Inside the Nest of Heights Visionary Artist Erma Lee …



A once unadorned two-story Victorian structure became a repository for Miz Lee%26rsquo;s sculpture, installations and far-out folk environments. As shown here, Lee%26rsquo;s bold, outsider vision originally stopped traffic at 1134 Yale. Six months after our photo shoot and one miraculous move later, it sprouts anew, reprised in an industrial area of Independence Heights at 3802 Yale.

5 Minutes With Erma Lee


By providence, a peddler showed up one day with 19th-century beds for sale. The salvaged metal frames became the material for an ongoing series, %26ldquo;If Beds Could Talk, the Stories They Would Tell,%26rdquo; which now boasts more than 35 wall sculptures with droll titles often bearing religious references, such as "Cart Wheels for Jesus, Peace, Joy and Harmony."

Favorite flower for the garden that%26rsquo;s not glass or metal?
Angel bells or angel trumpets.


Other bed-frame creations %26mdash; "Couture," "Miss LaTeDa," "Michelle O" (named for the First Lady), "Sassy" and "Miss America" %26mdash; offer homage to %26ldquo;a few beautifully statuesque divas with their own story to tell,%26rdquo; Erma Lee explains.

Favorite design book?
Vogue and Essence magazines.


The interior of the house is home to a curated curio shop brimming with Victoriana, gazing balls, glass globes, costume jewelry, lamps, dollar-store finds and other intriguing tchotchkes, all for sale.

Houston shop you love?
Houston Area Women%26rsquo;s Center.


Lee relays she was tapped by the Holy Spirit to begin her wondrous installation in the spring of 2005. On a subsequent Mother%26rsquo;s Day, during worship at Lakewood Church, she was inspired to add text fragments to the art garden. She hopes these %26ldquo;many words of encouragement and enlightenment give you a feeling of serenity ... [and that] after touring the garden, you will leave with a fresh zeal and be inspired to look at life in a new creative light.%26rdquo;

Restaurants you love?
McCormick %26amp; Schmick%26rsquo;s Seafood Uptown, Brennan%26rsquo;s of Houston and Kim Son, downtown.


Bottle trees galore festoon the Inspirational Art Garden, making a veritable forest.

Two Houston art spaces you love?
MOCAH [Museum of Cultural Arts, Houston] and Black Heritage Gallery.


God (and Home Depot) are in the details. Salved metal, a wood fence and house paint are Lee%26rsquo;s materials of choice.

Favorite artist, living or historic?
John Biggers, Edwin Lester, Pablo Picasso and Van Gogh.


The artist%26rsquo;s wall sculptures flourish inside, too, also emitting messages for the onlooker.

Favorite museum in the world?
Mus%26eacute;e du Louvre in Paris.


Wall art incorporates a salvaged thrift-store clock. A tribute to royalty lines the perimeter of the yard.

Unlimited funds. Devise your perfect outfit, naming designers.
Dress by Ralph Lauren, Herm%26egrave;s Himalayan crocodile handbag, shoes by Christian Louboutin or Manolo Blahnik.


If it%26rsquo;s a bottle or decanter, Lee collects it.

Junking in Houston: where to find treasures?
Garage sales, charity resale shops and estate sales.


Guard dog Kaylo sits still as a statue between a bead curtain and a bed-frame sculpture. An antique Bell telephone is part of the shop%26rsquo;s inventory.

Favorite treasure you have ever unearthed?
My artworks.


An alfresco sculpture conjoins a doll head with a green glass cruet.

Erma Lee's Garden

%26ldquo;This garden is for all. We are all here to create and inspire.%26rdquo; Inspirational Art Garden and Gallery, 3802 Yale St., 713.869.1993; Tuesday through Saturday, 10 am to 7 pm; inspirationalartgarden@gmail.com; inspirationalartgarden.com.

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