Show at SCAD gallery has New Orleans artist’s personal take on Katrina


“Between Bloodlines and Floodlines”

Through Oct. 2. 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays (closed Labor Day). Free. SCAD Atlanta, Gallery 1600, 1600 Peachtree St., Atlanta. 404-253-2700,

Bottom line: A personal take on Hurricane Katrina’s destruction in poignant solo show.

The tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina has led to much soul-searching from politicians, pundits and storm victims about the legacy of that disaster. In "Between Bloodlines and Floodlines," a solo show at Gallery 1600 on the campus of the Savannah College of Art and Design Atlanta, an artist weighs in, with a very human, personal take on the storm's devastation.

The UCLA and Yale art school-educated visual artist, performance artist and onetime rapper Tameka Norris returned from Los Angeles to her hometown after the 2005 storm to find a landscape and family homes decimated.

Her artistic choices in documenting the emotional toll of that devastation are powerful.

A number of the works in “Between Bloodlines and Floodlines” suggest something between a quilt and a painting. The artist uses fabric from her childhood home patched together on canvases that tap into the emotional and human dimension to the disaster. The work on display in “Between Bloodlines and Floodlines” addresses a city ravaged and lives ruined by the storm, using those potent materials of grubby, intimate bedsheets, scraps of fabric and worn and frayed material to powerful effect.

A chain-link fence, broken in places, is drawn directly onto the gallery walls to reiterate a sense of collapse and difficulty.

Like the artist Mike Kelley, who often found intense pathos in cast-off stuffed animals and hand-knit dolls — some of which looked loved and cuddled within an inch of their life — Norris sees and exploits the potential in the fabrics human beings have touched and used. The worn and weathered fabrics stand in for the lives of their owners, cast about and battered by difficult circumstances.

“Post-Katrina Painting #6” is a representative work, divided into two panels: on the left a bedsheet, and on the right a scene of desolation rendered in dark slashes of paint in which a home’s ceiling buckles and disintegrates, the floor below littered with debris. Collapsing buildings, caving in on themselves and piles of debris on city streets shown in “Between Bloodlines and Floodlines,” offer gripping testimony to ravaged lives.

Offering another layer of intimacy and vulnerability are the six beanbags placed in the center of the gallery from the “Conception Series,” on which visitors “are encouraged to gently interact and sit.” Those beanbags are crafted from Norris’ affecting hodgepodge of found fabrics, sheets and recycled filler and clearly touched by the hand of an actual person rather than machine-made.

The soft and slouchy chair-sculptures painted with the goofily grinning pig icon from Piggly Wiggly feel like the beloved, homely favorite playthings from childhood. And those cozy, comfy beanbags feel like a testament to the hardscrabble dimension of New Orleans, where something winning and heartfelt is crafted from what is at hand.

Norris brings an equally endearing touch to works like “How to Write a Cursive X,” onto which rows of X’s and the mark-making of someone struggling to write lend poignancy to the artwork. “How to Write a Cursive X” is a reminder of childhood struggles, like penmanship, made more poignant with the drawing of a cartoon bear in the background.

There are some incongruities in this SCAD show, like a photo of the artist, her face and most of her body hidden under a dress in “A Portrait About Identity” from 2008, which seems an effort to insert the presence of the artist into the show. It’s an unnecessary gesture when the unique, moving vision of Tameka Norris is already felt loud and clear in “Between Bloodlines and Floodlines.”