In the May 5 issue of Newsweek, a story titled "Towards a New New Orleans" sounds like any number of recent media pieces that mingle a hopeful take on the city's spunk and spirit with cautionary caveats about looming threats of one sort or another. Sandwiched between color photos of antique houses, brass bands and FEMA trailers is an unusual image of a svelte redhead in a silky evening dress reclining in an undulating pile of dirt, a scene made even more surreal by occurring in what looks like the living room of a derelict house replete with a gas heater half buried in the muck. Some mysterious and convoluted objects complete the picture, and you might wonder, is it an art show or some kind of cult ritual?
If you guessed the former, you're right. The article goes on to say that the earthen floor is part of an installation by Margaret Evangeline and the sculptures are by Lafayette artist Fred Daspit. The reclining redhead is Kirsha Kaechele, the director of KKProjects, a kind of art compound featuring a former bakery transformed into a sleek gallery and a series of ramshackle cottages housing experimental art installations. For Kaechele, a California-educated architect originally from Guam and a New Orleanian since 2000, it represents an ongoing effort to give artists a chance to do things that might be impossible elsewhere while bringing new energy to a hard-bitten part of the Ninth Ward.
This month's offerings are mostly by a close-knit group of Acadiana artists she got to know during her Katrina evacuation in Lafayette. Included in the main gallery area are four unusual Robert Rauschenberg screen prints featuring sky charts of constellations with lions and scorpions interspersed with bikers, astronauts and the like, all printed on mirrors, giving them a glittery, reflective aura appropriate to their 1970s origins. Rauschenberg was born in Texas, but called Lafayette home. Old friends there include artist-musician Dickie Landry, who besides being a photographer and painter is known for his spirited saxophone collaborations with Philip Glass and Bob Dylan, among others. His work on view at KK Projects includes paintings and photographs as well as an array of ambient graphics in a derelict house across the street where photos, memorabilia, saint statuettes and Mardi Gras beads appear in seemingly random clusters. Photo sequences of William Burroughs and a photograph of Rauschenberg and Landry in a small plane captioned "En route to Havana at the invitation of Fidel Castro," lend a narrative sensibility not unlike some of William Burroughs' own disjointed ramblings.
A tumbledown cottage nearby houses an installation by Francis Pavy. One room features a digital projection of his paintings in a formally structured sequence, but the bargeboard walls of the parlor comprise a room-size collage of ambient images including his trademark eyes, snakes, gators, hearts and guitars mingled with found objects, playing cards and esoteric texts in a shrinelike elaboration on his favorite themes. All are linked to a pair of paintings in the main gallery, Orpheus' Tomb and Golden City, iconic and surreal images that embody all that their titles imply.
A new world awaits next door where a kind of secret swamp occupies the back room. To get there you traverse the nondescript front chambers and enter a tiny doorway concealed in the back of a small armoire. A darkened passage leads to a tangled thicket replete with plastic mallards, snowmen and other anomalies glowing in eerie crimson light. This is Kim and Scott Pterodactyl's Hot Pink Cape Sale, an installation that seems utterly enigmatic yet somehow complete within itself. A visit to the next house returns us to the Newsweek spread, sans Kaechele, but with Daspit's iconic sculpture beaming esoteric vibes from the inner sanctum of what has to be one of the most mysterious art facilities in America.