“The Persistence of Memory…”

August 20th, 2010 by Josh Neufeld  

Submitted for your approval is "The Persistence of Memory…". The one-pager was "commissioned" by A.D. character Leo McGovern, who recently published Feast, an anthology of comics by New Orleanians and a few invited others, like Caesar Meadows, Happy Burbeck, and Jeff Pastorek; as well as out-of-towners like Josh Simmons and myself. You can buy a copy here.

As Leo wrote when he invited me to contribute, "the only thing we ask is that if you’re not currently living in the New Orleans area, your cartoon would be about New Orleans or something New Orleans-related." I welcomed the chance to revisit New Orleans in my comics—especially now that the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is looming.

After thinking it over a little bit, I decided to address the passage of time since Katrina, and the way that New Orleans is still dealing with the storm. I was inspired by a paper an A.D. reader shared with me. Sean Mallin is a PhD Student in the Dept. of Anthropology at UC Irvine, and his paper is called "Steps to Nowhere? Rebuilding Haunted Landscapes in New Orleans." I remembered being particularly struck by the lines (quoting Times-Picayune columnist Chris Rose) "Everywhere you go now, there’s some memory staring you in the face. What it used to look like;" as well as Mallin’s passage, “Memories of things they had or the way things were ‘before’ haunt [New Orleans residents] on a daily basis. Just like the ‘steps to nowhere,’ all the ‘stuff’ washed away by the floodwaters maintain a haunting presence in the lives of city residents."

I try to get at those feelings in "The Persistence of Memory…," which tracks one New Orleans house (or, rather, one piece of property) through the storm, the flooding, the aftermath, and subsequent stages of destruction and renewal. To make it extra fancy, I attempt to show all this one shot, broken up into five panels, each representing a different time in the life of the property.

It’s a subtle piece, requiring close reading; I hope it works for you.

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