Take the crazy train through this cartoon rabbit hole.
The train ride in Hermann Park begins as ordinary as would be expected in any urban park. Fair, pleasant, mild. The miniature Dr. Jack Express train picks you up from Kinder Station and takes you on an 18-minute trip around the park. It engines along, giving you pleasing views of the Miller Outdoor Theatre, Japanese Garden, and the Jones Reflection Pond. When suddenly, you are plunged into Destination Mound Town: a tunnel of mind-altering artwork from another universe. [Featured image courtesy of Hermann Park’s website]
Destination Mound Town is an immersive experience from the mind of world-renowned artist, Trenton Doyle Hancock. Inside the tunnel lies a Dr. Seuss-like world of fantastic figures, whimsical creatures, strange plants, real and imagined animals, and a kaleidoscopic whirl of vibrant colors.
On this ride, however, there is more to the narrative than what meets the eye.
The mural tells the story of a day in the life of a “Mound”. Mounds are round, fuzzy creatures with only heads and torsos. In this exhibit you see their day begin in sunrise and end in black-and-blue nightfall.
The first character you’ll notice is the spectacled conductor; this character is in fact the alter ego of Hancock, whom he calls “Torpedo Boy”. Handcock first sketched this caricature of himself when he was a boy. Over time, the image has reoccurred in his work as a means of speaking to the artists’ “obligation to point out certain things about nature and culture that may have otherwise gone overlooked” — much like a superhero.
The previously-mentioned Mounds are an imagined species that he’s also incorporated into his artwork for years. According to his mythology, these plant-human hybrids are the offspring of cavemen and wildflowers. The Mounds absorb the anguish of the world in the same way that plants absorb carbon dioxide. Except instead of oxygen, the Mounds transform the pain into happiness. Hancock states that the Mounds represent the “spirit of the earth” in this way. As such, Destination Mound Town in fact tells the story of our relationship with Earth
This narrative plays over the backdrop of Houston, with homages to Houston’s life and culture in the form of Rice’s mascot and animals from the nearby zoo.
Destination: Mound Town is a whimsical, magical journey that tells a profound story through captivating imagery. All’s told, it’s worth the trip.
Destination: Mound Town is only accessible by train. Tickets cost $3.50 per person, or $7 for an all-day pass. The express runs from Monday – Sunday from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.