Celebrating Black History Month with SWA Houston

For Black Future in Technicolor, Houston artists Preston Gaines and Shanel Gaskin reflect on the intersections between artistic and design practice

Each year, SWA’s studios organize a number of events through the firm’s RISE (Respect, Inclusion, and Social Equity) Committee—including a number of events celebrating Black History Month through exhibitions, presentations, field trips, and more. This year, SWA Houston organized Black Future in Technicolor, a year-long exhibit in the studio by two local artists, Preston Gaines and Shanel Gaskin.

“SWA Houston was excited to host this salon in honor of Black History Month,” said Principal Natalia Beard. “Nel and Preston were beyond generous to share their work with our studio and speak with us about their practices, lending us a new perspective about how we can activate an artistic mindset in our own work. Preston’s immersive, nature-inspired compositions and Nel’s vibrant portrayals of female characters embody a sentiment we all relate to: our work reflects the questions we ask of the world and the connections we make with other people.”

At the studio’s entrance is Gaines’s installed a large mounted wood installation titled Nature’s Substance evoking lush botanical forms through a precise, CNC-routed pattern, as well as Rust Garden: Nature’s Lifestyle, a floor sculpture made of oxidized steel. Trained as an architect and industrial designer, Gaines made a shift to full-time artistic practice, and is now represented by Barbara Davis Gallery. He has completed installations across Houston—including at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Ion, Innovation Hub, and Project Row Houses.

“Reflecting on the salon, it felt like a space where community and creativity intersected,” said Gaines. “My work engages communal narratives that resonated here. My sculptures also works directly with the order, diversity, color, symmetry, and balance found in nature—I hope it encourages conversation and instills a sense of reflection over the coming months.”

Gaskin’s paintings, Things Have Gotten Complicated, It Girl, Frequency, Ycneuqerf, and Disrupted Catalog, explore the emotive and psychological impacts of color on well-being—rooted in a sense of play and the power of bold color to boost feelings of joy and optimism.

“You never know where your craft can take you if you just don’t go and do it. The journey in which your passions can take you are absolutely endless,” said Gaskin.

Black Future in Technicolor will be on display at SWA Houston (712 Main Street, Floor 6, Houston, TX) for the remainder of 2024. Check it out if you’re in town and follow both artists on social media to keep up with their work: