Local mixed-media artist Robert Hodge and his partner Philip Pyle, a sculptor and digital artist, have converted an open-air space in the Third Ward into ''The Beauty Box,'' an art installation that’s a replica of a living room.
The front door, located on Dowling Street, opens into a cozy home setting. A wooden dining table, with two antique chairs upholstered in deep burgundy fabric, greets you. A golden clock glows against red wallpaper. On the floor sits a 1970s Quasar television; above it, pictures of anonymous family members. On the top shelf of a wooden case sits a picture of Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta; farther down, a portrait of John F. Kennedy Jr. and his wife, Jackie. About halfway through, that red wallpaper changes to blue, with a white couch seated between the two.
A Houston native and Third Ward resident, Hodge created ''The Beauty Box'' as a way to connect with the community’s rich past. The neighborhood, now filled with empty lots and abandoned houses, was once home to the city’s most affluent African-Americans.
Maintaining ''The Beauty Box'' proves to be as much of a challenge as creating it was: About once a week, Hodge and Pyle find and remove stored drugs or replace stolen furniture. A few days ago, robbers stole a rug that was bolted to the floor of the installation. The only proof of the rug's existence is holes in the ground where the bolts used to be.
''The Beauty Box'' is on view daily. Through September 30. 3300 Dowling. For information, visit thirdwardbeautybox.tumblr.com. Free.
Mondays-Sundays. Starts: Aug. 1. Continues through Sept. 30, 2013