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Art & Culture, Did You Know?, Sculptures

Cypress Flower by Lee Littlefield in “True North” Exhibit

Posted: August 26, 2016 at 4:06 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

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Lee Littlefield

Many people remember Lee Littlefield fondly. Wonderful messages were left online when this talented artist died in the year 2013.

His last number of years were spent in Houston, Texas.  For a while he was thought of as a “guerrilla sculptor”.  He literally sneaked his so called “pop up” sculptures into places along Interstate 10 near downtown Houston.  Numerous commuters could catch glimpses of his nature inspired art sculptures as they passed by. Permission was eventually granted by the Texas Department of Transportation for Lee Littlefield to erect those colorful and eye catching sculptures without breaking any kind of laws forbidding them.

View of Cypress Flower by Lee Littlefield

View of Cypress Flower by Lee Littlefield

Background of Lee Littlefield

Cape Cod, Massachusetts was where Lee Littlefield was born in 1936.

Lee Littlefield studied and got his Bachelor of Arts degree from the Florida State University in Tallahassee. He must have enjoyed those nearby beautiful white sandy beaches while living there! In 1968 he acquired his Masters of Art degree from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. Those desert like surroundings have a unique beauty all their own. From 1968 to 1986 he was a professor at Southern Illinois University School of Art and Design.

Lee Littlefield ultimately came to Houston where he and his artist wife chose to live, work and play.

Edison Middle School

This middle school is a part of the Houston Independent School System and is located in the Magnolia Park area. The majority of the students are of Hispanic origin.

They do have a uniform code which is color coordinated for the different grades. Polo shirts are burgundy for 6th grade; forest green for 7th grade and navy for 8th grade. Slacks are khaki colored.

The student to teacher ratio is 16 to 1 according to what I have gleaned from reading online. About 72% of all students qualify for free or reduced rate lunches. The kids attending this school definitely did not grow up from wealthy backgrounds.

Edison Middle School in Houston By WhisperToMe (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Edison Middle School in Houston By WhisperToMe (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

This is the school where Lee Littlefield chose to teach art.  He undoubtedly opened the eyes of his students to the beauty of things that can edify the heart and soul.  Many things of value are beyond what can be purchased with money! Many of his former students wrote nice condolence comments regarding their fondness for their former teacher when they learned of his sudden death from cancer.
Cypress Flower by Lee Littlefield

Cypress Flower by Lee Littlefield

Sculptural Art

For almost 30 years Lee Littlefield concentrated his artistic talents on creating paintings. Suddenly he changed focus and sculptural art became more of an interest to him.

We have many bayous that run through the City of Houston and the organic shapes of things found there inspired his art. The vines that twist around trees plus the many knees from bald cypress trees caught his attention. He did a lot of scouting and foraging. Using pieces of wood or other elements that were already dead was his preference.

Mr. Littlefield also used pieces of bamboo that could be assembled into surrealistic forms and then painted.  They were never meant to be permanent. The weather would eventually take its toll on his creations placed out in the open.

Some people likened his works to being reminiscent of something akin to Dr. Seuss creations.

Photo of Cypress Flower by Lee Littlefield

Photo of Cypress Flower by Lee Littlefield

Itchy Acres

This nickname of “Itchy acres” was a one time dilapidated neighborhood in Houston, Texas on Martin street near Yale.  Houses dated back to the 1940s and were in very poor shape.

Lee Littlefield and fellow artist Carter Ernst were first to see the value of this area back in 1989.  At the time it was supposedly a very rough neighborhood. Now it has been transformed into a true artist’s community with some 30 artists having their studios and/or homes located there. The name “itchy acres” reputedly got its name because of much poison ivy located in that area at the time.

Hanna Springs Sculpture Garden

This is just one of many different locations outside of Houston in which Lee Littlefield had one or more of his unique sculptures exhibited for the course of one year. The Hanna Springs Sculpture Garden is located in Lampasas, Texas.  It is in the central part of the State of Texas.

Dixon Gallery & Gardens

This lovely place in Memphis, Tennessee has seventeen acres of landscaped grounds.  Sculptures are also showcased along with the expertly tended gardens. Some of the sculptures are shown for limited amounts of time as they are in the Hanna Sculpture Garden.

Numerous Lee Littlefield sculptures have been displayed in these gorgeous gardens. If I ever travel to Memphis, I would surely enjoy visiting this beautiful looking museum and the surrounding grounds.

Bayou Inspired Sculptures

Once you have seen one Lee Littlefield nature inspired and organically shaped sculpture you are likely to recognize more of them.  He had a distinctive style of his own.

His works have been displayed in public spaces plus galleries and gardens from Houston to many other venues across the United States.

Cypress Flower on Heights Boulevard

Cypress Flower on Heights Boulevard

Tools of the Trade

Lee Littlefield was known to have used bondo on many of his sculptures.  It is a putty-like fixative and sealer often used in automotive body repairs and/or road surfaces.

Funnel Tunnel dedicated to Lee Littlefield

This fabulous temporary sculpture shown in the YouTube video below was created by Patrick Renner in 2013 and was dedicated to the memory of Lee Littlefield. On the sign the following words were used in describing him:

  • Artist
  • Mentor
  • Educator
  • Friend

Those sound like fine words to me!

Do you see any resemblance in this Funnel Tunnel sculpture and some of the work that Lee Littlefield created? Specifically look at that tip end and the undulating form overall. I believe that his mentoring influence quite possibly carried over into the creation of this amazing temporary sculpture by Patrick Renner.

The nine month limit still exists for art displays on public property in Houston so temporary exhibits are to be enjoyed in the here and now.  Fortunately photos and videos can be longer lasting!

“True North” Sculpture Exhibit

This temporary art exhibit installation on Heights Boulevard between 4th & 18th streets was a delight to get to see. The other 7 artists who also had their work displayed were the following:

Although the “True North” exhibit is now history this Heights Boulevard location continues to have other temporary exhibits along with permanent ones.  It is definitely worth a look!








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