Project Wall: “________ as myth”
A collaboration between Deborah D.E.E.P Mouton, local artists and Rice University Students
“________ as myth” is a community-centered exhibition, exploring mythology as a catalyst for self-discovery and social commentary. Taking inspiration from Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton’s memoir Black Chameleon (2023), the artwork investigates how modern-day mythology can explain the nuances of our everyday experience.
Through her residency at Rice University’s Center for Engaged Research and Collaborative Learning (CERCL), Mouton led students through community workshops to write new myths based on their own experiences. Those stories then became source material for local and regional artists to create the artworks on view here. While Black Chameleon explains the Black American Women’s experience, from “How we got eyes in the back of our heads” to examining colloquial figures like Boo Boo the Fool, the student work reflects a much wider range. The diversity of voices and backgrounds makes the storytelling richer, arguing that all of us are capable of filling in the gaps of mythology
This installation is made possible by Rice University’s CERCL, with support from the Moody Center for the Arts.
“When the Sun Touches the Lake” interpreted by Madison Zhao
“The Children of the Road” interpreted by Sophia Deleon-Wilson
“Two Sisters” interpreted by Joshua Mouton
“Nothing to Remember” interpreted by Kay Duong
“The Parable of the Gardeners” interpreted by Kristi Rangel
“The Women Who Were Blind” interpreted by Shawn Artis
“The Women Who Were Blind” interpreted by DeLoné Osby
“The Women Who Were Blind” interpreted by Kristi Rangel
“Pando's Tin” interpreted by Tyson Davis
“Pando's Tin” interpreted by Joshua Mouton
Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton
Deborah D.E.E.P Mouton is an internationally-known, multi-hyphenate literary artist, director, performer, critic and the first Black Poet Laureate of Houston, TX. She is the author of the 2019 poetry collection Newsworthy with Bloomsday Literary (and its German counterpart Berichtenswert with Elif Verlag), which was a finalist for the The Writer's League of Texas Book Award. Her poems have garnered her a pushcart nomination and been translated across multiple genres and languages. She has been a contributing writer for Glamour, Texas Monthly, Muzzle, and ESPN's The Undefeated.
Currently, she is a Resident Artist with the American Lyric Theater, Rice University (CERCL), and the Houston Museum of African American Culture.
Malaika Joy Bergner is a senior at Rice University studying Social Policy Analysis and minoring in African and African American Studies. She proudly serves as this year's President of the Rice Black Student Association and loves building community among Black folks at Rice. She's from Chicago and attributes her love for creative writing and poetry to her city and its rich culture and history. She enjoys spending time in nature, discovering new music, and of course writing!
Madeline Gaffney is a currently getting her master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling: Couples, Marriage & Family at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. Before pursing this path, she was a corporate lawyer for 4 years. She grew up in League City, Texas and attended Houston Baptist University for college, followed by the University of Texas School of Law. Madeline has loved writing and stories since she learned how to read.
Hassan Xavier Henderson-Lott
Hassan Xavier Henderson-Lott is an educational entrepreneur, writer, and black studies researcher. Hassan’s work shares in the critical study of practices and relations and intimacies rendered “black religion” and the ways they open up newer, artful styles of (human) existence. He has served as a graduate research associate at Columbia Univerisity’s Center on African American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice (CARSS) and presently serves as a graduate liaison for The Center on Engaged Research and Collaborative Learning (CERCL) at Rice University. Hassan holds a B.A. in Religion from Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia (2016). In 2019 he earned a Master of Divinity Degree in Social Ethics from Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. Hassan is currently a Ph.D. student in the Department of Religion, African American Religion concentration at Rice University where his research engages black religious studies, performance, poetics, and critical theory. He currently serves as a graduate board member on the student advisory committee for the University’s newly installed Center on African and African American Studies (CAAAS).
K. Ellie Mae
Kenyatha V. “K. Ellie Mae” Loftis, Ph.D. creates moments of communal sharing, reflection, and transformation. A social scientist and lifelong explorer of the arts, K. Ellie Mae weaves together formal and informal learning across age groups, cultures, subject matters, and space/time using literature, music, arts & crafts, and social science research. K. Ellie Mae currently resides and creates on the Texas Gulf Coast. For more information, connect with her via
Award winning visual artist, Shawn Artis was born in New Haven, Connecticut, where he was adopted by two social activists, Clarence and Lucille Artis. Shawn currently resides in Houston, Texas where his practice focuses on using his visual storytelling abilities to highlight social and cultural issues that affect today’s societies. His body of work aims at encouraging dialogue while also creating solution-based thinking amongst diverse groups.
Upon relocating to Houston, Shawn continued his studies at the John Biggers School of Art as well as the MFAH Glassell School, and has exhibited consistently for the past 15 years both nationally and internationally. After a lifelong journey of using the pain of not knowing his biological origins to fuel his artistic passions, in 2019 he was finally able to find his maternal family and shortly after in 2021 he met his paternal side of the family.
Now being equipped with the blueprint of his beginnings, the art world is eager to see what’s on the horizons for this electrifying creative.
