Arts / Galleries

Candy, Comets & Caulking — ‘The Elements of Contrast’ Come Together In The Heights Church Thanks to a Women-Led Collective

This Art Exhibit Is a Feast For All Senses

BY Jenna Baer // 06.11.24

To fully appreciate T.E.Nacious Artists’ latest Houston exhibition “Elements of Contrast,” don’t forget to bring a pair of headphones and a sweet tooth. This multisensory exhibit, currently on display at The Heights Church Artifex Gallery through this Sunday, June 16, ignites all five senses.

The woman-led artistic collective encourages visitors to touch, taste and traverse works of art.

Each of the eight artists carefully curated viewing experiences for visitors. They incorporated scents, candies and QR codes that guided visitors to playlists that represented the essence of their creations.

In contrast to the vibrant sensory elements, the color scheme of most works was intentionally muted, using a predominantly black-and-white palette.

An Exhibit Inspired by the Unconventional

Brittany Ellis, a mixed media artist and T.E.Nacious Artists founding member, says the exhibit’s stark color scheme was inspired by T.E.N member Nicole Durham. Durham often paints with caulk on dark backgrounds.

The “Elements of Contrast” theme required that the artists focus on crafting eye-catching pieces without relying on vivid colors. Instead, they selected a range of three-dimensional materials to make the works pop.

“We are artists and a gallery based on the unconventional. We’re forming our own future as artists, without a curator,” Ellis tells PaperCity. “We possess artwork with unique subject matter that wouldn’t appeal to traditional galleries but sparks the interest of viewers.”

Brittany Ellis, "The Nostalgic Daydream"
Brittany Ellis’s “The Nostalgic Daydream” series captures a daydream with sculptures and three-dimensional storybook pages featuring an astrological landscape. (Photo by Derik J. Mercado)

True to her Space City roots, much of Ellis’ “Nostalgic Daydream” display incorporated astrological elements which were inspired by her childhood interest in outer space. Ink-drawn comets and asteroids descend upon collages of textbook pages awash in glitter. She has created a dreamlike sequence, complemented by coming-of-age tracks like Alessia Cara’s “Growing Pains.”

Ellis encourages viewers to reach out and touch the rough, three-dimensional pieces of paper attached to each painting. She also hands out hard rainbow twist candies, similar to those often found in a glass dish at a grandmother’s house.

Durham’s Dichromatic Departure

Nicole Durham’s usual dichromatic style inspired the theme of the showcase. However, her “The Weights Of Women” series featured splashes of pastels in the outlines and backgrounds of her caulk paintings of dark, human-like figures.

The 10 foot by 10 inches canvases show human forms hunched over, struggling to lift an invisible weight. They encapsulate the burdens of womanhood, from upholding cultural norms to struggling against them.

Nicole Durham’s “The Weights Of Women” series unpacks the impact of societal expectations and cultural norms on women.

“All the pieces are focused on the emotions of women, the things that we carry,” Durham says. “A lot of the pieces tie into some of those really heavy feelings that we have sometimes, like feeling drained or exhausted or pressed in a lot of different ways. But we keep going and keep pushing.”

A Carnival Contrast

Directly across from Durham’s somber take on womanhood stood Teresa Staley’s carnivalesque “Life Is A Circus, Enjoy The Show.” It leans directly into the concept of contrast.

From grayscale paintings of a tiger, bear and elephant to panels of a trapeze artist soaring through the air, Staley showcases the electric energy of a circus. She largely sticks to the dichromatic theme. With the additional touch of a popcorn scented candle and rainbow lollipops, Staley transports viewers to a sunny day at a carnival.

Teresa Stanley, Nicole Durham, Pooja Taneja, Brittany Ellis, Laura Bennett, Nancy Ofori, M E Klesse, and J.P. Zenturo at Heights Church Artifex Gallery (Photo by Derik J. Mercado)
Teresa Staley, Nicole Durham, Pooja Taneja, Brittany Ellis, Laura Bennett, Nancy Ofori, M E Klesse, and J.P. Zenturo at Heights Church Artifex Gallery. (Photo by Derik J. Mercado)

Following this successful exhibition, Ellis revealed that the collective plans to launch another exhibition in November. The theme will be winter whites.

All the art on display in “Elements of Contrast” is available for sale. To see a full list of the artists involved and more about their work, visit the official site.

T.E.Nacious Artists’ “Elements of Contrast” is on display at The Heights Church Artifex Gallery, 214 East 27th Street, through this Sunday, June 16.

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