By Scotlund Haisley, In Defense of Animals (IDA)
Since hurricane Katrina I have translated some of the most painful and searing memories of my New Orleans experience into paintings. While most of these pieces depict animals I rescued, this anniversary painting is different. This piece represents the devastation of the storm, and the region’s efforts to revive its way of life.
This painting is a reference to Katrina to its very core. The first layer of this piece is the frame; which is built from wooden boards I salvaged from a dilapidated building in New Orleans and then wrapped in distressed linen. I created an oxidized copper background and affixed a tattered American flag I retrieved from the flood waters of the ninth ward. I then layered the flag with news clippings and pigment mixed with actual Katrina flood water.
These layers represent the Gulf Coast’s devastating past, and the outer layers symbolize their efforts to rebuild. I have refurbished the flag, but through the new patina you can still see the horrors of their past experiences. The flag, like the region itself, is still distressed and rough around the edges but waving proudly.
I have represented the storm’s devastating impact on the animals in the text on the lower right hand section. This sign represents one gut-wrenching rescue my team performed in the ninth ward. It was 3 a.m. on September 12th – nearly two weeks after the storm, and our rescue vehicle was flagged over by an NOPD officer. I thought he might ask for our credentials or force us to turn back to the emergency shelter, but instead he begged us to go into the most devastated area in the city in search of his dogs. While he was sworn to protect the public during this time of disaster, we were the only people who could help reunite his family.
As I neared the address scribbled on the scrap of paper, the dirty water rose to my chest. When our team finally found his house our hearts sank – it was obvious that water had nearly submerged the entire structure at one point. As we broke down the door we braced ourselves for a grim scene. Sadly, we found the remains of two dogs floating inside the home. I began searching for a third body when to my surprise I saw a large Shepherd mix balancing precariously on the two-inch ledge of a sealed window. He had obviously been perched there above the water for some time. A wash of pure joy spread over his face when this canine survivor saw our team and the salvation we represented. Reuniting this dog with his human guardians was a proud moment that will remain with me for the rest of my life.
Through these elements this painting represents both the past, present and hopeful future of a truly remarkable place and the people and animals who survived when the levees broke.