BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) -The clock is ticking on Russ’ living room wall. Actually lots of clocks are ticking.
The Violet artist known on the internet as Sweeterdo is in a race against time. He is on the hunt for time capsules in plain sight. Sweeterdo makes art of the things we leave behind.
Glass crunches under his feet as he steps out of his car. His first stop, an abandoned convenience store. Graffiti covers the walls inside and out. Glass and used syringes are cover the floor. Sweeterdo pulls out his camera and begins taking pictures.
He is part artist, part explorer. “”What’s in these rooms?” He asks to no one in particular, “Got to find out.” With that, he ducks through a doorway that has been jimmied open by the homeless that sometimes live in these places.
Inside, among the fallen ceiling tiles, tangle of wires and broken furniture, Sweeterdo searches for art. “You see amazing architectural details that are looked past and left.” he said.
In the past two years, he has honed his craft and his eye. Almost anything with leading lines or graphic designs will do. The abandoned naval yard outside Chalmette is one of his favorite haunts. “If nobody takes pictures of these things,” he said, “people’s kids, and future generations, they’ll have no idea this kind of stuff existed.
He spends hours online searching for art in places most of us would rather not look. When he finds something, he tracks down the owner to get permission for his project, then dives right in. Photos in hand, Sweeterdo returns to his computer for a stylized edit session where he drains much of the color from the originals, and tweaks what is left to give the photograph a gothic feel.
“The first place we went was to Six Flags.” he said with an eerie grin. “You hear crazy stories of gang members running around there. It’s an amusement park, too, so you’re sitting around, and it’s like Scooby-Doo -- like a horror movie.”
That first foray into abandoned art consisted of exactly one photograph. “We got about 10 steps in. We shot one photograph, and we were like, ‘Alright well, we’re good.’”
Sweeterdo has traveled the Gulf Coast to find his subjects. Many of his photographs are haunting tributes to everyday life: old dentist offices, ransacked homes, overgrown automobiles.
And his pictures inside Charity Hospital’s autopsy theater are a chilling reminder of the tragedies in our own lives. “It’s a heavy feeling.” he said. “I lived here for Katrina, and it was a devastating situation. You’re looking down hallways thinking, ‘I wonder how many people were terrified, sitting here for days.’”
His abandoned churches inspire awe and uplift the spirit, just like they did when congregations gathered there for worship. “These places were meant to be admired. They’re meant to be beautiful.” he said. “It’s my favorite thing to shoot because of the symmetry, the architecture. It’s definitely a privilege to see these things.”
“There’s something beautiful about decay. I don’t know why.” he said. “When things are blighted, and they’re left behind, and nature has started to reclaim it, there’s something really beautiful about that.”
In a world that keeps whizzing by, Sweeterdo is just one man capturing the beauty of our past before time runs out.
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