Sunday, April 17, 2011

Kaneem Smith Creates Sculpture From Coffee Bags

Last Wednesday afternoon, I visited Kaneem Smith in the new studio space on Spring Street that she's sharing with her dad, the sculptor George Smith.* I wanted to take a look at the work she's producing for the lobby at 1002 Washington Avenue. I first saw Kaneem's fabric sculptural works at the TSU gallery last summer and I loved them. The day we visited TSU, Kaneem was in the gallery, so we got a personal tour. Knew at once that Kaneem could add an altogether different dimension to the artwork being created for this public space and I asked her if she'd like to join the artists' team. BTW, Kaneem teaches at UH Downtown.
When I walked in her studio last week, I laughed out loud because the pieces that she is assembling are delightful, playful and colorful. One wonders exactly what they are. I can only imagine how two dozen of these cone/columns will appear when suspended and placed in proximity to one another.
I really like what Kaneem is producing for the new Houston Permitting Center. She gathered several dozen large burlap coffee bean bags and is now sewing them into cone shapes, rather like a cluster nest of wood dabbers. Only Kaneem's cones are painted in bright pure colors and the coffee logos remain where they've been stamped on to each bag.
And yes, two dozen cones in many colors will be suspended from the ceiling in the lobby area between those two enormous return air ducts. Imagine the look of these colorful columns just floating there in space.
I hope they sway a bit. I hope folks will touch them and I hope children will walk through them instead of around them. I told Kaneem she ought to affix bells inside each cone, so when people do touch, they'll hear those bells jingle and be surprised. We'll see what she does.
In the meantime, Kaneem has a lot of stitching to do as many of the cones have intricate patterns made of folds and gathers. And then she'll be painting with those bright colors.
Can you imagine this work in the Houston Permitting Center? I continue to be amazed at the variety of the artwork that will be installed in this public building.
Just think about arriving and seeing Dick Wray's four story tower, a narrative in laser cut steel. Think about Dean Ruck and Dan Havel's extravagant assemblage of recycled metals. Think about Gonzo's aerosol murals. The list goes on and on. This is public art created by Houston artists and quite frankly, it's inspired.
No one can possibly anticipate how folks will experience all this art for the very first time. Imagine someone walking through those front doors for a plan review, a stamp of approval. And I like the surprise element in all of this. Feels to me as if we've given each person a series of gifts. If they take time to look at the work and wonder about it.
I am beginning to think that I'll spend time in the fall lingering near the artwork to listen to people's reactions.
To each artist working on this project - my very best wishes for smooth installations and my thanks for contributing to what will be a unique public space.

*By the way, George Smith taught sculpture for years at Rice U and one of his pieces can be seen in front of Lanier Middle School on Woodhead at Westheimer.

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