Selven O'Keef Jarmon's 360 Degrees Vanishing, set to debut this Saturday at Art League Houston, is as audacious as it is hotly anticipated.
The installation surrounds Art League's Montrose building with massive beaded tapestries inspired by the artist's visits to the bazaars of South Africa's eastern cape. Jarmon loved the beaded bracelets and necklaces he found there, but he was also dismayed to hear many artisans were giving up on the practice due to lack of demand. “I wanted to do a monumental piece as a parody of the monumental idea that beading is vanishing from the landscape,” Jarmon told Houstonia in 2014, as the project was getting started.
It was a cool idea! Houston was excited! But then came delays.
"The name wasn't intended to be ironic, but Selven O'Keef Jarmon's epic '360 Degrees Vanishing' project hasn't appeared as quickly as he anticipated," wrote the Chron's Molly Glentzer back in 2015.
The big holdup? Money. These massive, beaded tapestries weigh up to 3,000 pounds, and structural engineers prudently advised the installation be altered to withstand wind and rain and whatever else Houston weather throws at it. Thus began a heroic fundraising effort to raise the six-figure construction costs, spawning crowdfunding campaigns, cocktail fundraisers, and even special whiskey tastings. It's taken half a decade, but the installation finally makes its debut this Saturday at 6 p.m.
The tapestries required extraordinary efforts of their own. Sixteen expert South African bead artists were invited to lead fabrication over the course of a year, and more than a thousand local volunteers ranging in age from 5 to 93 assisted in beading workshops across the city. Hundreds of thousands of beads comprise the end product that will now cloak the Art League Houston building in a vibrant sheath—a one-of-a-kind effort that makes a supposedly vanishing art practice impossible for anyone cruising down Montrose Boulevard to ignore.
Pubic unveiling will take place on June 29 from 6–8:30 p.m. at Art League Houston, 1953 Montrose Blvd. More info at artleaguehouston.org.