November 9, 2013 — Leave a comment

Title still, Gaia: MARSHLAND

Gaia at Rice University

We’ve just released a short documentary film following the process of Baltimore-based street artist Gaia as he creates his installation MARSHLAND at Rice University Art Gallery. MARSHLAND is a reflection of Gaia’s perceptions of Rice University and the greater Houston area during his three week residency.

Gaia interviews Rice University Faculty, Staff, and Students

“I always want to do interviews that give more insight and more background to the murals that I’m producing. We ended up interviewing staff, faculty and students from a wide range of diversity, given how diverse Houston is as a city.”

Gaia begins work on his mural

Gaia working

Inspired by research, site visits, and an extensive series of on-campus interviews, Gaia produced a floor-to-ceiling mural on Rice Gallery’s three walls which he calls “an impossible portrait of this massive metropolis.” The mural surrounds a sculptural colonnade painted to mimic Rice University’s formal architecture. Hanging from each archway is a “chorus of voices”, oil paintings of twenty-four of Gaia’s interview subjects.

“I got a sense of the gentrification that was occurring in certain places and how things have changed and those were the most insightful aspects for my own personal work and how I understand Houston as a place.”

Dr. Roland B. Smith, Jr., Rice University Associate Provost and Adjunct Professor

Gaia paints a portrait of Dr. Roland B. Smith Jr.

This diversity of the portraits reflects Rice University’s effort to become a more diverse, open-minded 21st century institution, but interviewees did not gloss over a past of racial exclusion and ethnic tensions that still exist. For example, Dr. Roland Smith, who oversees the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, spoke about when African Americans were excluded from campus and stories of people having to walk around the campus gates.

Gaia and Nanook gather photo references while visiting Houston’s Fourth Ward

Gaia continues work on his mural

“The street art world doesn’t demand any sociological or social practice approach to the paintings that we’re producing, but it’s really something that deeply I want to learn from every experience as much as I possibly can given that I’m traveling and hurtling across the globe constantly.”

Portraits on view at Rice Gallery (L to R) Kyle Xu, Stephen Fox, and Omar Chris-Rotimi

MARSHLAND, the completed installation

“I want to slowly build a family of artists that speak more specifically to a space, but don’t get blogged down by celebratory esthetics or community artwork. I want to find a balance between the fetishized individual style of street art and the old school politically correct community art. I think that there’s a way that this generation that I would love to be a part of and build can actually meet that intersection.”

Rice University Art Gallery
6100 Main Street
Houston, Texas 77005
On view 26 September – 8 December 2013
Learn more at
Check at Gaia’s work at

Read Gaia’s MARSHLAND Zine. View more stills on our Flickr page.



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