Two artists see an unexpected beauty in the face of hurricane Ida: one in the sound, the other in the oils | Arts


Quintron is a spirited keyboardist who used meteorological equipment of his own design to capture the abstract music of Hurricane Ida as it blew through the Bywater. Once the storm passed, Phil Sandusky, a late-day Impressionist painter, set up his easel in the streets of Uptown, where he quickly produced lush, loosely brushed images of storm wrecks in oil on canvas.

Quintron couldn’t be much more avant-garde, and Sandusky couldn’t be much more retro. Yet the two accomplished artists had the same goal: to document one of the fiercest storms to ever hit New Orleans.

Let it be in the hands of heaven

Quintron’s “Wather Warlock” is a spindly craft protruding from its porch overlooking St. Claude Avenue. As he explains, the “Wather Warlock” collects “the actual wind speed, an approximate reading of humidity, barometric pressure and UV exposure.”

Quintron’s “Wather Warlock” Turns Weather Information into Music

These electronic atmospheric readings are transmitted by wire to a sci-fi control panel / keyboard called “The Brain”, where they influence the sound of a buzzing F major note. The tone is “pushed and pulled, massed and knocked down,” by rain, wind, light and atmospheric pressure, Quintron explained. The goal, he said, is to produce music that has “no patterns or human decision-making.”

“Let it be in the hands of heaven,” he said.

On August 29, everyone was in the hands of the sky as the Category 4 storm ravaged the city. Quintron pointed out that once you’ve decided to do it and are squatting, there really isn’t much you can do. “It’s too late to do anything else,” he said.

So he was busy recording what the “Wather Warlock” was going through. “There was a crazy, crazy wind outside,” he said. But, surprisingly, the power was on for most of the afternoon, so it captured a lot.


Quintron’s “Wather Warlock” turns weather information into music via a control console called “The Brain”

Quintron, who refuses to share his first name, grew up in St. Louis before moving to New Orleans in the mid-1990s, where he earned a reputation for what he calls “fire your pants off” performances. rock and roll ”, as well as forays. in electronic experimentation. Ten years ago, Quintron said he used his recovery to design the “Weather Warlock,” which serves as both a musical instrument and minimalist sculpture.

Usually, the device is called upon to collect the subtleties of daily subtropical breezes and showers. Quintron had no idea that one day his invention would capture what he called “the Super Bowl of Super Bowls weather events.”

The result is a composition that Quintron calls “People = Ants (Hurricane Ida recordings)”. It is not at all what you expect. Far from crashing peaks and valleys, “People + Ants” is a gently flickering, hoarse, bubbling 20-minute meditation on our shared experience, punctuated by the clattering of the street, a distant siren and a ethereal sweep of melody near the end.


Surrounded by trash cans and fallen limbs, Phil Sandusky uses his impressionistic style to quickly capture images of the damage from Hurricane Ida in New Orleans

Fragility and impermanence

Phil Sandusky paints quickly. He has to do this to catch the light before it travels. He stands stiff on his easel, staring at his subject over and over again, before using thick and seemingly awkward brushes to quickly apply spots of color that blend into surprisingly sharp images of the New Orleans cityscape.

Painting quickly has never been more important than in the days after Hurricane Ida, when there were so many spectacular images of Ida’s wrath that were “cleaned up as fast as I could paint them”, Sandusky explained.

Sandusky said he weathered the storm, specifically to paint. He went seven days and 11 hours without power as buckets collected rainwater from his attic to document the destruction, he said.

“It’s just what I do. I am an artist, “he said.” Visually it is breathtaking. It is very dramatic to see the power of nature. Seeing a tree plowed is not something you see all the time. It is very convincing.

Sandusky typically spends his days recording the lushness of New Orleans flora and the allure of architecture. But in the period after August 29, he said, the job was to document the “fragility and impermanence” of the two. Impressionism may sound romantic, but at its core, Sandusky said, it’s a form of realism.

Sandusky, 63, was born in Jacksonville, Florida. The former oil rig engineer arrived in New Orleans in 1984 and eventually established himself as one of the city’s first plein air painters.

Ida’s aftermath wasn’t the first time Sandusky had focused his skills on destroying hurricanes. He produced an austere suite of Impressionist paintings of the devastation that followed Hurricane Katrina and the 2005 floods.

Then as now, the unlikely combination of his sultry style with the harshness of the post-hurricane subject matter produced ironic poetry.


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