“Early in the morning on August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast of the United States. When the storm made landfall, it had a Category 3 rating on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale–it brought sustained winds of 100–140 miles per hour–and stretched some 400 miles across. The storm itself did a great deal of damage, but its aftermath was catastrophic. Levee breaches led to massive flooding, and many people charged that the federal government was slow to meet the needs of the people affected by the storm (History.com).”
At this moment I was a graduate student in painting at the University of Hawaii. I had also lived through hurricanes Hugo in the Virgin Island (1989) and Iniki in Hawaii (1992) and been in a band called The New York Niggers, a mixed racial band 1978-80. After I had been kicked out Hollis Hotel on 48th and 8th for lack of funds a group of black guys took me into their loft on 474 Greenwich St. Yes, I am white and I am not even an American citizen. This is my history and the context, but what caused me to paint this image besides the fact that political, economic or natural disasters always hit the poor the hardest, is the power that came through this image, the Kendrix family sitting in squalid conditions in the New Orleans Super Dome, more or less abandoned by the government but for this moment wrapping them selves in the American Flag, a blanket re-presenting the flag actually, the powerful symbol of the nation that had oppressed them over and over. Instantly, I knew I needed to paint it. Taking out all color except the red and blue was what the image told me. Eventually I earned a scholarship from this painting and then it ended up stashed away.
A few weeks ago a collector reminded me of the painting and I dug it out to realize, how relevant the painting still is. The collector thought the painting was too scary to hang it in her house. I decided to go over it completely and bring it up to date. Here it is. It is my contribution to the discussion after Katrina and now. As long as one of us is still suffering, the work is not finished.