A new exhibition at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft features works inspired by an unusual source. Visitors will see everything from jewelry to large-scale sculptural works, and they’re all based on the theme of urban sprawl. In the Center’s gallery on Main Street near the Museum District, a model of a boarded-up home perches on the edge of a teeter-totter. Handmade quilts depict blocks of foreclosed homes. Delicate glass sculptures hang from the ceiling, their shapes derived from the rising and falling populations of America’s big cities.
Those are some of the works in a new exhibition called “SPRAWL.” It focuses on shapes, textures, and images of a sprawling landscape. That includes busy highways and pre-planned subdivisions, as well as urban neighborhoods left behind by new development. “The first section is loosely defined as infrastructure of expansion, so it’s really kind of looking at what our infrastructure is like within a sprawls cape.” Our guide for the exhibition is curatorial fellow Kathryn Hall. She says the works don’t take a negative or positive view of sprawl, but instead, look at the human and visual aspects. “The wonderful rich, eccentric, elements that are involved within a sprawlscape, all the people that are living in a sprawlscape, how they interact with one another, and really thinking about how we connect to one another, or how we don’t connect to one another.”
The exhibition includes conceptual pieces, along with practical items. Hall introduces us to artist Julia Gabriel’s piece. It depicts an intersection near downtown Houston as a series of handcrafted purses and bookbags. Two of the purses are modeled after a vacant building with a crumbling roof. “So you have this wonderful rusticated diagonal line that’s going down and really shaping that purse in a nice way. And also, just overall too, she’s really thinking about taking a sense of place with you wherever you go.” Houston artist Julia Gabriel sewed purses and backpacks to create her 2013 piece “Congress@Bastrop, Houston, Texas.”
Another featured artist is jewelry maker Demitra Thomloudis. She’s one of the Center’s artists-in-residence, and we met her in her studio just steps away from the exhibition. Thomloudis designed necklaces and pins for the exhibition. They’re crafted from cement, steel, and distressed wood. “With my work I’m trying to extract those things we take for granted, like cracks in the sidewalk or some of the materials buildings are made out of of, and kind of freeze those moments and preserve them as artifacts.” And Thomloudis says the sprawlscape is filled with inspiration. You just have to look for it.
The SPRAWL exhibition runs through January 19th at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. For more information, visit the exhibition catalog.
By Gail Delaughter