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Loyola alum creates sculpture in the Lower 9th Ward

Loyola press release - May 16, 2007

(New Orleans) Artist Takashi Horisaki, A03, intent on creating a sculpture to remind New Yorkers that the Crescent City is still badly hurting, arrived in New Orleans on Sunday and set about a most unusual artistic endeavor: covering a severely damaged shotgun in the Lower 9th Ward with a thick coat of latex.

The young sculptor, who now lives in New York City, planned to hang the resulting latex mold on a frame built to the exact dimensions of the house, creating a life-sized soft sculpture to be displayed at Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens, NY.

But Horisaki's artistic vision may never be realized. The house, he learned, is slated for demolition this week.

Horisaki said he needs about six weeks to prepare the complete latex shell. He started it on Sunday May 13, when he mixed 100 gallons of liquid latex with gray latex house paint. Just before dark that same day, he and an intern from Loyola began applying the first coat of the latex mixture. The finished project requires seven layers, each with cheesecloth placed between to give it some heft.

The first coats are the most difficult, painted by hand to ensure the latex coats every corner, every hinge, every architectural detail of the house, he said. Subsequent, less-precise layers will go more quickly because the two will able to use paint rollers. Each coat must fully dry, which may take a day, depending on humidity and the wind. Once the latex is dry, Horisaki will need several days to carefully peel off the ghostly gray latex skin, which will be carefully sliced into 12 foot by 4 foot sections. In total, he'll have 40 sheets of latex, he estimates, which he'll sprinkle liberally with baby powder to prevent sticking as he rolls up the sheets.

Tokyo-born Horisaki said he enrolled in Loyola University in 2000 to study English, choosing New Orleans because of his love of jazz. Horisaki's teachers suggested he take art classes to break up his long days of studying. He experimented with ceramics and avant-garde sculpture, creating abstractions made of pine needles and Mississippi River mud. He eventually turned to latex. His first latex works were casts of his own body, which he would peel off at the end of performances and hang on the wall. He later created latex castings of a warehouse door, a telephone pole and the massive entrance to a high school.

Horisaki conceived his artistic reaction to New Orleans' plight after touring the city's devastated neighborhoods in 2006. "I was shocked. It was very much different from what I heard and saw on TV and news for some reason, so I wanted to do something," Horisaki said, adding that many of his friends in New York City believe people in New Orleans have already rebuilt their houses.

Horisaki said Tuesday he is holding out hope that he can prepare the proper paperwork and navigate the process before the demolition crews begin their work. But he feels a bit powerless in the face of the bureaucracies. "I am just a small artist that no one knows," he said.

To read Horisaki's project blog, go to www.takashihorisaki.com.

Loyola University New Orleans is a Jesuit-Catholic institution with a total student enrollment of 4,724 including 800 law students.