MBG Issue #128: Sycophantic Social Circles

Issue # 128

Sycophantic Social Circles

August 28, 2009

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Logan Grider, Double-Dealing, 2009, Oil on canvas on panel, 20.5 x 25.5 inches. Courtesy the artist and Okay Mountain.

from the editor

Lori Waxman, the 60 WRD/MIN Art Critic, spent three days in Austin at the beginning of the summer, and her performance at Arthouse sparked a series of conversations about art criticism among …might be good’s writers. Waxman spent three days sitting at a desk in the window of Arthouse writing 200 word reviews. She reviewed the work of any artist lucky enough to get an appointment with her, and she wrote each review in 20 minutes flat.

One premise of the 60 WRD/MIN Art Critic project is that it puts “the review” up for review. So it seems fitting that artists should review Waxman’s work. Back in July, artist Eric Zimmerman offered a mixed review of the performance on Cablegram. In this issue of …might be good, a few more artists—artists whose work Waxman reviewed at Arthouse—weigh in on the project. In keeping with the spirit of Waxman’s attempt to shake up the relationship between critic and artist, I am going to abstain from comment and let the artists speak for themselves here.

This issue also features two interviews. First, Terry Galloway addresses failure, performance and the queer beginnings of the legendary Esther’s Follies. Then, Eduardo Xavier García talks about curating the work of young Latino artists in what Garcia sees as a post-identity era. Also, check out …might be good recommends to find out what’s required viewing at the opening of Austin's fall season.

Stay tuned for our first official issue of Fall 2009, in which Dan Boehl will reflect on Chuck Close: A Couple Ways of Doing Something at AMOA and I'll give you the scoop about the latest round of Artpace residencies and introduce you to Subtext Projects, an experimental collaborative of curators based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

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


Terry Galloway

By Claire Ruud

Terry Galloway as Jake Ratchett, Short Detective.

Terry Galloway recently published Mean Little deaf Queer, a memoir of her life as, well, a mean little deaf queer. Galloway, the sometime Austin-based performance artist, is the founder of the Actual Lives Writing and Performance Workshop in Austin as well as The Mickee Faust Academy for the REALLY Dramatic Arts in Tallahassee. She is also a founding member of Esther’s Follies in Austin. Her solo performance Out All Night and Lost My Shoes is considered a foundational work in the history of disability performance. She now lives in Tallahassee with her partner Donna Marie Nudd and her cat Tweety, who was recently chased down by a rabid fox, but is now safe thanks to Galloway’s bravery and ingenuity. The morning after Merce Cunningham died, I had a chance to sit down and talk to Galloway over two cups of coffee and a distance of 1,000 miles (she was in Tallahassee, I in Austin).

…might be good: So I'm thinking about Merce Cunningham. It's weird to think of him gone. Pina Bausch, Michael Jackson—I think this is the first set of icons whom I’ve really looked up to who’ve died in my lifetime.

Terry Galloway: Well, I've had a couple. The first I remember were the usual ones—the Kennedys, Martin Luther King. But the one that struck me the most was Malcolm X.

…mbg: You must have been about 15.

TG: Yes, I read him when I was in a freshman in high school, and I thought he was like the Greek philosophers of old. I saw him change.

…mbg: You read him in High School in Killeen?!

TG: In Austin. My sister went to High School in Killeen. The family ranchetta is about 28 miles to the North East of Austin.

…mbg: I wanted to ask you about Austin in the 70s, in particular the arts scene in those days.

TG: Well, I don't think there was much original theater. I don’t remember seeing anything but UT productions and Zach Scott. But in some ways I was too self involved and wasn't paying attention.

…mbg: So then what was the impetus behind founding Esther's Follies?

TG: Boredom. We were all bored out of our skulls. Everyone was packing to leave, to go to where you go—New York, Los Angeles, Chicago too.

…mbg: It often feels like that’s still how Austin is. People are here for two to four years and then they're out.

TG: Exactly. The fiction of Austin still hasn’t quite settled.

…mbg: What do you mean?

