Most of the works in “Ephemera Obscura”, an often stunning group show now on view at the Contemporary Arts Center, use everyday objects as ways to explore memories — good, bad and sometimes painful.

Thoughtfully curated by Aaron Levi Garvey, the show contains works by more than three dozen artists, all of whom have lived, shown and/or created work in the New Orleans area over the past year and whose work “examine(s) the relationship of objects … to experiences of places and cultural identities,” according to a statement accompanying the exhibition.

Unlike the CAC’s previous group show of this scale — 2015’s “REVERB” — “Ephemera Obscura” tends not to focus on large scale events like Hurricane Katrina.

Instead, the memories that infuse most of the works are more private and personal ones — and while that occasionally leads to works that remain frustratingly opaque, the overall vibe of the show is more engaging as a result. It feels like being privy to secrets.

The ephemeral aspect of the show is well evidenced in Christopher Alan Lawson’s “How She Saved Everything,” a mixed-media assemblage consisting of prescription bottles, mismatched kitchenware, doll parts, plastic cutlery and countless other mundane household objects overlaid with pigment: the detritus of a life, gilded and glittered.

Nearby, a collection of a different sort comprises Chris Bernsten & Ruth Ex’s video piece “Reflectus”: a kaleidoscopic phantasmagoria of sounds and images, some of them discreetly erotic and all suffused with an achingly beautiful sense of memory, loss and desire.

Collections of things with a significance greater than the sum of their parts also include Nurhan Gokturk’s quietly chilling assortment of TSA bins filled with carry-on items and painted a ghostly white; and Lorna Williams’ “Attuned”, which uses industrial objects to recreate the skeleton of the human body in all its resilience and fragility.

Carlton Scott Sturgill’s built environment looks like the perfect Instagram-ready romantic hideaway (or maybe a particularly high-end scented candle store) until you look closer and see that all those flowers are actually made of bits of fabric filched from Ralph Lauren-branded clothing and textiles — raising the question of how much of what we identify as sentiment is in fact a product of consumer culture and branding. A colorful altar-like installation by the MILAGROS Collective similarly describes memories in the language of disposable commodities.

And two olfactory pieces by Manon Bellet are perhaps the most powerfully evocative ones in the entire show: Two plexiglass frames slide open to reveal papers saturated in scents created by the artist in collaboration with Swiss perfumer, each based on the New Orleans environments from which they collected soil samples after a thunderstorm. Close your eyes and you’re instantly transported from the sterile air of an art gallery to a field in the wetlands redolent of tuberose, sweat and decay.

Other highlights of the show include Carlie Trosclair’s disassociated architectural fragments spread throughout the galleries as poignant evidence of a space that no longer exists; Michelle Swofford’s exquisite porcelain reproductions of storm-swollen books; Tony Dagredi’s meticulously cut out books and atlases that reveal hitherto unexplored regions and associations contained in the volumes; and Momma Tried’s painstakingly detailed dollhouse — right down to tiny Tarot cards, Warhol posters, and boxes of tea in the pantry — accompanied by a catalogue that gives the ephemera of daily life (matchbooks, ticket stubs, notes scribbled on paper) the weight of historical artifacts.

Curator Garvey hopes the show will provide viewers with an opportunity for self-reflection.

"I would really like to have visitors take their time while visiting Ephemera Obscura, to engage fully with the exhibition and think about their personal histories," said Garvey. "My hope is that visitors will reconsider their own ephemera or keepsakes, so they can think more deeply about how or why they are important to their history and have become sacred."

Just about every work in “Ephemera Obscura” is worth contemplating. It’s a heady, cerebral, and visually provocative mix that shouldn’t be missed.

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 Ephemera Obscura 

WHEN: Through Oct. 1

WHERE: Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp St.

INFO: (504) 528-3805,

cacno.org