Etymologically, “awakening” holds many possible meanings: awareness, recognition, wakefulness, realization, the state of being conscious. Thus, it seems quite appropriate that Kate Chopin’s novel The Awakening, set in New Orleans and the Southern Louisiana coast in the late 1800s was originally titled A Solitary Soul, as the idea of being aware implies a potentially challenging inward search. I read Chopin’s pioneering feminist narrative when I was an undergraduate student at Sarah Lawrence College. This story of a women’s awakening, which ultimately ends when she drowns herself in the Gulf of Mexico, made a strong impression on me when I first encountered it. This solemn story surfaced while I was selecting the work of undergraduate and graduate art students in New Orleans for this exhibition, through both direct and oblique references to innocence lost, water, renewal, and raw sexuality paired with varied uses of natural and found materials. In concert, they represent a cross-section of the multifarious approaches to making and thinking united for a brief moment within the institution of higher education, and which transcend those walls when released into the world.
“Awakening” included work by Del Agnew, Ricki Bratcher, Amelia Broussard, Eric Crider, Mary Crockett, Brooke Falgout, Caleb Henderson, Kyra Hodes, Natalie McLaurin, Annie Rankin, Jeffrey Stenbom, Julia Taylor, Katie Turner, and Brandon Xuereb.