Carter Ernst and Paul Kittelson

Carter Ernst earned her B.F.A. and M.F.A. degrees from the University of Houston. Ernst is known for paintings, ceramics and mosaics, as well as for sculpture. She frequently incorporates faux fabrics into creations such as a giant fiberglass dog covered in a patchwork of fabric-like fur. Ernst teaches sculpture at the Houston Community College and works with the nonprofit Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts organization (MECA) to expose under-privileged families to the arts. She has exhibited with the Lawndale Art Center, the Art Car Museum in Houston, the Art Museum of Southeast Texas in Beaumont, and the Texas Sculpture Group in Splendora, and her art may be found in the Public Art Collection of the Houston Airport System.

Paul Kittelson is a Houston artist who earned his B.F.A. in 1982 from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his M.F.A. from the University of Houston in 1985. He has taught at UH since 1992. Kittelson is known for large-scale public works and studio works in a variety of media. Though his artistic style isn’t as readily identifiable as it is for many artists, Kittelson’s offbeat sense of humor is typically evident in much of his work; for example, a giant slice of bread or an oversized aluminum lawn chair. Though he works in the more traditional media of bronze, wood, steel, and resin, he also experiments with cement, Styrofoam and even vinyl. He is an excellent draftsman as well as a sculptor.

Kittelson was A.I.A. Houston Artist of the Year in 2003. He is represented by Devin Borden Gallery in Houston, and has exhibited with the Lawndale Art Center, Houston; Tophane-I Amir Culture & Art Center, Istanbul, Turkey; The Art Museum of Southeast Texas, and in numerous other venues throughout Texas. His work is in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The Menil Collection, the New Museum, New York, and the Art Museum of Southeast Texas in Beaumont.

Ernst and Kittelson have collaborated on several Houston public art projects which can be seen at Hobby Airport, the University of Houston, Spark Parks, and Root Memorial Square Park in downtown Houston. Kittelson and Ernst reside in an area of Houston fondly referred to as Itchy Acres, a five-acre tract of art-filled gardens that is also home to four other artist couples.


Welcome Center Structure

Cardinal Column

Year: 2021
Medium: Stainless steel with hand-glazed ceramic tiles covering concrete base
Location: Welcome Center

Carter Ernst and Paul Kittelson designed and created Cardinal Column specifically for Lamar University. The artists toured campus in May 2019 to get a feel for the campus and the site for the sculpture. They wanted to create a work of art that would be interactive and recognizable as visitors approach campus from Rolfe Christopher. The bird nest concept was an ideal choice with its reference to Lamar’s cardinal mascot. The artists created a similar bird nest sculpture for Hobby Airport in Houston. 

Cardinal Column is comprised of numerous stainless steel pipes that rise from the base upward to a height of 12 feet where they then spread, twist and bend into a tree formation that extends an additional five feet into the air. Nestled within the center of the outer bands are smaller stainless steel rods molded into the shape of a bird nest. Kittelson has created an uncanny illusion as rigid stainless steel appears to have become a naturally growing organic structure in the form of a tree and nest. The bench wrapping around the tree is comprised of hundreds of hand-glazed tiles individually created by Ernst. The tiles range in color from various shades of green to fall colors of yellow, orange, red and brown. Each tile was carefully grouted into place so that the leaves appear to have fallen down into a circular pattern at the foot of the tree. The artists intentionally created a contrast between the hard, shiny surface of the column and the softer more natural looking bench. The craftsmanship of both sections of the sculpture are exceptional and took the artists almost a year to finalize. The artists hope that students and visitors will take time to interact with the work sitting on the bench and taking photos with the sculpture.