Feral hogs invade Laguna Gloria! (sorta)
Squirrels you would expect to encounter on the grounds of Laguna Gloria, and perchance deer or even the odd fox, but feral hogs? And they don't just happen to be there; they've been imported to the spot by the Austin Museum of Art-Arthouse, which wants you to come on over and nuzzle up to the beasts. You needn't fear getting gored or trampled, though; these "tush hogs," as they're colloquially known down South, have no tusks or even legs. They're really bogus boars – vaguely globular geometric sculptures masquerading as wild swine. Their creator, San Antonio-based artist Buster Graybill, calls 'em "hog balls," and he designed them to be roughly round so they could be rolled around by real tush hogs trying to get at the feed corn stashed inside.
Yes, Graybill placed a number of these diamond-plate aluminum structures on some ranchland in South Texas to let real hogs have their way with them. And set up surveillance cameras to capture the animals in the act. His photographic documentation of the contact between art and hogs (and deer and bighorn sheep, as it turned out) is also part of this project developed during Graybill's 2010 residency at Artpace, the Alamo City's internationally prestigious incubator for contemporary art. It's part of this fifth-generation Texan's ongoing exploration of the rural landscape and the changes taking place in it. Some of his projects address urban sprawl's effects on nature and culture, but in this instance, his focus is on changes wrought by a natural phenomenon: the population explosion of feral hogs in the state, which has caused millions of dollars in damage to farms and ranches. This isn't just a matter of us encroaching on their habitat; they're also expanding into ours.
For the Laguna Gloria installation, Graybill's "hog balls" will serve as substitutes for actual tush hogs, set around the grounds as if in small herds. And while they'll still be loaded with feed corn, curator of exhibitions and public programs Andrea Mellard isn't expecting any large pigs to knock them around – more likely raccoons will play cat burglar and steal off with the corn. Graybill has also constructed a 16-foot-tall deer blind from which the "hog balls" and the rest of the Laguna Gloria landscape may be viewed. Titled Deer Stand for Mondrian, its painted camouflage patterns mimic the geometric paintings of Dutch artist Piet Mondrian. Once you've toured the outdoor part of the exhibit – smile for the surveillance cameras! – drop by the Gatehouse Gallery to see photographs and videos of critters interacting with the sculptures in the wild.
And if this talk of tasty beast has you hankering for some, come sample some courtesy of AMOA-Arthouse and Edible Austin on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 7pm. The program "Whole Hog" boasts a menu of wild game prepared by Jesse Griffiths of Dai Due. For more information, visit www.amoa.org/wholehog.
"Buster Graybill: Progeny of Tush Hog" is on display through Feb. 19 at AMOA-Arthouse – Laguna Gloria, 3809 W. 35th. For more information, visit www.amoa.org.