That large, angular, red inflatable sculpture you may have seen perched around town is a pretty neat reflection of HOMECOMING! Committee’s vision: to celebrate the creative ephemeral.
The sculpture and its tour de Fort Worth, collectively entitled The Eagle Has Landed, was inspired by “The Eagle.” Weighing six tons and standing 39 feet, Alexander Calder’s red, lyrical, yet angular steel sculpture stood in front of the Fort Worth National Bank Building (now The Tower) for 17 years before, essentially, disappearing in the middle of the night in 2000. (The piece changed hands a few times before finally landing at its current nest, in Seattle.) The Eagle Has Landed was a pivotal moment for the 13-member collective, marking the group’s first project not funded solely by committee members –– Downtown Fort Worth Inc. and Fort Worth Public Art also pitched in.
The Eagle Has Landed, committee members say, also fulfilled its contextual purpose: to start a conversation about art. After photos of HOMECOMING!’s “Eagle” began appearing on social media sites, people from all over North Texas, including some who presumably don’t know anything about contemporary art (and don’t care to learn), started quacking. Of course not all of them liked the work, but the fact that they were engaged was all that mattered to HOMECOMING!
The Eagle Has Landed has capped nearly three years of projects, each bigger than the last, and it’s helped establish HOMECOMING! Committee as a major North Texas art-world player. Terri Thornton, curator of education at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, has been following the group since Day 1. “I am yet to be disappointed with any of their endeavors,” she said. “Some are more sensational than others, but they are all ambitious and thoughtful. While responding to their individual interests and using the dynamics of the group, they seem to consistently speak to larger issues of the moment. Perhaps I am most impressed with their attention to detail, conceptually and visually.”
Though the ranks have changed a bit since their first show, in Fort Worth in 2011, the committee now includes Christopher Bond, Bradly Brown, Ryan Goolsby, Courtney Hamilton, Timothy Harding, Shelby Meier, Devon Nowlin, Kris Pierce, Gregory Ruppe, Alden Williams, Briana Williams, and Tiffany Wolf. (To underline the collectivity ethos, members don’t conduct interviews with the media individually but speak as representatives of the entire group.) When the collective started, the goal was twofold: to have fun and to gang up on the dreaded Establishment. Inspired by Denton’s locally legendary Good/Bad Art Collective, HOMECOMING!’s founding mothers and fathers believed in strength in numbers. One committee member recalled a quote from the art critic Jerry Saltz, who was asked during a lecture for a word of advice for young artists. “He said, ‘Become vampires,’ group together, feed off each other, suck it all in,” the committee member said. “Basically, band together, become a gang. Or a mafia.”
That inaugural project was essentially a party. Committee members assembled junk that attendees had been encouraged to bring into a “crewed/crude” spaceship designed to parody the privatization of space exploration. Nearly 300 people piled inside HOMECOMING!’s studio in the West 7th corridor and partied into the night. “It was supposed to be a party, which it was,” a committee member said. “I think that worked for the conversation we were trying to have. … They are events. They’re about memories that form, the experiences that happen.”
Along with exhibiting at the Dallas Museum of Art, And X art space, and Oliver Francis Gallery, HOMECOMING! participated in the most recent Texas Biennial (2013), perhaps raising Tarrant County’s profile a little –– only three 817 artists had been invited to participate in the previous three biennials combined. For the statewide showcase of Lone Star art, the committee displayed a collection of five crates (none bigger than about 6-by-4-by-3-feet) built from discarded IKEA furniture. Driving home the notion of the ephemeral, the committee intends to transport the crates to Sweden, where they will be exhibited and then used as fuel. (Sweden, HOMECOMING! reports, is experiencing a trash shortage due to the country’s unexpected success in transforming garage into energy.)
One of the best things about being in a group, committee members say, is that you can pull off projects you wouldn’t be able to on your own.
There’s no way to measure the committee’s influence so far, but until HOMECOMING! came along, Fort Worth was a lot less interesting –– and a lot less whimsical –– than it is now. “We thought it was something to bring energy into the city and kind of get people thinking,” a committee member said. “That was a big part of starting it, to help create a way for creatives to get to know each other in this city. Nobody was talking about these kinds of things or doing these kinds of things that really aren’t that new. But for Fort Worth, it’s brand-new.” –– A.M.