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Cemo Hall artwork based on Karankawa legend

By Richard Zagrzecki


Anyone who passes by Cemo Hall can’t help but notice the new artwork that graces the east side of the building.

The yet-to-be-named piece made of stainless steel and aluminum formed in the shape of oyster shells was installed over four days the week before Thanksgiving by a team of three people. It was created by Brian Tolle, a New York-based artist.

The unique creation is a passive water feature that was created specifically to interact with rainfall, said Michael Guidry, curator of the University of Houston System Public Art Collection, which now includes about 520 diverse pieces.

The inspiration behind the artwork comes from a Karankawa legend that the first member of the Native American tribe that once inhabited the Gulf Coast of Texas was the child of the sun god and moon goddess whose cradle was an oyster shell that rocked gently on a cloud. One day, the cradle was knocked from the sky and fell into the Gulf of Mexico, and that the tears of the goddess account for the abundant rainfall along the coast.

Click here to view a video of the artwork during a rainfall.