This monumental painting by Deborah Grant presents an abundance of interwoven visual information in a style and working method that Grant terms “random select,” where she filters historical accounts and popular culture through her personal experiences.
Using imagery borrowed from a wide variety of sources, Grant interprets the situation resulting from the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and folds it into a nonlinear depiction of US history. On the left-most panel, a figure on a tall horse represents a plantation overseer that, for Grant, symbolizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) oversight of the aftermath of Katrina. A small plane flies by, representing the distance President George W. Bush maintained from witnessing Katrina’s effects. The second panel includes an upside down, gagged image of the Quaker Oats man. The Quakers opposed slavery and believed that slavery in the US would result in great devastation—a devastation realized by Katrina in Grant’s painting.
The overall composition of the work emphasizes flat, broad expanses of bright color contrasted with figures silhouetted in black. This style derives from that of Bill Traylor (1854-1949), a self-taught artist who was born into slavery on a plantation in Alabama and began painting in his eighties. This work is part of a series by Grant called "By the Skin Of Our Teeth," or alternatively "The Bill Traylor Project."