Tyson’s journey as an artist started in the back of an 8th grade classroom, with pencil, paper, and a Marvel Comic book. Mimicking the illustrations that he found striking and dynamic. Amazed by these creative characters and the development of their stories, he began to draw daily.
Tyson’s self-taught style is best described as warped realism. Using impactful images to portray his message, while free flowing backgrounds that add depth and perspective to his creations. His use of color and fine detail, fill canvases large and small, with passion and purpose. His ability to take words and create stunning visuals, has propelled him into a professional art career.
He uses his experiences and understandings to guide him through his design process. With a background in welding, construction, and warehouse work, allows him to operate machinery, fabricate components, and makes him knowledgeable about the most effective and ageless materials to incorporate into his art work.
Tyson is the father of 4 beautiful daughters, and a loving partner to his fiancé. His family is the driving force behind his decision to pursue a full-time art career. He feels that his success as a Small Business Owner will inspire his children to dream big, and always work hard for what they want. His daily life is filled with the beauty of building the character of these 4 beautiful girls.
Sophia Deleon-Wilson is a senior at Rice majoring in Studio Arts and Cognitive Science. Her mediums to work in are oil, digital painting, and multimedia sculpture. Her favorite subjects to work with are figures and faces and how they interact with light. Her other hobbies include cooking, web development, and reading.
Kay Duong is a Social Policy Analysis major at Will Rice. She specializes in photorealism using oil and acrylic paints. Her artworks are inspired by traditional Western art. Kay's color palette involves various neutrals with an occasional vibrant piece. She enjoys Eastern art such as those by Takashi Murakami and Chiharu Shiota.
Joshua Mouton is the owner and lead artist of J Smooth Ink. This native Houstonian is a graduate of Full Sail University with a Bachelor's Degree in Graphic Design. His keen eye and love for depth helps him develop websites, logos, and build brand identities for individuals and companies. His love of art was birthed out of a childhood affection with cartoons and anime, which continues to spark his exhibit-worthy works.
Mouton has studied multiple mediums, but sees himself as a life-long student to art and all of its limitlessness. As a lover of anime and manga, his focus has been creating fan art and developing his own comic books, when he is not being commissioned to do other work.
Mouton has worked with a large array of clients including the Houston Grand Opera, The Children’s Museum of Houston, and the Houston Arts Alliance- to name a few. As a father, he looks to pass on his artistic love to his children. He and his wife live and create in Houston, TX.
DeLoné is a self taught artist. They use their work as a way to heal their own traumas, their ancestors & recently their audience. Through spiritual practices & ancestral work they incorporate the messages they receive via dreams and meditation into their work. Growing up multi-racial & queer, it was important to them to find their sense of self and where they fit in within her communities. Art has helped them accomplish this. Their work has become an embodiment of self and the divine in a way that also lets the viewer see divine in themselves.
Kristi Rangel is a Houston based self-taught multi-disciplinary artist, who resides in the Greater East End. Kristi brings to her artistic practice the passion and dedication to community honed by her many years as an outstanding educational, public health and city government leader. Starting her artistic phase later in life means she brings some interesting insights to her work and a different perspective.
Kristi is the Houston Coalition Against Hate’s (HCAH) Emerging Artist of the Year. Her series, “Seven”, will exhibited in spaces throughout Houston. “Seven” focuses on the themes of race, gender, equity and environmental justice. Kristi is currently the lead facilitator and co-creator of the “Witness Series”. The “Witness Series” is interactive public art experience that explores the many profound experiences African Americans have to the Land of Southeast Texas. She is in the planning phase of several public art pieces that will be created. She is, also, completing several paid private commissions, while pursuing opportunities to exhibit her work and creating new works for her next series.
Madison Zhao grew up in Bethesda, Maryland and is an undergraduate student at Rice University. She works primarily with acrylic paint, watercolor and charcoal but is expanding into digital design. She is fascinated by color and space and developed a series of paintings titled Street Series to explore the concepts of color and abstraction. Recently, Zhao uses her artwork as a means for social change. During the pandemic, she created watercolor designs to address
the complexities of growing up in America as a Chinese American. Her select design $3,000 for
a life? was granted the first place award in Montgomery County’s AAPI Heritage month poster
contest. Additionally, she was nominated for Superintendent’s Fine Arts Award and has had pieces juried into Congressional Art competitions and exhibited in Rockville Visarts gallery.
Zhao is also interested in the intersection between art and medicine. She has partnered with the Youth Art for Healing non-profit to create comforting artworks to be displayed in hospitals and medical centers. Her past pieces have been displayed in Medstar Montgomery Medical Center, and Walter Reed Navy hospital. She continued to develop her interest by teaching watercolor lessons to Alzheimer’s patients at the Brookdale Olney senior home. Currently she is an artist and intern in the Medical, Race, Democracy lab where she works to excavate the intersection between western and eastern medicine using the medium of visual art, poetry, and oral history.
She is also the main visual artist for an upcoming graphic novel about the violent history of abortion in Mexico City.