About Time

Terrell James's art hangs near a crossroads where her past and present intersect

Mayor Jim McConn saw a line full of laundry, and he complained about Sailpiece on news radio. It was Terrell's Giuliani moment: She was, briefly, the representative of Art Misunderstood by Yahoos. The Houston art world rallied around her, and someone even circulated a petition in her support.

But the controversy blew over, and after two months Sailpiece came down as scheduled. It survives now as three lines on Terrell's résumé; in photos taken by a friend; and as a Betamax videotape that Terrell keeps meaning to have converted. She's forgotten the kind of details that people tend to forget: exactly what year it was, and whether Sailpiece was one word or two.

In fact, as "Ring of Seas" was being installed, she drove past the parking garage without even thinking of Sailpiece. She was startled, in fact, to remember her grandfather: that he had been born right there, at that intersection. Weeks later she remembered Sailpiece.

Terrell James: Marking time.
Deron Neblett
Terrell James: Marking time.


"Ring of Seas (and Summers)," curated by Rainey Knudson, will be on view through May 3 at City Gallery in the Wells Fargo Plaza, 1000 Louisiana.

"Ring of Seas" is about time and its cycles, about history recorded or fossilized, about places and things that disappear or change beyond recognition. Terrell realized with a jolt that her life kept returning to this particular place, each time new and strange. Her great-grandparents' farm, her grandfather's printing company, her own moment as a cause célèbre. All were gone, disappeared like the dappled light of a summer evening. When the people in the skyscraper lobby asked what the paintings meant, that was what Terrell tried to explain.

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