New Orleans and the Summer of Swoon

by John d'Addario on July 6, 2011


Swoon's Thalassa in NOMA's Great Hall

Swoon, “Thalassa” (2011) (photo by John d'Addario)

Unless you were a fan of of throat-clogging humidity or giant flying cockroaches (sorry, palmetto bugs), until relatively recently there was no particular reason to visit New Orleans during the dog days of summer. With the influx of creative capital that’s flooded the city since … well, that other flood you might have heard about, however, a lot of that has changed: there’s more compelling art being produced in the Crescent City these days than at any point in its history, and summer is as good a time as any to see it. And there may be no better place to start looking than the Great Hall of the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park.

Just a few years ago, the idea of an internationally regarded New York-based street artist installing a large scale commissioned piece in the hallowed precincts of NOMA was as unlikely as hearing the words “Last Call” in a bar on Bourbon Street. But as you may have read about here a few weeks ago, that’s just what happened: Brooklyn-based Swoon’s monumental “Thalassa,” named for the elemental Greek goddess of the sea, is currently soaring (or swimming) above the century-old columns of NOMA’s Great Hall.

Swoon's Thalassa in NOMA's Great Hall

Swoon, “Thalassa” (2011) (photo by John d'Addario)

A video that NOMA uploaded to YouTube last week shows “Thalassa” taking shape in all its glorious complexity thanks to some slick time-lapse photography, along with the artist and her collaborators explaining how it came to be. Take a look:

Once “Thalassa” comes down in September, Swoon hopes to maintain a high profile in New Orleans with her Dithyrambalina project: described as a piece of “musical architecture” to be constructed in New Orleans’ Bywater neighborhood, it’s being funded via a Kickstarter campaign which has currently raised nearly 2/3 of its anticipated $12,000 cost. We’ll be posting more about it in the weeks ahead, but in the meantime you can read more about it (and contribute!) here.

(Full Disclaimer: I’ve been on NOMA’s payroll in various capacities for the last two years, but even if I weren’t I’d still be telling you that “Thalassa” is pretty freaking awesome. In fact, it’s practically worth a trip to New Orleans alone. And did I mention the bars down here never close?)

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