Ian Dawson
Henri and Henrietta, 2004


“There is something very physical about putting fire to a petrochemical substance and then seeing the chemical reaction. It was the weird science of seeing a molecular structure being altered before your eyes that really got me into melting.” – Ian Dawson

London-based contemporary artist Ian Dawson works with and transforms mass-produced objects. Dawson is a lecturer in sculpture at the University of Southampton in England. In addition to having shown his work worldwide, Dawson is also a published writer. He authored the book Making Contemporary Sculpture, which includes interviews with contemporary artists who discuss how their art gets made.

Henri and Henrietta are large pink and blue hippos made from repurposed plastic trash bins. Dawson is interested in transforming plastic objects because they are found everywhere. To transform these bins, the artist used a blow torch like a paint brush.

Henri and Henrietta joined the McNay collection in late 2019 as a gift from Jereann and Holland Chaney.

Ian Dawson, Henri and Henrietta, 2004. Polyethylene. Collection of the McNay Art Museum, Gift of Jereann and Holland Chaney, 2019.61. © Ian Dawson

Important Spotlight Dates

Submission Deadline

Friday, March 8, 2024

Artwork Delivery

By Monday, April 22, 2024 by appointment (Participants will be sent a list of drop-off windows)

Spotlight Exhibition Opens

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Spotlight Celebration

Middle and High School Recognition
Sunday, May 19, 2024
12 – 5 PM
View exact school presentation times here

Elementary School Recognition
Sunday, May 26, 2024
12 – 5 PM
View exact school presentation times here

Teacher Resources

Dos and Don’ts

This year, we ask that projects submitted are no larger than 4’x4’×4’. The gallery space is shared, and we hope to show as many student projects as possible. Small, individual, or collaborative projects are preferred. If you submit a large body of artworks then a select portion of the objects will be chosen to represent the whole. We cannot accept any artworks with organic materials such as but not limited to dried flowers, sticks, sand, or scented materials. For more information on this program, email

Parent & Guardian Resources

Major support for Spotlight is provided by the Semmes Foundation, Inc. Additional support is provided by Texas Commission on the Arts.