It’s a GOOD Dilemma! Requires no special gear, no entry fee, and always available to ponder and explore!
Unique experiences are among the benefits of living in a university town. Discover ANALEMMA’S DILEMMA in the outdoor courtyard of Sam Houston State University’s Lowman Student Center Phase I Expansion.
Photo: Brian Blalock, SHSU Communications
The impressive multiple component art and sculpture installation offers much to enjoy and more to ponder. Representing the arts, sciences, many departments and student life at SHSU, it’s a magical display of shapes, colors and puzzles. It offers a shady spot to relax, eat, visit with friends or sit and try to figure out what the mosaics represent and solve the ANALEMMA’S DILEMMA RIDDLES. Appealing to all ages, the project offers both visual and mental challenges as its mastermind designers, Flying Carpet Creative’s Patrick Renner and Kelly O’Brien, and Phoenix Commotion’s Dan Phillips, intended. Ever-changing visually because of its outdoor location, the time of day and year as the sun moves across the sky overhead, varied reflections and shadows, different colors when overcast or bright sun, it can be both a soothing visual breeze and a visual bolt of WOW!
The overall shape of the project, commissioned by SHSU, is that of an ANALEMMA or the figure ‘eight’ pattern which would result from photographing the sun’s position in the sky from the same ground location at the same time every day of a calendar year and plotting those points on a chart. Parts of the Analemma are metal shapes suspended above the courtyard and spill onto a brick wall connecting to mosaic shapes which complete the figure eight or analemma. Kelly O’Brien and Patrick Renner, Flying Carpet Creative, a public sculpture group dedicated to dynamic place-making, proposed the ANALEMMA design concept, engineered and installed the metal components of the Analemma. http://www.flyingcarpetcreative.com
Photo: Flying Carpet Creative
Dan Phillips, Phoenix Commotion, was responsible for content and production of the tile mosaics plus developing the riddles or the DILEMMA. Dan describes the project as “a massive collaboration which included Flying Carpet Creative, The Phoenix Commotion and a couple dozen individual artists”. After the mosaic components were completed, Flying Carpet Creative added the metal bands used to mount each mosaic on the brick courtyard wall. https://vimeo.com/312000420
Photo: Brian Blalock | Video: Mike Foster, SHSU Communications
Search for Dan Phillips on the internet and you’ll find descriptions from many sources describing him as an ‘American designer, Texas builder, mastermind of Houston’s Smither Park, a former dance instructor, army intelligence, antiques dealer/restorer and puzzle maker who is invited to speak at conferences and colleges around the world addressing sustainability and eco-friendly living. He’s known locally as the guy who built the Tree House, the Budweiser House, the Bone house, the Boot house, the Cowboy Hat house to name a few of his projects, http://www.phoenixcommotion.com/
Dan, his wife Marsha, students, alumni and community members created the mosaic medallions. My daughter-in-law Amber Milburn and I each selected a different academic program from the list of SHSU departments and university life included in the project and submitted a sketch of our proposed designs. Protocol included review of the sketches and approval before picking up the basic materials which included pre-cut cement board, mosaic mesh, tiles, thin-set, glue, and grout. Sizes, shapes and primary colors for each of the sixty plus pieces of the project were pre-determined in Dan’s master design. Sizes of the round monochromatic medallions included diameters of 16”, 25” and 34”. Round ‘content’ medallions are 25” or 35” in diameter. Amber is shown in photo below beside her 25” Content Medallion. She designed a medallion representing an academic department at Sam Houston State University. One of the project puzzles is to figure out which one!
Content Bean medallions are two round 16” plus 25” medallions or 25” plus 31” combined to make the shape. Artists for the various medallions were encouraged to add ‘tesserae’, found or recycled items able to withstand continued exposure to rain, sun, freezing or wind. Sources for the found materials included garage sales, antique shops, trash bins and salvage yards. ‘Found’ items included in my bean medallion include an old metal pocket watch, stainless steel environmentally friendly drinking straws, a metal front door knocker, left over remodeling tiles and trim, part of a metal tape measure, ceramic measuring spoons, a thimble, antique kitchen tool to cut vegetables, some house keys and metal buttons ( ‘key people family’). You’ll enjoy figuring out which department this and other mosaics represent!
Park in the garage across from the Gaertner Center for the Performing Arts. Take the garage elevator up to access the skybridge which now connects the garage to Lowman Student Center, enter the building, and it’s a straight shot to the windows overlooking the courtyard. Stairs or an elevator down to the ground floor and you can step outside to experience Analemma’s Dilemma!
If you’re ambitions, take along the riddles below. As Dan Phillips says: “There’s a puzzle here”, GOOD LUCK!
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