The Offing

The Offing series (2012–14), based in New Orleans, is about that city’s displacement of bodies, both living and dead. These intimately scaled paper collages depict former orphanages, disinterred cemeteries, and locations where murderers hid the bodies of their victims. In New Orleans the dead can’t be buried because the city sits below sea level and the coffins pop back up out of the ground, like buoys held underwater and then released, whenever a heavy rain loosens the hard topsoil. Early settlers learned this the hard way, and they began housing bodies in aboveground tombs. This gives New Orleans a curious relationship to the dead—residents live among them rather than on top of them. Yet present-day narratives still erase bygone ones, often mundanely: The city’s first Jewish cemetery is now an abandoned playground, a prominent Catholic orphanage is now a quaint bed and breakfast. Although these sites often bear little physical evidence of their past, the collages are imbued with a psychological tension that hints at a charged history. Ultimately the works stand as reminders that we sometimes end up in places we never intended to go, and that those places themselves remain in a state of constant flux.

The Offing grew out of a contribution to the 2013 book Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas, by Rebecca Solnit and Rebecca Snedeker.