From the Editor

by Claire Ruud

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      Barry Stone
      Ann and Mae Under Highway 71, Austin, TX, 9.29.2007, 2007
      Digital photograph
      Courtesy the artist

      While you recover from yesterday’s festivities, enjoy an abbreviated issue of …might be good from our editors.

      Last weekend, the East Austin Studio Tour (E.A.S.T.) took over 78702 and beyond, with a whopping 151 studios and galleries participating. E.A.S.T. brings out all my insecurities as an Austin arts writer. The pressure is on to “discover” hot artists, to be perfectly up-to-date and to assess the cultural moment with perspicacity and intuition. But, as it turns out, my first big “discovery”—the photographer Barry Stone—is decidedly behind the curve. You might remember Stone from The Fifth of July, his two person show with Anna Krachey at Okay Mountain last summer. There, the installation did a disservice to both artists, whose unique and compelling voices got somewhat muddled in the pairing. This time around in Stone’s studio, the work cohered into an evocative monologue.

      Stone had a wide variety of work—mostly photography—up in his space at Okay Mountain Studios. One that particularly caught my attention was Ann and Mae Under Highway 71, Austin, TX 9.29.2007 (2007), a color photograph of his wife and daughter standing alone under Highway 71. Part of series of photographs about Highway 71, this work reveals the sense of isolation the Stone family experienced moving back to Austin, a city known for its car culture, after six years in pedestrian-friendly Brooklyn. For me, the piece conjured up Dorothea Lange’s iconic Migrant Mother (1936), because in both images the children lean into their mother and turn their faces away from the camera.

      An elusive sense of place and narrative characterizes the landscape Ann and Mae inhabit, as it does in most of Stone’s images. Each one has a quiet specificity—the side of an old building, a deserted traveling carnival, a hand reaching up to pull on the dead branch of a tree—that intimates private meaning and invites personal interpretation. Describing his work, Stone highlights this interplay of meaning. He notes, “I assemble groups of images which create different associations. These associations function like language for me… More prosaically, I use pictures to ward off alienation and to create a personal sense of place.”

      Later on the tour, at the Pump Project, I particularly enjoyed a set of delicate watercolors by Erika Jaeggli, another artist who relocated to Austin in 2007. Each image in the series depicts a child wearing a different mask. While Jaeggli considers herself primarily an oil painter—a medium she fell in love with working with John Currin at Columbia University—she turned to watercolor for this series because of its frequent use to depict children. The watercolors are soft and sweetly toned, but the masked children are somewhat eerie. In one, a chubby Mickey Mouse-like mask and a frilly dress appear to swallow a little girl; in another, a mask with a somewhat sadistic grin eclipses the face of a little boy wearing a jacket emblazoned with the phrase “U.S. Army.” In a few of the works, the children’s hands are mere stumps, as if they’ve been stripped of agency or somehow stunted. In short, the works are a beautiful yet disturbing reflection on a familiar theme: the masks we wear and the roles we teach our children to play.

      Of course, my explorations of E.A.S.T. last weekend were nowhere near comprehensive. In fact, asking around after the fact, I began to wonder how many of Austin’s curators, critics and serious collectors explored beyond their usual haunts. Fortunately, Andrea Mellard, a curatorial associate at the Austin Museum of Art, made it a priority to see a lot, and in the next issue of …might be good, she’ll reflect on what she saw. In addition, you’ll find coverage of Sasha Dela at Women and Their Work, Austin, Justin Boyd at Art Palace, Austin, Adi Ness at Light & Sie, Dallas, Cinema Remixed & Reloaded at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, and Mark Flood at Peres Projects, Los Angeles… and much, much more.

      Until then, enjoy the rest of your long weekend and the plethora of holiday parties to come.

      Claire Ruud is Editor of ...might be good.


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