Art League Houston is excited to present Sexual Selection, a site specific outdoor installation in the ALH Sculpture Garden by New York-born and Houston-based installation artist Jo Ann Fleischhauer. The project is inspired by the evolutionary process of the Birds-of-Paradise known as sexual selection, where females choose their mate based on the shape, color and display of the males’ plumage, and have ultimately determined the species’ diverse and exotic variations. The installation explores ideas of visual aesthetics, in particular the function of beauty and features over one hundred brightly colored parasols that are hung throughout the trees.
Sexual Selection re-conceptualizes an aspect of The Parasol Project, a temporary installation by the artist completed in 2007 at the historic Foley House in downtown Houston. The house façade and window apertures bloomed with 120 handmade umbrellas digitally printed with colorful floral-like configurations derived from Black and White Magnetic Resonance Images (MRIs) of the brain.
For Sexual Selection, the extravagantly colored and patterned parasols have been reshaped into three different silhouettes and hung upside down from tree branches in the ALH’s Sculpture Garden, as if they are Birds-of-Paradise in courting display. The viewers may be struck by exotic color, pattern and shape peeking through the dense spring foliage.
“I was inspired by the documentary film, Paradise Found, which chronicles the identification and photographing of all 39 species of Birds-of-Paradise in New Guinea” says the artist. “The evolution of the different species has been purely based on “sexual selection,” or the female’s preference and vantage point”.
The plumage of the male birds is extraordinarily extreme in color, shape and structural design. Some of the feathers have evolved without efficiency and efficacy of flight as the dominant trait. Instead, the feathers have transformed into “ornaments of seduction” for their exotic courting rituals. The males are not monogamous; the female raises her young alone, therefore she scrupulously critiques potential mates to reproduce the “best” offspring.
During Victorian times, parasols were used to flirt, convey hidden feelings. Preferences. Love. Interest. A secret dance of courtship. The brain scans on the surfaces suggest a contemporary way of tracking and visualizing possible emotions. As a conceptual evolution of Parasol Project, Sexual Selection explores ideas of visual aesthetics, not as superfluous decoration, but having a direct relationship to form, function and evolution.