Arts & Culture

Houston Artist Creates Installation Inspired By Memories Of Harvey

“Sky Loop” uses video and dreamlike imagery to process memories of the storm.

Image from “Sky Loop,” the title video in the “Sky Loop” installation

During Harvey, artist Virginia Lee Montgomery was at her parents’ house in the Memorial area, where they watched the water rise and flood the neighborhood.

“Like for many people, the experience of the hurricane was really emotionally charged. It was just so much sensory information to take in at once,” said Montgomery.

To process her experience, she created Sky Loop, an immersive art installation at Lawndale Art Center that uses video, sound and texture.

Four large screens surround the viewer with short, surreal films that combine archival and personal footage of Harvey, as well as symbolic imagery, such as an eye, a drill and loops of the freeway system that evoke the circular nature of the storm.

Image from “Sky Eye,” a video in the installation “Sky Loop”

In the middle of the gallery are two interactive elements. “We are also setting up two sensory, tactile sculptures: a big pad of memory foam that people can sit on, and a big vintage aluminum canoe that I will fill up with Buffalo Bayou sand,” said Montgomery.

The canoe is a family heirloom that carried the artist and her mother down flooded streets during Harvey, as they assessed damage and offered aid to neighbors. Viewers are invited to climb in and touch the sand, as a way to activate their own memories and connections to the local landscape.

“Head Stone,” sculpture from “Sky Loop” installation; memory foam and whirlpool stone

A filmmaker and sculptor, Montgomery combines these two disciplines in Sky Loop to explore the storm from different angles, conceptually and materially.

“When I think about creating installations like this, I always think about – from the perspective of a sculptor – how can I sculpt in psychic space? So, in the same way at night when you dream, your dream might change perspectives, might change emotive tones, might change colors, material, form – how can I create that as an experience, so a viewer can walk around a room and have this array of sensory emotions and feelings?”

Clip from the video “Butterfly Birth Bed” from the installation “Sky Loop”

From a palette of soft blue colors to footage of butterflies hatching from cocoons and images of the storm covered in honey, Sky Loop also aims to find – or create its own – calm amidst chaos.

“I was really approaching this project from a metaphysical angle by thinking, ‘How do you soothe a storm? How do you heal a hurricane? What can be done when thinking optimistically about processing memory?” said Montgomery. “Ultimately, I wanted to make something that was about the epic experience of Hurricane Harvey, but I wanted to also make something that was about regeneration and healing.”

Sky Loop is on view at Lawndale Art Center’s O’Quinn Gallery through March 29.

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Catherine Lu

Catherine Lu

Content Producer & Announcer

While growing up in Chicago and Houston, Catherine’s love for art, music and creative writing was influenced by her teachers and parents. She was once concertmaster of the Clear Lake High School Orchestra and a four-time violinist of the Texas All-State Symphony. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Catherine...

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