC curator David Rubin has been busy scheduling visual arts offerings such as the Made in New Orleans expo of recent work by area artists curated by Jacqueline Bishop for Space 301 in Mobile, Ala., and Surviving the Deluge, a conservation-oriented exhibition of storm-damaged art. And while this city has always had a soft spot for romantic old ruins, Katrina gave us a lot more than we ever bargained for. Water-damaged art objects are bad enough, but who ever thought we'd ever be dealing with the ruins of Lakeview or Gentilly?

In Cara Moczygemba's ceramic sculptures, ruins are returned to a much more intimate and manageable scale. Mythic, vaguely romantic and more than a tad bizarre, Moczygemba's fragmented forms hint at the archeology of empires and the ironic side of human aspiration. Foul is a kind of plaque, a bas relief with the form of a horse that may have once been a mighty steed but which has now quite clearly gone to seed, with cracked, fractured flanks and sections of neck and torso where the flesh is missing. No, it's not like road kill, but more like the ossified relics of a distant time, at least until you see that leering little green head in the lower right with an impish expression that suggests derisive laughter echoing down through the ages.

That impish visage, a kind of baby face with a sarcastically mocking expression turns up as a recurring theme, in works such as Rebuilding, where it appears on a nubile nude female figure appearing atop a much larger and pockmarked version of itself in much the way that Greek deities were sometimes born from the heads of earlier Greek deities. And the noble features of Greco-Roman goddesses sometimes turn up on horses, while reclining Odalisques appear with the heads of beavers, as if fragments of statuary had morphed into entirely new beings. Many of these themes appear in another bas relief, In the City, where noble steeds share space with saints, broken crockery, bits of keys and severed heads in a jumble of artifacts that may have been intended to evoke time's effect on empires, but which these days might just remind us of ruins much closer to home.

Even so, Mocgygemba's ceramics suggest a broad view of how civilizations rise and fall, and how even the most noble or saintly impulses must come to terms with the effects of mindless selfishness, the impish laughter of human folly that echoes through the ruins of mankind's best intentions.

click to enlarge Cara Moczygemba's In the City suggests a broad - view of the role of human folly in the rise and fall of - civilizations.
  • Cara Moczygemba's In the City suggests a broad view of the role of human folly in the rise and fall of civilizations.
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Speaking of Through December, Pastoral Scene : Recent Ceramic Sculpture By Cara Moczygemba

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