Martha Tuttle banners in lawn
A man standing in front of Tuttle's artwork reading the text
People standing in front of Tuttle's artwork listening to her speak
photo of cloudy sky turning sideways with handwritten text that says Can you imagine a constellation that longs to reach down and skim the surface of the ocean?

Platform: Martha Tuttle, the bear that longs to touch the ocean

February 29 - June 30, 2024
Lawn adjacent to Anderson Biological Laboratories
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Vinyl banner and steel

Martha Tuttle’s site-specific installation for the Rice University campus is inspired by the Ursa Major constellation. Composed of seven banners mounted on poles scaled to the average height of the human body, the installation is arranged on the lawn in a pattern that evokes the stars that form this asterism, also known as the Great Bear. Each banner displays a photograph of the Houston sky taken at the moment before dusk. 

Combining celestial images with original writing, the work explores how stellar patterns have inspired and impacted fields such as mythology, navigation, astronomy, and astrology, and their cultural legacies. The poetic phrases, written by the artist as open questions, reflect diverse subjects including motherhood, protection, beauty, and banishment. Despite the vast spaces invoked by the open arrangement of the poles, the installation offers moments for intimacy and meditation. 

Together, the texts and the images embody Tuttle’s interest in exploring the role astral constellations have played, both in past mythologies and in contemporary culture, “This project emerges from considering the mythical origins of the constellation Ursa Major from a speculative perspective,” Tuttle stated. “What was the experience of Callisto as she became a bear, and then stars? Who is she now? What happens if you consider a constellation with openness and a desire for a personal relationship?”

The installation the bear that longs to touch the ocean encourages bodily engagement over time, inviting viewers to move through the space and to reflect on their own relationship with the stars. 

The images of the Houston sky were taken by the photo-based artist Angela Chen, lecturer, Department of Art, Rice University. 

The Moody’s innovative Platform series brings temporary, site-specific projects to campus by inviting artists to respond to artworks, architectural structures, and research at Rice University. Platform: Martha Tuttle is organized by Frauke V. Josenhans, Curator, and is made possible by the Moody Center for the Arts Founders Circle.


About the artist: Martha Tuttle (b. 1989, Santa Fe, NM) investigates materiality, process, and memory in her practice. Her work is deeply informed by the different landscapes she has spent time in, and it often incorporates organic materials like wool, silk, and linen as well as various techniques such as weaving, dyeing, embroidery, and printing to create intricate and textured compositions. Her writing has appeared in different publications, notably the Brooklyn Rail.

Tuttle obtained a BA from Bard College (2011), and graduated with an MFA from the Yale School of Art (2015). Her work has been shown in different exhibitions in the US and abroad, and in 2020 she conceived a temporary outdoor project in the landscape at Storm King Art Center, NY. She is represented in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, NY; the University of San Diego, CA; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Smith College Museum of Art, MA, among others. Tuttle lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. 


Watch a video about the artwork and the collaboration behind it.