This work on wood by Skylar Fein is a re-creation of the entrance sign to a 1970s New Orleans’ gay bar in that city’s French Quarter, one element of a much larger installation entitled Remember the UpStairs Lounge. On June 24, 1973, an arsonist set fire to the bar, killing 32 people and injuring another 15. Although the deadliest fire in New Orleans history, newspaper coverage of the catastrophe was sensational and short-lived.
Working from photographs, oral histories and written descriptions, Fein recreated the bar’s interior. Remember the UpStairs Lounge also incorporated personal photographs of bar personnel and patrons, gruesome images from the fire’s aftermath, as well as Fein’s text, which describes the fire and its circumstances in a tone that is both factual and contemplative. With Remember the UpStairs Lounge, Fein has created something that operates on numerous levels: as artwork, memorial, social critique and historical revision.