Devon Grigsby, “Found Memories,” 2016
For Devon Grigsby, past endeavors include her years as a medic in the United States Army after high school and her time as a manager with Harley-Davidson. Art has always been a part of her life in some form or another, and now, as a student at University of Houston, Grigsby has taken it upon herself to truly study sculpture. Initially she was enrolled as a painting student, but has since shifted to incorporating found and unwanted objects into her work. Constructing these found pieces into new forms, Grigsby offers commentary on the rapidly changing ways of communication with the speedy decline of personal interaction.
Challenging her audience to communicate through traditional means, Grigsby’s work beckons one to interact with it and possibly question such radical societal changes. Creating organic dialogue instead of the common stale screen shuffle, Grigsby reminds us that social communication holds so much more when lifted away from technology. During her time as a resident at Project Row Houses, she’s had the opportunity to use a living space to resonate her concept and hitting home the facts of interaction. Grigsby was kind enough to answer some questions about her work as well as her time at Project Row Houses.
Free Press Houston: How has art been both a necessity and a gift throughout your life?
Devon Grigsby: Art has always been present in my life. Since I was young I fell in love with drawing, painting, and tinkering with random things I would find. We didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up, so instead of asking for things, I would make them myself. For example, I had a little dog figurine and I built a whole house for him out of things I had around my room such as shoe boxes and that plastic piece from the push pop ice cream treats. He ended up with a better house than I had. I continued to draw and paint throughout high school. When I graduated, I joined the Army, however I never lost my passion or love for art.
FPH: You work in multiple mediums but you gravitate towards paper, correct?
Grigsby: Honestly, I enjoy many mediums and learning how to work and manipulate them to do different things. If I look back I have worked a lot with paper and found objects in my sculptures. There’s something I find gratifying about paper and making it do things it wouldn’t typically do.
FPH: How do you bring found objects into your work and how do you hope audiences interact with your pieces?
Grigsby: I love finding things randomly and giving them a new life. Even in my paintings, I add things such as watch faces to them. When we look at art there’s this rule that you’re not supposed to touch the art, understandably sometimes. However, I like to push the boundary that invites the viewer to get as close as possible without touching it. This to me stems from the general lack of human interaction in this technology-based world. I try to find a means of inviting people to visualize my work and imagine or actually hold a conversation between and through it.
FPH: What has your artistic experience been like at Project Row Houses?
Grigsby: It has been one of the most enjoyable and stressful times in my career. To be a student of art and given an opportunity such as this is something I will never take for granted. It has helped me realize how hard I have worked to get here and that what I have done hasn’t been overlooked. I love knowing I can give back in a way that will hopefully touch someone somewhere. I’m not from Houston and didn’t grow up here, but I had heard of Third Ward and its history and story, and viewed Project Row Houses as a student. Now I am a part of it and have a new appreciation for Third Ward and how important its history is to the City of Houston. I will never again be able to visit this area without thinking about its history or my experience with Project Row Houses. Like I told my husband, House 2515 will — in my mind — always be my house. I look forward to coming back many times in the future to see what changes have been made and how other artists will interpret the space.
Grigsby’s installation at Project Row Houses (2521 Holman), part of the organization’s Summer Studios program, will be on view through September 18.