The City of Houston’s General Services Department, with support from the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA), has acquired 18 works by lens-based artists for the recently restored City Hall basement.
Renovation of the basement, which flooded due to Hurricane Harvey in 2017, was recently completed and the space reopened to City Hall employees on Friday, September 15. Though construction began in 2020, the project’s initial contractor was later terminated in 2022 after being declared in default of their contract. At the beginning of this year, the project resumed under Dunhill Construction.
In a press release, Mayor Sylvester Turner remarked, “The City Hall Basement renovation is a testament to the resilient spirit of Houston. We encountered some challenges, but we’ve revitalized this space while preserving our history and embracing innovation. This space truly embodies our commitment to a sustainable future.”
The photographic works acquired and exhibited in the space depict objects and places that are uniquely Houston, and include works by Syd Moen, David Reinfled, Mark Chen, and Nancy Newberry. Learn more about each of the artists below, via descriptions provided by MOCA.
Mayor Turner remarked, “Each of the artist’s works celebrate an aspect of Houston. It is exciting that city employees and visitors to City Hall will encounter a variety of photographic artworks that show what is quintessentially Houston in the newly renovated basement, and I congratulate the artists whose artworks are joining the City’s Civic Art Collection.”
A native Houstonian, Syd Moen graduated from the University of Houston earning both a BA in Art History and a Master of Architecture. She has had a lifelong interest in photography including an early interest in digital photography. She uses her experience in photographic imagery and spatial thinking to create her artwork. “I suppose what I am striving for in my art is a crossroads between reality and surrealism. In my work, I present an unusual or non-human perspective to expose the essence of place often overlooked in the physical world. My goal is to allow the viewer to discover and control the significance of what they see.”
Born in New York City, Reinfeld’s interest in photography started as a teenager taking pictures on the streets of New York. In the early ’70s, he received his MFA in Photography at the Rhode Island School of Design. He has photographed trees for over fifty years and remains endlessly fascinated to this day. He adds, “Years ago, on my first trip to Houston, I was struck by these glorious trees I had never seen before. I had to know what they were. Everyone knew but me! ‘Why son, these are Houston’s finest; they are The Live Oak.’ Every trip to Houston, no what brings me there, is in part an excuse to walk the city and photograph the Live Oak.”
Mark Chen is a photographic artist, educator, and author. His practices center on the visual discourse on sustainability, climate change, and other environmental and social issues. He crosses media boundaries, often collaboratively, from photography to other visual art, sound art, creative writing, and performance. His work has been shown in The Griffin Museum of Photography, Houston Center for Photography, Art Car Museum, and the Artists’ Cabin, Taiwan. He has received an MFA degree from the University of Houston.
Nancy Newberry is an artist based in Dallas and Marfa,Texas. Her performative portraiture investigates individuation, specifically focusing on cultural and social systems of belonging. Her work is deeply personal, exploring narratives of identity, myth, and memory as the foundation of her practice. She has been published in The Guardian, British Journal of Photography, New York Times, M Le magazine du Monde, i-D, PDN, and American Photo amongst others. Her work resides in major public and private collections, including The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Centro de Arte Alcobendas, Spain; City of Houston’s Civic Art Collection; and Villa Noailles, Hyères, France. Her work has been exhibited throughout the US, Europe, and China.