When sculptor Michael Manjarris found the person sitting next to him on a flight from Texas to New Orleans was a grieving parent of one of the 11 workers killed in BP’s Deepwater Horizon explosion, an idea for a public art project commemorating the fallen workers began to take shape.
On Friday, Sept. 9, that idea became a reality with the installation of a sculpture by Laurel, Miss., artist Jason Kimes named ELEVEN on the Elysian Fields Avenue median near the corner of Dauphine in New Orleans.
For many family members of the 11 workers killed in the April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon blast, grief was compounded by a lonely silence as the human tragedy was quickly eclipsed by the enormous environmental tragedy that unfolded in the Gulf of Mexico.
The father that Mr. Majarris met on the flight was on his way to court in New Orleans to settle issues involving the loss of his son.
The man “felt like no one was paying attention to the working men, to his son, to the people who were out there doing their jobs. It was very, very painful to him,” Mr. Manjarris told the Times-Picayune.
Mr. Manjarris, an accomplished artist whose work appears in public spaces all over New Orleans, chose not to create the monument himself, but to share the idea with Mr. Kimes, whose steel-disk figures he had installed in another New Orleans location in 2013.
Mr. Kimes accepted the challenge and began creating the sculptures using steel disks created as a byproduct of Mississippi metal fabrication factory hole punch, the Times-Picayune explained. Each of the eleven figures is made of about 2,000 disks and weighs about 500 pounds.
The figures are arranged in a circle, symbolic of eternity, and were placed on Elysian Fields “for a reason,” Mr. Majarris told the Times-Picayune. In ancient Greece, Elysian Fields was a place in the afterlife where the most heroic of the dead went.