NEW ORLEANS — It’s the oldest surviving Art Deco airport in the world – a title and an honor that’s been bestowed upon the New Orleans Lakefront Airport.
But this architectural marvel here today could not have been unearthed, literally, without a lot of elbow grease.
“Everything that you see here, all of the original features, architectural details were covered up in an extensive renovation that hid the features both inside and outside,” says conservator Elise Grenier.
This includes a series of eight murals that were rediscovered after Hurricane Katrina, and Grenier has been painstakingly restoring these works of art, piece by piece, section by section, for the past year.
“The eight murals are actually covered up with Japanese rice paper and then buried in a wall, so part of our job was to recover them from inside of the walls,” says Grenier.
Each mural represents a pivotal moment in aviation history. They were painted by American artist Xavier Gonzalez in 1938.
There’s Admiral Richard Byrd flying over Mt. Everest and the landing in Paris by famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, but the mural depicting a flight to Bali is gone. No one knows where it is.
“We are hoping to recover it. In the meantime, I am recreating it because it is virtually the only element that’s missing in this context,” says Grenier.
Grenier is using old photographs of the “lost” mural as a guide for her recreation as the search continues for the original.
She hopes to one day find it and return it where it belongs.