Layered plywood rings line a wall like sliced produce and an array of salvaged plastic hangs from the ceiling at the newly opened Buffalo Heights H-E-B. Covering the rings are multi-colored strips of wood, resembling the pulp of a piece of fruit.
The artwork, called “Sluice,” decorates the entryway to the grocery store at 3663 Washington Ave. The installation was created by area artist Patrick Renner, but he doesn’t take credit for all of it.
“All those strips of wood were painted by other people. We didn’t do any of the painting,” Renner said. “We sponsored an event in our shop where a lot of H-E-B personnel came and painted material. So there’s directly the hand of the people that are a part of the company in the piece.”
Whether viewers of the art installation think the artwork represents a type of fruit, or simply think it’s a really cool thing on the wall, is perfectly fine with Renner.
“It’s really beautiful and quite mesmerizing!” customer Lene Sue Baggett wrote on Facebook.
For Renner, it doesn’t matter how the work is interpreted. What he loves is making something that generates a conversation.
“We started from the idea of citrus and it kind of went away from that a little bit, to where it was a little more open ended as far as what kind of fruit it was,” Renner said.
It’s best to experience the artwork in person, Renner said, because it’s hard to comprehensively photograph an installation of this proportion.
Renner, who grew up in Shepherd Park Plaza and now lives just a few blocks away in Shepherd Park, created the piece through his company, Flying Carpet Creative. The company is a public art fabricator and was founded by Renner and Kelly O’Brien in 2015.
Renner is the lead artist and works together with O’Brien, the lead technician with a creative spirit, to create structures that exhibit creativity and practicality.
“(O’Brien’s) training is in engineering. He’s a licensed engineer,” Renner said. “I have a (Master of Fine Arts degree), so our credentials are well-matched in terms of sort of the yin-yang that’s necessary for public art.”
The team built a scale model of the space at H-E-B to be able to understand what kind of room they had to work with.
“As Kelly likes to talk about it, we have like a sandbox to play in,” Renner said, “a way to manipulate things and get a sense for the scale of it and what would be appropriate to fit inside of those perimeters.”
The model they first presented for the H-E-B had a different concept for the wall-based piece with the hanging plastic. The latter was immediately accepted, which came as a bit of a surprise for Renner, because he said he felt that the plastic felt more like a rogue element.
“As we understand it, they’re plastic that was dumped onto the floor during like a casting process,” Renner said. “So whatever thing was being manufactured, this was the leftover material that was getting thrown away essentially.”
The wall-based piece didn’t make the cut and Renner and O’Brien redesigned the concept into the rings hanging in the store now. Renner mentioned that O’Brien had been playing with the idea of a cut-up solid and that it made sense to go for something produce-oriented.
Renner has been working with painted wood material for years. His first large-scale public installation was in 2013 at Art League Houston. The piece is called the “Funnel Tunnel,” and as its name suggests, is a long, funky-shaped tunnel made of painted strips of wood.
And before taking on the project for H-E-B, Flying Carpet worked on two installations, one using natural wood and another using painted wood, for Renner’s alma mater, the Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA), in its new downtown location.
As Flying Carpet continues to grow, Renner said it’s a bit of a double-edged sword.
“Things have been so busy with the company that I haven’t spent a lot of time with my personal work,” Renner said.
But he is slowly bringing his own work to the forefront. On Feb. 1 at Redbud Gallery, 303 E. 11th St., Renner will be doing just that with a solo show.