Painting a Hurricane: Jeanne Vockroth
Think back to your 15th birthday. How did it begin? Was your favorite breakfast on the table? Were presents waiting for you when you woke up?
Jeanne Vockroth remembers her 15th birthday quite differently. There was no breakfast on the table and no presents when she woke up, but it was a birthday that she would never forget.
On that day, August 29, 2005, Vockroth’s world was shattered as Hurricane Katrina hit her hometown of New Orleans and destroyed the world she grew up in.
“I had lived in the same house and the same neighborhood since I was two,” Vockroth said. “I went to an arts magnet high school.”
Four days after Katrina, Vockroth and her family relocated to Fayetteville to stay with one of her mother’s childhood friends. The Vockroth family ended up staying in Fayetteville and having to adjust to an environment far from New Orleans.
“I felt that I had lost all of my opportunities from New Orleans,” Vockroth said. “When I first moved, I felt very lost. I had an identity crisis. I just was not sure how to continue my work as an artist.”
Although Fayetteville High School was very different from the arts magnet school Vockroth transferred from, she found solace in the school’s art program. John Rimmers, one of the art teachers, served as a mentor for Vockroth as she struggled to continue her work as an artist.
“(John Rimmers) encouraged me to pursue storytelling in my work,” Vockroth said.
Vockroth continues her art education at the university studying studio art with an emphasis in sculpture.
She considers herself a multimedia artist. She creates sculpture using fibers and ceramics, two-dimensional art and narratives.
The majority of the art that Vockroth creates is influenced by her 15th birthday when her world was changed by Hurricane Katrina.
“A lot of my work is inspired by New Orleans,” Vockroth said. “The feeling of displacement, leaving your home and what it means to search for home.”
A collection of Vockroth’s artwork hangs in the Arsaga’s on Dickson Street. She named this collection “Nostalgia” because it represents her yearn for home after her displacement due to Katrina.
Her works are two-dimensional artworks, combinations of collages and drawings. Vockroth uses images from her childhood and from domestic life to preserve the past.
“I hope that people gain a sense of longing and sense of belonging and place,” Vockroth said. “I want them to feel a sense of mystery from the landscapes I created.”
Vockroth’s artwork has also been displayed in Florence during her year-long study abroad program and in several student shows, such as the Sugar Gallery in Bentonville and the Fine Arts Center Gallery on campus.
Although Vockroth’s career as an artist is taking off in northwest Arkansas, the senior still longs to go back to her home in New Orleans.
“I feel like I need to live in New Orleans as an adult,” Vockroth said. “I need to kind of resolve the feeling that I have that it is my home and I was taken from it.”