"Cypress Flower" by Lee Littlefield in “True North” Exhibit
Many people remember Lee Littlefield fondly. Beautiful 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 known as a “guerrilla sculptor.” He 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 laws forbidding them.
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 Arts 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 in the Magnolia Park area. The majority of the students are of Hispanic origin.
They do have a uniform code that 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 did not come from wealthy backgrounds.
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 bizarre forms and then painted. They were semi-permanent. The weather would eventually take its toll on his creations placed out in the open.
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 in public spaces plus galleries and gardens from Houston to many other venues across the United States.
Some people likened his works to be reminiscent of something akin to Dr. Seuss’s creations.
In looking at the "Cypress Flower" sculpture, does it make you think of a Dr. Seuss creation?
This nickname of “itchy acres” was given to a one-time dilapidated neighborhood in Houston, Texas, on Martin street near Yale. The story goes that it got its name because there was much poison ivy in that area at the time. Houses dated back to the 1940s and were in 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. Some 30 artists have their studios and homes located there.
Hanna Springs Sculpture Garden
This location is just one of many different areas outside of Houston, in which Lee Littlefield had one or more of his unique sculptures exhibited for one year. The Hanna Springs Sculpture Garden is in Lampasas, Texas. Lampasas 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 intermingle along with the expertly tended gardens. Some of the sculptures are on display for limited amounts of time as they are in the Hanna Sculpture Garden.
Numerous Lee Littlefield sculptures have been on display in these gorgeous gardens. If I ever travel to Memphis, I would surely enjoy visiting this beautiful looking museum and the surrounding grounds.
Tools of the Trade
Lee Littlefield was known to utilize Bondo on many of his sculptures. It is a putty-like fixative and sealer often used in automotive body repairs 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 described him:
Those sound like beautiful 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 fantastic 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 seven artists who also had their work displayed were the following:
- Dean Ruck
- Steve Murphy
- Patrick Medrano
- Paul Kittelson
- Ed Wilson
- Carter Ernst, and
- Dan Havel
Although the “True North” exhibit is now history, this Heights Boulevard location continues to have other temporary exhibitions along with permanent ones. It is always worth a look!
Have you ever seen art by Lee Littlefield before reading this and looking at the videos?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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© 2020 Peggy Woods