Sunday, January 9, 2011

Three New Bronze Sculptures at the Houston Garden Center

Martin Luther King
Old people repeat stories so if you have heard this one, please skip over it. Janet and I began a project in approximately 2002 which variously goes by Outdoor Art in Houston or Art in the City. It is one of those projects which will never be completed as new art is added and old art is relocated. That’s okay, it only make the project more interesting.

It was a project that we had discussed doing back in the eighties and never got around to doing. Like all of my continuing projects this one had several goals. Houston is fortunate to have a large selection of outdoor art from figure studies to very abstract, from sculpture to murals. It is in a constant state of flux, new pieces are added, old pieces are relocated, temporary pieces are constantly coming and going so one of the goals, though not necessarily the primary goal was simply to document the pieces.

There were two goals that were more important. One, it tied in to Janet’s photography career of photographing works of art which she could not continue after the stroke in 1986. Janet enjoyed the art and at first was very interested in the photographs that were taken. Second, I needed motivation to get out of the house. At the time we started the project I was working and five days out of every week Janet was confined to being home alone. When the weekends came I wanted to stay home, sleep in, play on the computer. It was my home time.

I needed a strong motivation to get dressed, pack up the equipment get out which was what Janet needed. She couldn’t assist with the photography, but she could go along, get some fresh air and a change of pace. She enjoyed the art. She enjoyed our forays searching for new pieces up until the last two to three years when she gradually lost interest in the world around her. Never the less, as we would came across new pieces I would still do photographs but there were no longer trips made solely for the purpose of photographing art.

Like I have mentioned before I do not plan projects, I stumble onto projects. Janet and I had gone to Hermann Park. The parking lot at the zoo was almost full and we had to park at the far end. When we came back to the car I noticed that we were not far from a piece of art that Janet loved and one that I had been saying for years that I wanted to photograph, Jim Love’s The Portable Trogon Bear. Jim was one of Janet’s favorite Houston artists. She liked Jim and she liked his “found object” sculptures. I suggested that we walk over and photograph The Bear. Thing just must have been right because I have photographed The Bear a number of times since then but I have never gotten any better photographs than I did that day. After I had finished with The Bear I suggested that we walk over to Miller Theatre and photograph the Hannah Stewart piece, Atropos Key and we did. After photographing two pieces I decided it was time to start the project that we had discussed back when Janet was photographing art.

Dr. Jose Protacio Mercado Rizal
National Hero of the Philippines
 For over two years, almost every weekend would find us  headed for a particular piece of art or searching for new pieces. During the week I was on the internet researching for new pieces being added, history of the pieces we had photographed or researching the artists. It was a major project—it still could be. I thought I would do a book but the sheer volume became overwhelming so I settled for just documenting them for our pleasure. Most of the more important pieces we photographed several times because I wanted to photograph them under as many different lighting conditions as possible. It was a great project, something that Janet and I could do together that we both enjoyed.

What brings that up is that I was invited today to join a friend at the Cockrell Butterfly Center at the Natural History Museum. I didn’t want to pay for parking in the museum’s garage so I parked in the lot at the Houston Garden Center. I noticed that a new piece had been added on the Garden Center grounds and since I got there a little early I walked over to photograph the sculpture of Martin Luther King. While photographing the King sculpture I saw another new sculpture of Confucius. Then I noticed that many of the bronze busts had been relocated so I took time to do photographs of them and a new bust which had been added. Also on the way to the museum I had noticed a graffiti painted door that caught my eye so I had made the block and went back to photograph it. After finishing at the Butterfly Center I went back to the Garden Center and photographed a couple of other sculptures which ended up looking pretty much like the photograph of the same pieces taken several years ago. This is a project that I probably will never again go back to doing every weekend or anywhere close to that, but it is a project that I will continue.

Doorway, 2850 Travis

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