Peter Lee-Monster Show 6-Mary's

By Space City Sarah
Photo courtesy of Peter Lee

Festival art is anything that is built purely for the enjoyment of experiencing it. Ideally, it serves the purpose of enhancing some aspect or area of the festival, but it can also enthrall the viewer to the point where it becomes an attraction in and of itself. Successful festival art matches the vibe and scale of its surroundings because this is the furthest from a quiet gallery space. This art needs to find attention and purpose in a giant outdoor party.

Festival art can take shape in a number of different ways, and the type of festival often shapes the direction the artwork takes. Coachella builds enormous structures, like converting a cherry picker into a 40-foot-tall moving flower, to maximize the eternal feeling of an overpoweringly hot, endless desert. Psych Fest in Austin, which took place last month, invested in all the kitsch with fun, interactive, overly-sized kid toys, such as swings and a hall of mirrors, that could be appreciated and enjoyed by adults (who were possibly on drugs). Outside Lands hung candy-shaped lanterns in a grove of trees and strategically placed food trucks throughout the area to create an enchanting food truck forest. If the festival art is done well, it reflects and enhances the character of the festival.

The art for FPSF 2013 could not more appropriately reflect the spirit of the festival. FPSF is a festival for Houston, by Houston, so naturally the artists are all local talent. The artists are truly maximizing the festival space to provide shade, water, and above all, entertainment. This year, the festival is concentrating on functionality (read cooling), building BIGGER, and showcasing Houston love. FPH interviewed two groups of Houston artists showcasing their projects at FPSF–the design and build team of Nick Moser and Brey Tucker, and local artist, Peter Lee.

This first build team of Houston artists would argue that you, the festival participant, are the one to create the experience of their art. This statement, at first, seems incredibly ironic coming from Brey Tucker and Nick Moser, since all of their structures are built on a scale so massive the experience is practically imposed upon the viewer. Yet Moser believes, “The purpose of building these things is to fabricate an experience and open the possibilities of how to interact with the things around us.” Tucker, a graduate from the UH College of Architecture, describes festival design as, “Physical constructs that people never get to make otherwise. I enjoy festival design because it’s all about human interaction. You get to be more free-spirited in what the structure means and what the aesthetics are for.” Moser and Tucker will be submitting three major installation pieces and assisting in the installation of other festival décor. Their view of festival art as free-form collaborative expressionism will help transform the festival grounds into another world that we can all look forward to experiencing, however we see fit.

Another local artist is using this massive Houston gathering to reinforce our often undefined Houston identity. The following is Peter Lee’s description of why the old Montrose Mary’s mural is important to him, the ways in which it represents our uniquely Houstonian experience, and why he wants to repaint the mural for the festival.

Lee, who grew up in Houston, believes the city lacks pop culture identity. “I realized a lot of things that made Houston what it is are things that never caught on in the rest of the country. If someone outside of Houston heard a Screw tape they would be curious as to why we listen to this stuff at all.” For Lee, the mural that had been painted on one of the outside walls of the now-defunct Westheimer gay bar, Mary’s, came to signify how the Houston community uniquely relates to each other. Montrose can be viewed as different or strange but it seems to Lee that, “people dress and act that way not to push boundaries or be flamboyant. They just did it because they wanted to. A part of what made me feel this way was Mary’s mural. It put that lifestyle out in the open. Mary’s was not secret about what was going on inside the bar and when this scene was made public, the community didn’t even flinch. It became such a normal scene to me–a mural of strange bear dudes hitting on each other in a bar–while an outsider would be fascinated by that.”

It was when the mural was gone that Lee grasped the magnitude of the mural’s significance. “I didn’t realize how important it was until it disappeared overnight. That was also a very Houston thing to me. In Austin, the “Hi, How Are You?” mural is still there, but the Mary’s mural was painted over even though it was infinitely better. When it was repainted, I realized the whole city was fascinated by it.” Peter’s plan for repainting the mural and having the faces cut out so that festival goers can take pictures with this iconic Montrose image is Lee’s way of letting Houstonians literally be a part of what he views as a representation of our Houston character.

Whether it’s fostering the communal Houston experience or building structures larger than the festival has ever seen, this year’s local artists are doing a great job at reinforcing the spirit of FPSF, a festival made by Houstonians, for Houstonians.