The UNO St. Claude Gallery in New Orleans presents “At the Edge of Existence,” an exhibit by MFA student René Merino that opens Friday, Feb. 11. The exhibition explores the limitations and possibilities of life in a pandemic and examines the ambiguity that straddles the threshold between existence and extinction.
Merino’s thesis exhibit encompasses three distinct bodies of work:
• The Searcher's Study 2022, a room-sized installation, recreates the study room of an obsessive searcher of the ivory-billed woodpecker. The ivorybill, the Holy Grail for birders and ornithologists, is currently in the process of being declared officially extinct, though sightings persist from deep within second-growth bottomland forests in the South. Displayed on various televisions in the study is the only film ever recorded of ivory-billed woodpeckers from 1935. It was filmed in an 80,000-acre old-growth forest along the Tensas River in Louisiana, the bird’s last known refuge, which was clear-cut in the years immediately following the bird’s rediscovery there. Included in the searcher’s study are silver gelatin photographs of the Pearl River swamp and a large map pinpointing sighting locations and future search sites.
• Mardi Gras 2021 includes silver gelatin prints of a somber Mardi Gras, with hints of joyous coping, chronicling life during the pandemic. Created with a plastic camera and medium-format black and white film, the photographs preserve a snippet of a New Orleans Mardi Gras unlike any before, where revelers simultaneously wear carnival masks and COVID masks, unwilling to forsake the ritual.
• World Tour 2020 includes large color photographs, originally printed as a book of postcards, depicting scenes from a journey around the world when traveling was all but forbidden due to the pandemic. The images were all created in New Orleans by visiting sites named for places near and far. This grand tour starts in New Orleans and stops in Havana, Hamburg, Congo and Constantinople, to name a few of the places along the way.
The exhibit opens Friday, Feb. 11 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the UNO St. Claude Gallery, 2429 St. Claude Avenue, New Orleans, LA. A reception will be held Saturday, Feb. 12 from 3 to 6 p.m. The show runs through March 5. Regular gallery hours are Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 5 p.m.