The Orange Show Monument in Houston is an art installation and dream space. It was built with found objects by Jefferson Davis McKissack who was a Houston postal worker and as he described himself "a stuff collector." He began working on his monument in 1956 and finished it in 1979.
As you enter the Orange Show, the constructions seems slightly crooked and offbeat and there are several quotes about the importance of oranges. Mckissack thought that eating oranges would equal good health and a long life. He dreamed that thousands of people would visit his construction but only a few came. He said, "I want this to be a place where people from Japan,China, India, and all over the world come for summer shows so they can learn how to take care of themselves."
The famous Dutch American abstract expressionist artist William de Kooning visited. He was the most famous guest.
McKissack, as the story goes, was very upset that his space did not attract more people, became depressed, had a heart attack, and died in 1980. In October 1977, The Texas Monthly featured an article by William Martin about the Orange Show Monument titled What's Red, White, and Blue...and Orange All Over?
The Orange Show reminds me of the Forestiere Gardens that Lincoln and I visited in Fresno, California. Baldassare Forestiere, an Italian immigrant, built an underground grotto and garden with a shovel, a pick and a wheelbarrow. He spent 40 years building it and hoped to open it as a spa, but it was never finished. He was also obsessed with oranges. He wanted to plant oranges underground by using skylights.
Both men built monuments and hoped for recognition. The monuments are metaphors for the men. McKissick’s whimsical, offbeat monument is full of orange dreams, art without rules, tiled hearts, and slightly out of context quotes and stories. It reveals the symbols that McKissick found important.
Forestiere used simple tools and his hands to demonstrate the power of hard work. He said in an interview “I want to show that with hard work and perseverance, anything is possible.” These stories are emphasized to build the mythology surrounding the art, and also works to shape our ideas about the space.
For me, positive value is added to this space because McKissack found the objects and placed each piece in the wall to create his vision. It shows patience and perseverance. If this was done mechanically, I might feel differently about the process or the monument. My interpretation or the value that I place on the process story says more about me than the space or McKissack’s original intentions. This is why the questions “What is art?”or “What is the meaning of art? are so complicated.
I love the below sign:
McKissack wanted “everyone in America” to see his installation and if that didn’t happen, he said that he would feel like a failure, but was he?
People still visit, and it is inspiring to see a person who followed his artistic inclination to create an installation, but you see this is my interpretation.
If McKissack spoke from the grave, he might still feel like a failure because his intention of the monument becoming the most known art space in the world was never achieved.
If you could build a monument, what would it look like? What symbols or items would you include? What would be the purpose of your monument?
Jeff's Tour of the Orange Show Video Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDZRlI1dyfk
Jeff's Tour of the Orange Show Video Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4cI1O0rmTI
Jeff's Tour of the Orange Show Video Part 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCsAzUjzitQ
Jeff's Tour of the Orange Show Video Part 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eesMSiWQVjI