BY D. ERIC BOOKHARDT
“Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water... only drowning men could see him.” So opined Leonard Cohen in his epochal 1967 ballad “Suzanne.”
Similarly, the historical Buddha often is depicted serenely floating on a lotus flower. If spirituality is so closely linked with water, New Orleans may be the most spiritual city in America.
If that sounds far-fetched, this “Passage” expo at Callan Contemporary gallery extends Raine Bedsole's long exploration of spirit vessels that, like New Orleans itself, can seem magically suspended in a sea of humidity.
So what are we to make of this armada of welded bronze, copper and steel pirogues that float in space much the way deceased Egyptian pharaohs were envisioned sailing across the night sky in buoyant Nile barques? These are hardly uncharted waters for Bedsole, for whom these skeletal vessels have been a consistent theme, but each iteration reveals new facets of her ongoing investigation via new tidal currents of connections.
Here, the spindly crosshatching of “Lachesis” looks like a Native American canoe and suggests both the veinous expanses of banana tree leaves and the gossamer wings of vintage airplanes. Likewise, the swampy streamers dripping from the skeletal “Maia” suggest bejeweled root systems that blur the boundaries between the earth and the sea and a perspective beyond the all-consuming currents of techno-minutiae that the 21st century imposes upon us.
Indeed, contemporary techno-minutiae is just the latest version of a very old story that once was summarized succinctly by a late lawyer friend of mine: “Life is a hustle.”
But, as the Buddha, Jesus, Taoist sages and saints of all stripes might agree, just beyond the latest hustle is a chill space where the connectivity exceeds whatever is available on your smartphone. Those broader and more supportive currents are silently yet resonantly conveyed in Bedsole's “Philosophers I-IV” (pictured), as the Buddhas seem to float on lotus petals amid climbing vines in a realm where addictive algorithms melt into the oceanic currents of the cosmos.
Or as Bedsole says, “When I have dreams of flying, I am always in a boat.”