NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) —Rolland Golden was a brilliant visual artist, who made his home in New Orleans for a good many years. He was known for the realism, abstract realism, sharp lines, and composition in his paintings.

In 2005, he would paint New Orleans in ruins, after the effects of the levy breech during Hurricane Katrina.

Any artist aspires to show the contents of their heart. In 2005, all hearts were broken in New Orleans, including Golden’s.

Judith Bonner is Senior Curator at The Historic New Orleans Collection and says, “it was three and a half weeks before the water went down and people could get back into the city. That was when the artist Rolland Golden came back to his home of New Orleans. He like the rest of us, was absolutely devastated. He was compelled to start sketching.”

Golden would walk the water streets of New Orleans to take photographs for a sobering series of 26 paintings. These paintings would show the New Orleans forever changed. Depictions of barricades, broken windows, rooftop rescues, waterlines, shadows of sinking people, and long-standing neighborhood institutions and businesses, that would now be reduced to memory.

“One of the things he did was portrayed the demolition and devastation that had happened to the city. You can see that here, with the furniture that is outside and the houses that are dilapidated and torn. But he was also showing you what the naked eye could see. Viewers can look at the painting and also interpret the painting beyond what the naked eye could see. He felt that we wanted to capture his feelings, as well as the feeling of the thousands of other people who lived here and thought they had lost their city,” says Bonner.

Turning devastation into therapy, Golden managed to convey a beautiful melancholy, as well as a powerful moment in the storied pages of New Orleans.

Over the years, the New Orleans Museum of Art and The Historic New Orleans Collection would join forces to collect Rolland’s work. Now, 13 paintings and over a hundred sketches are part of the Historic New Orleans Collection.

Through the sadness in the Hurricane Katrina paintings, Rolland Golden also captures resilience and hope in a second line, showing the tenacious spirit of a city over 300 years old.

In 2019, Rolland Golden passed away. He spent his remaining years, painting beautiful images in Natchez, Mississippi with his family.