Hollow Oak Our Palace Is, 1989. Cut and painted mat, dimensions variable.

Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler: America Starts Here

Impalpable forces must have been in the aesthetic air in the 1970s and ’80s. During this period, widely scattered conceptual artists began to see the same future—making public art that grows out of its locale and its community of viewers. Kate Ericson and Mel Ziegler, while at the Kansas City Art Institute, came to these conclusions at the same time as other public art pioneers (Mags Harries in Boston and Jody Pinto in New York come immediately to mind). They saw cityscapes as tempting canvases for commentary on late-20th-century social issues. Sometimes their alterations to the urban fabric were so subtle as to be almost invisible, or at least not recognizable as art. Often they required explanation, but their originality and wit could involve and even tickle the funny bone of communities ordinarily impervious to art in any form.