Tiny lessons from Katrina: The Everyday Wonder of small objects

Editor’s Note: On August 29, it will have been 15 years since Hurricane Katrina and the ensuing malfunctions devastated New Orleans and changed all of our lives. As we move through another tragedy, we want to remember how our community came together and recovered — against all odds. The spirit of New Orleans is not something you can sink easily, and this week we will be publishing stories of hope and rebuilding in order to show that. Stay strong, all! 

A laughing Buddha on a cell phone was the first object in Sandra Russell Clark’s Juju series. After Katrina, ‘we had to do so much paperwork, we had to be on the phone … When I saw that little Buddha, it was like, OK, this is how life is supposed to be.’ (Photo: sandrarussellclark.com)

Artist Sandra Russell Clark remembers a pivotal moment after Hurricane Katrina, in September 2005. On TV, Anderson Cooper was walking with a homeowner through the ruins of her home in Pass Christian, Mississippi. “She reached down in the rubble and pulled out this small ceramic object, this little donkey pulling a cart, and she just started sobbing with joy. I thought, what a strange thing, her house is gone, everything’s gone, and here’s this little object, this little juju that she’s just sobbing about.”

Clark began photographing similar small, personal, whimsical objects, posing them starkly against neon backgrounds, and blowing them up into gigantic 5-foot canvases. The juxtaposition of these diminutive, commonplace pieces and the powerful works of art they became points to something we often overlook: the power of small objects. Whether it’s that frayed photograph that turns up at the back of the kitchen drawer, or the odd tchotchke that calls to us from the detritus of a yard sale, objects are touchstones to human experience. They carry memory and meaning in ways that have little to do with possession or beauty, and everything to do with dropping markers on our journeys through life.

On today’s episode, we talk about the everyday wonder of small objects – things that may have little intrinsic value, but that talk to us in profound ways.


    Sandra Russell Clark, photographer and creator of Juju, who marvels at the wonder of curious, everyday objects
    The City of New Orleans, an overly cluttered place filled with small objects that hold big magic

Everyday Wonder is a weekly podcast that focuses on conversations about the things that really matter. Read more about it here. Send feedback and comments to Brett Will Taylor at brettwilltaylorew@gmail.com or Renee Peck at renee@nolavie.com.


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