Its exterior doesn’t give much away, but inside an old warehouse abutting the Press Street railroad tracks in the Bywater lie the larger-than-life murals of Studio BE: Ephemeral.Eternal.
Studio BE: Ephermeral.Eternal is the latest project and debut solo show of artist Brandan “Bmike” Odums, a graduate of the leading local arts high school, the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. It is the third and final installment of the BE series, following Project BE from 2013 and ExhibitBE, which was loosely affiliated with the Prospect.3 arts biennial, in 2014-2015.
Bursting with color, richness, and a Civil Rights bent, the 15,000-square-foot Ephemeral.Eternal installation invites both critical thought and introspection.
Several warehouses line the railroad tracks in this area of the neighborhood, but Studio BE’s red, painted exterior sign told me I was in the right place. The unassuming doorway on the side of the building serves as the entrance to both the ticket office and gift shop. I bought my ticket, walked through the door into the main part of the warehouse, and was immediately taken aback by the sheer scale and power of Odums’ work.
Bursting with color, richness, and a Civil Rights bent, the 15,000-square-foot installation invites both critical thought and introspection. The exhibit also includes a written, blue panel that outlines the ethos behind Ephemeral.Eternal. The murals, created largely with spray paint, focus on both the impermanence and continuity of time. Ephemeral.Eternal addresses the two sides of this coin by reflecting on the lives of Civil Rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King, and Malcolm X, human rights advocates like Gandhi and the Dalai Lama, and African Americans and our society.
Ephemeral.Eternal is a multi-layered exhibit. It weaves in religious themes and works to show African Americans as more than a stereotype. I tagged along for part of a group tour with local youth to learn about Odums’ painting of Albert Woodfox, a New Orleans man released from 40 years of solitary confinement earlier this year after his conviction was overturned. Woodfox (above) is shown with a halo reminiscent of Christian iconography.
Exploring the rest of the exhibit, I found some interactive installations, including the giant BE letters. Duck through the black curtains and go inside each letter for some guided self-reflection and positive thinking.
Odums creates art that has a purpose and says that art is “used to communicate, used to educate, used to inspire.” As a black man in New Orleans, his art speaks firsthand to his particular worldview and helps to elevate and educate those who have been left out of the conversation.
Odums hopes to inspire young people in particular, but anyone who walks through that door will leave feeling the same way.
Studio BE: Ephermeral.Eternal is open 4 days a week from Wednesday to Saturday , 2pm – 8pm and will be officially closing in January. Buy tickets in person or here. Follow Studio BE on Instagram or Facebook to stay updated.