If you walk up Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans, cross the former swampland of Bayou Road, and look to your left, you may see a 15-foot fish suspended from the trees. If it’s nowhere in sight, you can expect bad weather ahead.
The giant fiberglass fish—modeled on a marlin—is one of the many sculptures that inhabit the garden of the artist, urbanist, and environmental planner Robert Tannen. With its soaring columns and wedding-cake pediment, the house beyond is as ornate as any along the avenue, an impression at odds with the stacks of construction materials piled in the front yard. A pyramidal tower of concrete blocks is installed by the gate, and steel boxes shaped like southern shotgun houses are smashed in a heap—a sculpture made in anticipation of Hurricane Katrina. The marlin sometimes swings from the porch or between two live oaks. But when a storm is forecast—and those storms have become stronger and more frequent since Tannen moved to New Orleans in 1972—the marlin is tightly tied to the trunk of a tree, barely visible behind the palm fronds and crumpled steel
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