Seth Mittag’s installation at Rice University may not be the easiest piece of art to find, but the semi-secret location in the university's new EMERGEncy Room Gallery is part of the fun. Hurry, though — the exhibit closes this Thursday night.
Here’s how to find the secret . . .
Start at the Rice Gallery lobby and walk right into the dark alcove. Turn left down the hallway and look for the yellow arrow, which will lead you up a set of stairs. As you approach the second floor, you’ll see Mittag’s piece We're Still Here installed in a former faculty office, recently converted into a display space by the Department of Visual and Dramatic Arts (VADA).
“I used to build sets and puppets at a stop-motion studio in New York,” Mittag tells CultureMap. “I work in a world of miniatures, so this little gallery was perfect for me.”
Sealed inside the glassed-in EMERGEncy Room space, the artist’s installation of meticulously rendered models shows a mobile home split across a barren tree after an apparent tornado. The home’s metal siding is stripped away in large patches to reveal wood studs and pink fiberglass siding. Judging from the windswept prairie and cloudy skies Mittag has painted on the walls, storms like this might be a common occurrence.
Start at the Rice Gallery lobby and walk right into the dark alcove. Turn left down the hallway and look for the yellow arrow, which will lead you up a set of stairs.
Inside the mobile home, little pieces of furniture are strewn across the living room. A toaster just popped up some bread in the kitchen while a slice of pizza sits on the floor near what used to be the main doorway. A gentleman in an easy chair stares into space. A child with straw-colored hair, barely visible, rests in the bedroom. The residents seem to have decided to continue living in the tornado-ravaged home.
“This installation is made from set pieces I’ve designed for a larger stop-motion film project,” Mittag says. “Some of the pieces took months to build and certainly can stand as individual works in their own right.
“There was a Tim Burton show at MoMA in 2009 that displayed set designs and props as separate works. I wanted to take a completely opposite approach, creating an environment in which the pieces work together to tell a story.”
Mittag, who returned to his hometown of Houston last year for a residency at the Lawndale Art Center, assembled the set pieces into a pivotal moment within his upcoming film.
“It’s from an early chapter in the project, soon after a father and his son have purchased a trailer house,” he says, without revealing much of his film’s plot line. “They get caught in a strong storm, but eventually decide to keep living in the home. The story goes on from there.”
Mittag will host a closing reception for the installation and will be available for any questions on Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. The EMERGency Room Gallery is free and open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, click here or call 713-348-4882.