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"Seth Mittag: We're Still Here..." Tragic, Compelling

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Seth Mittag got his MFA from the University of Houston in 2003. He just returned to Houston after three years in New York doing Claymation for the likes of Michael Eisner, Moveon.org and Nickelodeon. Now Mittag is channeling those skills into his art.

His installation behind the glass wall of the EMERGEncy Room Gallery in Rice University's art building looks camera-ready. It's a not-unfamiliar scene of rural tragedy, a single-wide trailer after a tornado.

All of the doll-size details are perfect, with the wracked trailer frame lodged in the branches of a tree, its walls erupting with pink insulation and spewing plywood and two-by-fours. A window-unit air conditioner lies on the ground beneath it, and the tree branches are festooned with a pair of Jockey shorts and a short sleeve western-style work shirt.

Peering inside the house, you can see a deer head torn from the wall and lying on a collapsing counter. Then you notice the pair of shoes, er, feet in the living room. They belong to a man in a T-shirt and jeans obstinately occupying an easy chair, his feet propped up on a cinder block. Squinting into the window of the bedroom, you can barely make out a small, blond-haired boy in overalls, lying on a mattress. He stares up at the ceiling in shock or in a daydream.

You can't tell which, but the scene is bursting with possible narratives. I hope it finds its way into a Mittag film as well.

The show runs trough October 27 at The EMERGEncy Room Gallery, Rice University Campus, 6100 Main, Sewall Hall, 4th Floor. The closing reception takes place 7 to 10 p.m. October 27.

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