Visual Arts

Antique Objects Serve as Frames for Intricate Sand Dollar Formations

It has been argued that nature, with its divine proportions of the Golden ratio, offers up the purest form of beauty – think of the number of flower petals or the pattern of seed heads, the Golden spirals of nautilus shells and hurricanes, and the splitting of tree branches and roots. The perfect sand dollar, with its rich symbolism and pentagonal symmetry, has inspired many legends and, at d. m. allison gallery, serves as the impetus for artist Steve Davis in his “Armature” exhibit.

For years Davis has been trolling the beaches along the south Texas coast, looking for sand dollars, while also haunting flea markets, antique shops and garage sales in pursuit of man-made objects to serve as structures for his sculptures.

The results are beautiful in their simplicity. The sand dollars, for the most part, are natural or bleached by the sun, only being treated with a glue wash on the backside for structural reinforcement. Using the natural holes found in the tests, or endoskeletons, of these sea urchins, Davis weaves his nylon filament in and out, creating patterns that are as familiar to him now as the back of his hand.

In SD8, Davis used an oversized metal bathing tub, circa 1840, and drilled 32 small pinprick holes around the basin. Sixteen perfect sand dollars were positioned around the perimeter to create the base layer, and then he repeated the process seven more times, with each layer moving closer to the center, until he formed a close-knit circle.

Found tennis rackets arranged in a clock shape around a small, round box result in symmetrical beauty in 244-258, though in this case Davis has taken advantage of the pre-drilled holes in the rackets to create his own circle within a circle pattern, finishing off with an oversized sand dollar at the center of each frame. The box at its center features an eight-legged arrangement of discs converging in the middle.

There are a few interactive pieces, such as the kinetic double-spinning wheel found in 181, with its eight spokes filled with gradually larger sand dollars; and SD7 (dice cage), a witty piece with double spirals at each end. In both instances the artist has provided handles to allow the viewer to spin the works.

His pieces that incorporate antique furniture are interesting, such as SD7 (wooden sled), the antique wooden high chair of SD9 and the bentwood chair of 244, but their scale doesn’t allow for the elaborate patterns that can be found in the more intimate pieces.

The small metal star of 227, with its gold framework and triangular points, is lovely in its simplicity; and the asymmetrical squares of the black cubist SD6 are also attractive. The viewer can imagine an animal form within the large cream cage of 179, as the eight-legged sculpture looms tall morphing from square to circle. An antique sifter offers a fitting frame in 210, while the spiky sun-like edges of the tilling wheel bring structure and substance to SD3.

“Armature” continues through November 28, at d. m. allison gallery, 2709 Colquitt, open Wednesdays to Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sundays noon to 5 p.m., 832-607-4378,

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Susie Tommaney is a contributing writer who enjoys covering the lively arts and culture scene in Houston and surrounding areas, connecting creative makers with the Houston Press readers to make every week a great one.
Contact: Susie Tommaney