Kaelin Part 1

Kaelin Part 1

Nashville, TN

Kaelin: I was 10 [when Katrina hit]. I remember being on I-10 in the worst traffic you've ever seen. On one side of the road, there were people giving us water bottles and everyone was super nice. On the other side there were people picketing. “Repent or perish” type of things. I was like what's wrong with these people over here? And my mom said "They're just church people. They think we got hit by Katrina because of  Southern Decadence and how crazy New Orleans is."

I was really confused because growing up that was not my experience of New Orleans. My experience was going to Audubon Zoo and getting  candy, and going to parades and catching beads. I felt like the  rest of the world had a different view of my hometown and thought we were better off without it. 

After we evacuated we were outside of Talladega, AL. I had a pet rabbit on a leash. It was my brother's rabbit, but I took care of it. All the kids were outside playing with the rabbit while the parents were inside biting their nails off.

Have you ever heard about the rougarou?

BW: No.


Kaelin:  It's Cajun folklore. It's basically the Cajun werewolf. My grandmother told me about it. She told me that if I missed Lent, I would get turned into a rabbit and released into the swamps and have to live there.  I could not think of anything worse. 

I use rabbits a lot in my artwork because I think it represents that innocence to me. I feel bad for them. I always felt really bad for them. The one I have now, Hazel, is in New Orleans with my mom. Her dog died and she was really lonely and needed the rabbit.

BW: You need to get back to New Orleans. You sound homesick.

Kaelin: I am so homesick.  I think that my childhood got cut short pretty quickly and I had to grow up and understand this really mass devastation.

Every year I get more and more anxious. It's like every year the storms are getting bigger, and I feel like any minute now it's going to get wiped out. I feel guilty for not being there, which is such a strange thing. What city can make you feel guilty for not being there?

I think that’s what’s special about New Orleans. Everybody has PTSD. Everybody’s got that connecting trauma, and it doesn’t seem like it’d be a good thing but it’s shown itself in really positive ways.