The Road Goes On Forever, And Karma Never Ends

Karma 2

Exceptional art has a WOW! Factor that can’t be ignored. Whatever the message, it reaches out and grabs you. First, it captures the eye, and then the mind: visually and symbolically.

On my last trip to New Orleans this sculpture, entitled Karma certainly grabbed me and my camera.

Karma 1

Korean artist Do Ho Suh created the piece for the Besthoff Sculpture Garden at the New Orleans Museum of Art, and the shiny, multi-faceted, stainless steel figures, made a nuanced B&W photo.

For me, the sculpture is appealing in both design and concept. The piggy-backed men, each covering the eyes of the man below, create the illusion of a human tower stretching into infinity. The graceful curve of the tower and the diminishing size of the figures (all 98 of them) appear to go on forever; exactly like the Buddhist beliefs of reincarnation and karma. Good intentions and good deeds create good karma in this and the next life, and bad actions achieve the opposite. My read on the covered eyes is that it’s impossible to see your previous or future life, but karma forges how your life will be.

This sculpture makes the point with many voices; good or bad – you choose.

Karma 3

This is the final post in the B&W Challenge. Thanks again to Carol at Which Way Now 101 for the invitation. It’s been a fun change of pace for us, and hopefully, for our readers as well.

Wishing you good karma,

P.S. For our readers up north, there’s a bronze version of this sculpture at the Albright-Knox Museum in Buffalo, NY. If you get a chance, drop by in July when the snow has melted and check it out. And have a look at Suh’s amazing and equally impressive tornado of little orange men.


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

46 thoughts

    1. You pegged it Sue. This was a recumbent composition. I’ve read lots of photo tips on composition and perspective for photography. Ultimately, I just try lots of angles to see what works. Having said that, for obvious reasons this sculpture needed the long view. ~James

      1. You know what I think would make a great post James would be a collection of photos of the blogger taking the photos in unusual positions and the people passing by looking quizzically at the goings on. 🙂

    1. I love the tornado as well. The interesting thing about the orange men sculpure is that they move this piece around. Can you imagine the work involved in assembling and re-assembling this piece? ~James

    1. Carol, this sculpture is one of best that I’ve seen for a while. The shiny, multi-faceted surface reflects light and color from all directions, and the diminishing figures draw the eye like a magnet. Excellent. ~James

    1. Thanks for the comment Anne and for dropping by the blog. If I were an artist, creating beautiful, interesting, and thought provoking pieces would be my goal. This piece excels at all three. ~James

  1. Well, this made me stop to think. My take on the eyes being covered is you never know what is ahead, but the only time you have to worry about karma is if you aren’t a good person. Very neat sculpture and nicely photographed (I agree with Sue, I’ll bet you were laying on the ground for the second shot, lol)

    1. Laura, your photographer’s eye clearly saw my shot from the pavement. Luckily, this piece was in the garden and not inside. I’m not sure the security guards inside would have let me crawl around on the floor for the best angle. I truly love this sculpture. ~James

  2. Wow! Inspiring sculpture and very nice captures. Got to love the philosophy behind “karma” haha. People who worry about it are normally bad people.

    1. Thanks Virginia. Personally, I’m not sure about reincarnation, but I think most of us, even if we don’t admit it, believe that what goes around comes around. It’s that sense of schadenfreude when someone does something mean. I think: “You’ll get your’s buddy.” Maybe yes, maybe no – but it makes me feel better at the time. ~James

    1. I agree Rusha. The crafting of the piece raises lots of questions. Stainless steel requires very high temperatures, and the the gradual curve, which is crucial to the piece, had to be difficult to pull off. Was it cast as one piece, or multiple pieces and then welded together? However they did it, the results are outstanding. ~James

    1. I agree Tess. The info I found online says it has 98 pieces. I started a count and gave up. This is one of my all time faves. If you didn’t already, have a look at the orange men link at the end. It’s wonderful as well. ~James

  3. I saw quite a lot but I missed this sculpture on our 2012 visit to New Orleans. I guess we’ll just have to go back and check it out. This is an amazing sight, and your B&W photo gives it stunning contrast. I had to look close to see if it was some kind of visual special effect because it actually appeared to continue into infinity, like looking into two mirrors facing each other. – Mike

    1. Mike, I seem to remember that this piece was installed in 2012, so you may not have missed it. If you return, check out this sculpture garden. Take the City Park streetcar to the last stop, and the sculpture garden is a very nice freebie which is right across the street. Also, grab a muffaletta for a picnic in City Park. NOLA all the way. ~James

  4. Impressive photo and sculpture, James. A great black and white composition on a fascinating subject. I am not sure that I would want to pay for the bad behavior of my grandfather to the umpteenth, or even the first. But still, we do saddle future generations with our behavior. –Curt

    1. You’re too right Curt. In addition to the karma crowd, the nature vs. nurture folks would agree with you as well. I’d love to know more about Suh’s creative process. The artistic vision and practical steps necessary to create this wonderful piece are a mystery to me. Excellent. ~James

    1. LuAnn, I love the look and feel of this sculpture as well as the message. I’d like to know that the Grand Equalizer takes care of folks – both good and bad. Who knows, but there’s a certain warm fuzziness to that idea. ~James

  5. Beautifully photographed James. And an extraordinary sculpture. Thanks for sharing it. I got a blind leading the blind feel from it as well, or the blindness of the past is passed on to the future.

    1. I love sculpture Alison and some pieces just speak to me. This is one of those pieces. I love this artist’s technique and ideas. This piece is not only striking, but clever. If I were an artist, I would shoot for this exact target. ~James

      1. So cool. From your photos, it looks hundreds of feet high. Thanks for always sharing off beat and thoughtful posts, things we don’t always see on other travel blogs!

        Where are you two headed next?

      2. Thanks Jeff. We were planning a Yucatan trip, but there are a couple of things going on to keep us close to home for a while. We’re gettin’ itchy and it’s only a matter of time. ~James

  6. Fantastic! And thanks for the link to the tornado of little orange men (unbelievable!) and then on to other artworks on Their creativity is over the top!

    1. Thanks Marilyn. As I’ve said to others, Karma is fabulous and a huge fave. But I enjoyed seeing a spin-off of this idea in the tornado. What an incredible amount of work and planning it must have taken. I love the transition and gradation of colors. I’m glad you enjoyed the link. ~James

  7. Such an incredible sculpture with a deep, meaningful message….It’s amazing how high it is!
    It almost looks like a human spine to me too…
    Thank you for always sharing your interesting facts and photos with us!

    1. Lia, I hadn’t thought of a human spine, and you’re absolutely right. Thanks for a fresh perspective, and yet another level of symbolism in the sculpture. Now that you point this out, I’m sure the artist planned it that way. Very interesting. Thanks. ~James

      1. Oh I’m glad to add a different take on it:) It truly is a spectacular sculpture, in all ways!

    1. Juliann, definitely check this out on your next visit. It makes a fun and cheap outing. Take the City Park streetcar to the last stop, and the sculpture garden is a very nice freebie right across the street. Also, grab a muffaletta for a picnic. NOLA at its best. ~James

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