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.
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''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