PaperCity Magazine

March 2017 - Houston

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 88 of 127

F orrest Prince lives a modest life — resembling a hermit who has taken a vow of poverty. Informed by a touch of mysticism and possessing the demeanor of Gandhi, the octogenarian artist is an anomaly in today's dollars-fueled art market. Beyond his living expenses, proceeds from his in-demand art go to his self- funded Praise God Foundation, which quietly goes about working with those in his community in an organic, usually low- key way. A famous 1992 Marvin Zindler episode relayed how Prince befriended a stroke victim in a local nursing home. After 23 years, the woman, Alana Wilson, was reunited with her family in La Crosse, Wisconsin, thanks to the efforts of Zindler, Prince, and a slew of philanthropic Houstonians. Although his powerful and well-connected collectors range from Bill Hill, Carolyn Farb, Marilyn Oshman, and Gayle and Mike DeGeurin to River Oaks District founder Dene Oliver and his wife, Elizabeth, Prince has not pursued prosaic gallery representation and is not currently in the stable of any commercial art entity. How does this man of God, animal rights, and current events live? Prince opened up his home and studio to give us a rare glimpse into his sanctuary. All his worldly possessions fit into a diminutive- sized dwelling (less than 1,000 square feet) in a gentrifying area of Garden Oaks known as Itchy Acres, which also borders the home and studios of fellow creatives Paul Kittelson and Carter Ernst, Tim Glover, Ed Wilson and Magda Boltz- Wilson, and Thedra Cullar-Ledford. Both homes were made available to him through the generosity of long-time patrons Elizabeth Hamman Oliver and Dene Oliver and Elizabeth's sister, Laura Hamman Fain — daughters of his late supreme benefactor, Lollie Jackson. In typical Prince style, the larger house on the lot is given over to his cats, an ever- expanding population of about a dozen for whom he meticulously and lovingly cares daily. (The timing of our dinner- time interview took the felines' feeding schedule into consideration.) Prince's devotion to his animals is in keeping with his strict tenet of vegetarianism; decades before it was hip or chic, he abandoned eating meat for ethical reasons. The spare domestic space awash in white light offers a study in simplicity, functional living, and humility. Coupled with the artist's unwavering stance for vegetarianism, the startling minimal interiors reflect the homeowner's monk- like purity of vision while serving as a showcase for the causes and concerns that have kept him going in his monastic existence. There's little adornment except for his art, which is employed both as a force for enlightenment and as an edict on how to live, an admonishment to repent, and an encouragement to follow the light of consciousness. But don't let his saintly air fool you. Granted, his ethereal creations, mirrored crosses, and hearts with simplified text messages of "Love" or "Praise God": There is a waiting list for this body of work that is instantly recognizable as the artist's signature. While these works espouse peace, brotherhood, and love, another part of his practice marks Prince as one of the most politically outspoken talents you'll find anywhere in Texas. Perhaps that's why his work — sculptures alternately spiritual and scathingly socially conscious — resonate with audiences, attracting curators and collectors alike including Houston iconic duo Ann and Jim Harithas. Prince was recently in the group show"Friendly Fire" at Jim Harithas' prescient, highly charged artspace, the Station Museum of Contemporary Art. He also has exhibited and is in the permanent collection of The Menil Collection, represented in the museum's holdings by a mirrored heart, gifted by Bill Hill, in the 2012 exhibition "The Progress of Love." He's the only male in a group exhibit about love that's on view now at Zoya Tommy Gallery 87 One of the artist's earliest works, from 1969, espoused an urgent call to his Maker. In 1980, Prince began his series of mirrored hearts bearing the text "Love" spelled out in cursive..

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of PaperCity Magazine - March 2017 - Houston