Art in the wild
Sculpture in a strange land: Tush Hog is first up for newly merged AMOA-Arthouse
On Sunday, members of the now-joined AMOA-Arthouse enjoyed a sneak preview of Buster Graybill's Texas-centric sculpture exhibit, Progeny of Tush Hog, housed at AMOA's Laguna Gloria campus. Graybill, a San Antonio-based artist who won a prestigious Artpace artist residency in 2010, was on hand to answer questions and demonstrate the interactive nature of his practical and artistic sculptures.
In a thought-provoking statement on the collision of urban and natural environments, Graybill builds sturdy industrial sculptures that he places in easy reach of rural Central Texas wildlife. His sculptures are filled with feed grain for the animals as well as cameras that allow Graybill to record the interactions of the animals with the sculptures.
The results, as displayed in video displays and screen captures, show a tremendous amount of dialogue between the various animals—deer, rams, wild hogs—and the sculptures, as they negotiate the conditions of these unworldly man-made shapes. The results can be quite violent or comical, depending on the animals and the surrounding conditions.
Watching the intentions and interactions of the animals with the sculptures is an excellent way to see where the two worlds collide.
Of all the species that appear in the videos, it is the wild hogs that captured Graybill's attention especially. Known colloquially in the South as "tush hogs," these feral, tusked porkers show a keen community problem-solving approach to attaining the feed inside the sculptures. The tush hogs mirror the smarts and spirit that Graybill's sculptures convey to the viewer. Graybill even calls the sculptures tush hogs, or more affectionately, hog balls.
During a walk-through of the Laguna Gloria grounds, Graybill explained how the sculptures often end up being moved by the animals into packs or clusters, much like the animals themselves. After a period of time, he might find a series of smaller sculptures orbiting one of the larger sculptures, like a mother hog and her babies.
"With the cameras inside, we can see who put what where and maybe discover their motivation," explains Graybill, as he rolls one ball to a new location. "Watching the intentions and interactions of the animals with the sculptures is an excellent way to see where the two worlds collide."
The sculptures are intended to be jostled and transported from one place to another. Therefore, they must be able to withstand some pretty nasty interactions with wildlife. Rams, in particular, prefer an offensive approach to obtaining the food inside. Therefore, Graybill uses aluminum diamond plating, which can withstand both abrasion and weather.
After considering the types of wildlife present in and around Laguna Gloria, Graybill's cameras will likely find a different level of species sniffing for easy food from the Tush Hog sculptures. "I hear there are hogs to the west of here, but mostly it's possums, nutrias, squirrels and deer," offered a helpful AMOA-Arthouse volunteer.
Progeny of Tush Hog is an ideal first exhibition to begin the new venture between AMOA and Arthouse, showcasing intelligence and creativity from a strong Texas-based artist.
"The next generation of [Graybill's] project explores the relationships between animals and humans, rural and urban cultures, tradition and modernity," says AMOA-Arthouse Curator of Exhibits and Public Programs Andrea Mellard. "His sculptures become feral, migrating through rural, suburban, and urban areas. Like the animals they encounter, they remain in a state of constant adaptation, searching for a more hospitable habitat."
Even more profoundly, the merged museums themselves seem to mirror the intersection of the natural and urban worlds in Graybill's exhibit. With documentation, we'll learn the outcomes of both of these exciting developments.
Buster Graybill: Progeny of Tush Hog is on display at Laguna Gloria from Nov 22 - Feb 19, 2012.