When Jonathan Ferrara and Alex Beard launched the first No Dead Artists exhibition for underexposed artists in 1995, no one imagined that it would become a national event — or that New Orleans itself would become an internationally recognized hotbed of experimental arts endeavors. The fact that more than 500 artists from all over the U.S. submitted some 2,500 artworks for this year's No Dead Artists says a lot about the evolution of both the city and the show. Now in its 17th year, No Dead Artists remains a diverse barometer of the prevailing mood of the creative unconscious as artists, like the rest of us, try to make sense of life in a global electronic echo chamber where even obscure trivia can go viral while vast arrays of often invisible tracking devices silently stalk every move we make.
Fabric artist Kathy Halper explores how digital codes have engendered new verbal codes in the form of social media exclamatory acronyms, like "WTF" or "LMFAO," that she weaves into her traditional-looking embroidery portraits based on teenagers' use of Facebook sites, updating the homespun past into a new folk craft for the digital present. Likewise, Kristin Meyers' voodooesque fabric sculptures remind us that even primitive societies tried to ritualistically use invisible forces to, in her words, "transform energies" and "create a realm in which time is completely modified." Technology has vastly expanded the proliferation of images that surround us in everyday life, and here Cristina Molina gives us an 8-foot-tall, freestanding greeting card sculpture, Dearest, that eerily serenades us with a robotic greeting triggered by the movements of the viewer. Similarly, Shannon Blosser-Salisbury employs digital technology to rework antique photographs into otherworldly images of visitors from the dark corners of the electronic collective unconscious, as we see in Ceremony (pictured), a process not unlike Margaret Munz-Losch's magic realist paintings that transform kitschy images into mystery objects, in yet another paradoxical perspective in this remarkably diverse yet obliquely cohesive exposition. — D. ERIC BOOKHARDT