That’s Aces

Meet the Artists of House of Cards

The new sculptural installation at Discovery Green, which features work from 20 Bayou City artists, really stacks up.

By Emma Schkloven August 24, 2020

Feature image of House of Cards by OGE Group in Bucharest, Romania

Updated 5:30 p.m. Aug 26

The opening of House of Cards has been rescheduled for August 29. A new date is still being determined for the House of Cards CAR-nival fundraiser. Tickets for the drive-thru event sold out less than a week after they went on sale in July. 

Updated 1:55 p.m. Aug 25

Due to the threat of Hurricane Laura, the Discovery Green Conservancy has postponed the opening of House of Cards. A new date has not yet been determined. 

Discovery Green has upped the ante with its newest public art piece, House of Cards, a multi-sensory display that will mesmerize in the day and light up the night. Designed by Israel-based creative studio OGE Group, the temporary installation, which opens to the public on August 28, features 126 huge LED light boxes stacked to form a towering house of cards.

Daytime visitors can marvel at the intricate images up close, while evening viewers will experience a spectacular light show in which the house of cards appears to collapse and rebuild. In between the boxes will light up in choreographed patterns set to music. “Sometimes it’s sparkling, sometimes the light is moving gently through the different cards, and sometimes, when you have those faster soundtracks, it’s much more poppy,” says OGE cofounder Gaston Zahr.

Since its creation six years ago, the installation has traveled to cities such as Amsterdam, Berlin, Milan, and Baltimore. At each stop its creators deal new artists in by incorporating local card designs that reflect a given city, adds Merav Eitan, also of OGE. At Discovery Green several of the images have been created by artists from around the world, but even more have been designed by 20 local creatives specifically for the piece’s show in the Bayou City.

The Houston artists, along with Zahr and Eitan, will be giving viewers an inside look at the installation during a virtual program on September 10. Before that, though, we talked with some of these Bayou City creatives to learn more about what makes their artwork quintessentially Houston.

If you choose to go out in public, remember to follow social distancing guidelines (at least six feet between you and anyone else), wash hands often and thoroughly, and wear a face mask.

Carra Sykes

What was the inspiration behind your design?

Even before I moved to Texas, I was obsessed with Westerns and space. I've always loved the idea of a Space Cowboy, so I wanted to create a card that had a Space Cowgirl winning over the hearts of people everywhere. She's got that southern charm and that "out of this world" personality. And, of course, she's on the Queen of Hearts card.

How does your design reflect Houston?

Houston is a city that allows you to dream big and be uniquely you. I wanted to show this spirit in the Space Cowgirl.

What’s a fun detail someone might miss at first glance?

If you look closely, you'll see the toy rocket and toy horse floating above her hand.

Sebastian Gomez de la Torre

What was the inspiration behind your design?

I wanted to make a design that was very obviously a play on the traditional playing-card illustration, but modern.

How does your design reflect Houston?

The gator is an emblematic member of Houston wildlife, and I think it gave me the most interesting silhouette out of the other animals I could have chosen.

What’s a fun detail someone might miss at first glance?

The sword is modeled after a Claymore, which has a hilt design very similar to the Club motif I used throughout.

David Tsai

What was the inspiration behind your design?

We're in a period of division, but music, beauty, and art can bring people together. 

How does your design reflect Houston?

My design is based off Beyoncé, who has roots in Houston. Other facts and references about her life are in there, but you have to look and think.

What’s a fun detail someone might miss at first glance?

The bird on the microphone is a mockingbird, the state bird of Texas; however color changes during production make it less obvious.

Heather 'Aycho' Ohuabunwa 

What was the inspiration behind your design?

I wanted to make something that would be unique and indicative of Houston, something that could not be argued as anything other than stereotypically Texan. Armadillos, bluebonnets, and cowboys immediately came to mind, but ultimately, I landed on the longhorn because in an imaginary royal hierarchy, I felt that the longhorn would be the ultimate king of Houston.

How does your design reflect Houston?

Houston has been deemed the most diverse city in the U.S., so when studying these Texan stereotypes—these ideas that outsiders think represent the state as a collective whole—I began to question what makes us all the same when we are all so different? Upon looking at our massive city, I came to a conclusion that the act of being a Texan and having pride in where we live was something that could be seen in so many of us, no matter who or where we came from. So, this stereotypical imagery that dually does and does not apply to us all was the perfect starting point to reflect Houston in my design.

What’s a fun detail someone might miss at first glance?

Something that could be overlooked is that even within its geometric style, the figure is still posed in the standard King of Diamonds fashion, with one hand raised and the other hand wielding a weapon. However, where the King of Diamonds typically wields an axe, I replaced it with a blade similar in appearance to a Bowie knife, just to add an extra piece of Texan imagery.

Vivienne Dang

What was the inspiration behind your design?

Space has always been an inspirational concept to me, and I'm very fortunate to live so close to the NASA Space Center. My design is inspired by women who are sweet and delicate, yet confident and strong. When I think of playing card designs, or, more specifically, the characters, I always picture them from another realm. So my design has a fragment of each of these elements.

How does your design reflect Houston?

I wanted to capture Space City’s essence in this character design—mostly our playful but resilient vibe that our community represents. My design is just one piece of the installation that shows how strong we are when connected in strength.

What’s a fun detail someone might miss at first glance?

There are a few small details such as the feminine pattern on her helmet and the word “strong” as a patch on her shoulder. But the overall detail that people realize last is that her suit isn’t real. It doesn’t exist in our reality—at least not yet.

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