Ask any of the Chase Bank PR guys why they commissioned Suzanne Sellers to do the 41-foot by 94-foot mural on the side of the Houston Club Building, and you'll get the standard answer: "Because of the Houston Press building," they say in absolute earnestness, as if referring to its trompe l'oeil facade would automatically garner brownie points from any Press employee. That mural did get Sellers several other gigs -- she went on to paint the market scene on the side of Treebeards at 315 Travis -- making her the go-to painter-on-a-cherry-picker in downtown's revitalization effort.
"I'm not really sure why I get the work," Sellers says. "I'm a known quantity, and I think once you start working for corporations it's a learning process, but one I enjoy." Like any work commissioned by a business unwilling to alienate a demographic with money to deposit, the subject matter of Sellers's latest mural is necessarily benign. A tribute to the "commerce forces that built Houston," the mural depicts oil rigs, the port of Houston, the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church and some familiar downtown landmarks. One interesting facet: The girders that divide the picture are set at angles meant to mirror the Joan Miró sculpture across Capitol Street. "I couldn't ignore it," Sellers says.
Since Sellers started work on March 6, bystanders have been more than willing to give an opinion. One policeman picked up a bullhorn to tell her she was doing a good job, and others have brought her Cokes, made color suggestions or informed her when she missed a spot. "I'm definitely the smokers' entertainment," she says. "There is one man, we've never spoken. He comes out about four times a day, and we just wave at each other."
Sellers found this to be the most complex of her works. "I don't know whether people will like it or not.As an artist, when you do something this visible, you're putting yourself out there for criticism and praise."
With her latest 3,800-square-foot montage, she's likely to get a lot more of both. And like it or not, downtown is fast becoming Sellers's canvas.
The mural, still untitled, is painted on the side of the Houston Club Building at the cor ner of Milam and Capitol.