Showers & Waves
The water sculptures of the 1984 World’s Fair
“Rain Towers,” pictured here, is currently located in front of the Main branch of the New Orleans Public Library at 212 Loyola Ave., near City Hall. While originally planned to be placed in a pool of water, easy, low-cost maintenance in the form of a bed of tropical grasses was a more practical but still attractive solution. Just a few blocks away is “The Source,” placed in the neutral ground of Elk Place. Its fountain function wasn’t installed at that location, and it has been the victim of vandalizing graffiti in recent years.
An international water sculpture competition was a major art component of the 1984 Louisiana World’s Fair. In the fall of ’82, artists were invited to submit images of existing work to an international jury of art experts. Of the 472 entries, 30 were chosen to create a sculpture design. Thirteen finalists were selected, but only three were financed and built.
“The Source” by Claude and Francois-Xavier Lalanne of France was a giant human head on its side, water flowing from the eyes and collecting in a pool below.
During the fair it was located in Centennial Plaza. Sponsored by the City of New Orleans/Downtown Development District and the Wisner Foundation, it was intended to be the first piece in a Duncan Plaza sculpture garden Mayor Dutch Morial was hoping to create.
“Rain Towers” consisted of three 10-to-15 foot steel towers covered with stainless steel flutes that would create a natural fountain during rain. Displayed in Festival Park, it was later gifted to the City of New Orleans by the artist, Helen Escobedo of Mexico.
Louisiana artist Lynda Benglis created an avant-garde dripped-form sculpture in bronze. Displayed in the Great Hall at the entrance to an exhibit of Louisiana art, “Wave of the World” was inspired by bayous, rice and sugarcane fields and the curve of a crawfish shell.
While “The Source” and “Rain Towers” are currently on public display in the CBD, “Wave of the World” has been languishing in a Kenner public works plant.
Sponsored by local businessman Carl Eberts, ownership fell to him at the fair’s end. The sculpture was too big for home display, so Ebert’s brother-in-law, then Kenner mayor Aaron Broussard, offered storage space in an old sewage treatment plant. And there it has remained for 30 years. The Kenner City Council is currently addressing the situation and the fate of the “Wave” should be decided soon.
Note: This is Part 7 of a yearlong focus on the 1984 Louisiana World’s Fair.