Q&A WITH ARTIST AMBER EAGLE
Houston Arts Alliance
You might be familiar with Houston-based artist Amber Eagle from the massive (and massively popular) art car she created for the Houston Art Car Parade (appropriately dubbed Our Lady of Transportation), or maybe you've taken one of her sugar skull classes at Lawndale Art Center. But have you seen her latest work, Autoflora? Originally installed on Navigation Boulevard (across from Ripley House) as part of Transported + Renewed, Autoflora is getting a new lease on life in the Lockwood Nature Garden Preserve.
HAA: What role do you feel public art plays in the community at large? In Houston?
EAGLE: I think public art is the weight on the other side of the see-saw to our growingly generic landscape of chain stores—it’s the only big, beautiful one, and here it is in your neighborhood!
As we were installing Autoflora I had a couple of passerbys ask me “what is it?” and “what is it for?” I think those are great questions to raise—art educating and thought provoking.
HAA: Explain the process of making Autoflora. How did previous projects influence this sculpture?
EAGLE: The piece was a real joy to build—one of those rare pieces that everyone is happy to contribute to - the painters, welders, installers all came forward. East Ender Tony Garcia of SDC construction laid the slab for it and threw in some workers and a boom to help us install. Martin Chavez’ East End Chamber of Commerce’s crew helped out. Neighbors brought out folding chairs and watched us put it up. The next-door neighbor thanked us for putting something beautiful there.
My work with car parts really informed this, particularly old VW bug hoods, which have such interesting lines.
HAA: How did the installation location (on Navigation Boulevard, the East End) and environment, both in terms of specific location in the city and physical environment, influence the design and construction of Autoflora?
EAGLE: It seems appropriate that lots of Mexican hands on the other side of the border as well as my husband Guillermo Rosas (fabricator/collaborator) constructed this since it was made for an area with a heavily Latino population.
It is mostly a drive-by location, so making it out of auto parts and paint made sense – it speaks the language of cars. I wanted the colors to pop but also to be based on something in nature—to super charge a natural color—so it was inspired by Coleus plants whose leaves have such intense and varied colors; depending on the amount of sun they get it, varies from yellow to green to magenta. Since Autoflora is a flower in a garden, the green part of it is that iron and steel are the most recycled materials in the world—the metal in the piece is likely about half recycled.
HAA: What role do you think Autoflora will play in it’s new home at Lockwood Nature Garden? What role would you like for it to play?
EAGLE: The plants in the Lockwood Garden are chosen for their ability to attract pollinators and I think the Autoflora will similarly attract people to sit on benches underneath its blossoms and enjoy the garden. I hope people giving directions will say “exit at the big flower” or “take a left at the flower” and it will have people searching for flowers.
Cars and gardens in harmony—an environmentally positive idea.
To learn more about the Lockwood Nature Garden Preserve project, visit the garden website.