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Passing time with artistic news expression

To hear Sharon Litwin's interview with Aaron McNamee on WWNO radio, click here.

Artist Aaron.McNamee marks each year with works created from issues of the daily Times.

Aaron McNamee, born in a really rural part of northeastern Oregon, in a county of less than 5,000 people, first came to New Orleans post-Katrina to help an artist friend muck out his flooded home. He did all the things so many did at that time: He put up dry wall, painted, generally helped out.

 An artist himself, with a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Oregon University, McNamee freely admits that the “wild west lifestyle” he encountered in  New Orleans at that time was something he never imagined. He loved it.

So in 2007 he moved back here to get a graduate degree. Three years later, he had earned his MFA from the University of New Orleans, and now continues to serve as an Artist in Residence in the UNO Art Department.

Moving almost completely from expressing himself through traditional sculptural elements – metals, stone -- to working with paper, he is intrigued by themes of time and media. In New Orleans that has meant the meticulous lamination of every page of every daily Times-Picayune into sculptural blocks of time, each block representing one entire year of news.

Aaron McNamee, Complete Year Times-Picayune, Aug. 3, 2010 - Aug. 2, 2011

For McNamee, this process of retaining the daily rhythm of life was his way of recognizing that things were changing. He had begun notice the disappearance of such things as newspaper boxes on street corners, public telephones in shopping malls, things he had grown up with. But, even he could not imagine that he would be producing an artistic expression of a way of life that was to be no more. He had just planned to continue his artistic expression of the passing of time by laminating layers and layers of The Times-Picayune into complete one-year cycles, expressions of visual art that could be hung on a wall or propped up in a corner.

Like many New Orleanians, he reads the paper first thing in the morning with his cup of coffee. Unlike the rest of us, however, he then carefully keeps each page of each paper so he can “entomb” time. To see this remarkable (and timely) recognition of what the T-P has meant to him, go to Heriard-Cimino Gallery,440 Julia Street. An exhibition of his work “Between the Pages” is on view Tuesdays through Saturdays until September 24.

Sharon Litwin is president of NolaVie.

Sharon Litwin is president of NolaVie. Email her at [email protected]