TG: I think cities create a fiction about themselves, the romance or non-romance of the place. If you live in New York, London, or LA, you can say you’re an artist and everyone will take you at your word. That’s part of the fiction of those cities—and part of the reality of those cities as well. Just being in one of those cities gives you an instant kind of credibility, so you can be an artist for a long time and not have to create art. The credibility, of course, erodes over time, but the fiction gives you something to plug into, and it can buoy you, lifting you over the rough spots of trying to become an artist. You don’t have that cushion in cities that don’t have that fiction.

...mbg: That's a really powerful way to look at it—the idea that there's a "fiction" about every city, and that "being an artist" can "fit" or "not fit" into that fiction.

TG: I was afraid it simply sounded a bit nuts.

…mbg: But you stayed. Why?

TG: Well, I’m deaf. And that made me more cautious. What about you? You’re staying, too.

…mbg: Living and working in a city like Austin feels important to me. There are plenty of artists and writers in New York or L.A. But here in Austin, there is so little coverage of the arts. I think of …might be good as a place that can capture the conversations that go down over beers at the Longbranch. In public. For posterity.

TG: I like that, because that is what helps create the fiction of the city—those conversations, captured and kept.

…mbg: I am sometimes frustrated by how little record we have about what happened in Austin in the art scene even ten years ago. That’s why I want to know more about the early days of Esther’s Follies.

TG: Esther’s blew my top off. At that time, it was so in your face, so queer, so political, so social, so crude and sexual. A lot of people dismissed it: how could any of that really be art?

I remember that the East German Playwright Heiner Müller came to Austin, and he came to Esther’s, and he loved it! He gave it his stamp of approval. I loved him because he was a link to my life in Berlin and we just got each other. And for me, his approval reinforced my belief that what was happening at Esther’s was something more than just theater.

…mbg: More than just theater because it was queer and political?

TG: Yes, and because it pulled all these diverse people together downtown at midnight, and it was like this raucous mini-revolt going on, a revolt against the prevailing idea of Austin as an in-between city, the city you traveled through to get from Dallas to Houston.

…mbg: Who was coming? Who was in your audiences?

TG: Oh god, just about everyone. A lot of poets. A lot of pool players. Some politicos. (Ann Richards once auctioned off a date with me to benefit the Follies.) The whores next door at the massage parlor. The junkies. The drunks. The hippies.

…mbg: Wow, Ann Richards? So who was the highest bidder?

TG: I don't even remember who the highest bidder was. I do know that it was a she and that I was auctioned off in my Jake Ratchett, Short Detective persona. But the date never happened. Cold feet on her part I guess!

But it was wild. It was one long intellectual party. We used to stay up night after night talking about everything under the sun and trying to figure out how to translate it all for the stage.

…mbg: But eventually, you left Esther’s.

TG: Yep. And that was because—well, not to rehash all that passion, because it was a passionate and terrible break up. It started after we’d done an adaptation of a Bukowski short, and it was full of “fucks” of course. (At the time, fuck wasn’t used as cavalierly as it is now.) But a group of us loved the word, and loved how it was used.

We’d been asked to do a show out at Zilker and there was a huge debate about doing that Bukowski adaptation out there for the show, about censorship and so on and so on—you can imagine. A bunch of us, me included, simply didn’t want to be censored. Eventually, we agreed to put up disclaimers saying, “there is strong language, et cetera, in this production.”

The underlying debate was: do you stop? Or do you continue? Do you stop talking in a rush? Do you start being considered? Do you tailor your speech for your audience or do you take the risk of losing some of them because of the language you choose to use?

…mbg: Was it sustainable?

TG: Right. What was sustainable, and what was selling out. Do you know, we had turned down the possibility of an off Broadway production of the Follies?

…mbg: Really?

TG: A young producer at Saturday Night Live flew down to Austin, saw one of our shows, and wanted to produce a show in New York, off Broadway. And we said no! And do you know why?

…mbg: Why?

TG: Because she would only take some of us, not all of us. She would only take a handful of us, and we had maybe 25 people in the company at the time.

…mbg: Okay, so this story is making me think about failure. I have been talking to quite a few people about “choosing failure” lately. The artist Sheila Pepe was recently here in Austin doing a project at Fluent~Collaborative, and we had a long discussion about fully embracing failure versus just flirting with failure.

TG: I love this. I want examples.

…mbg: Sheila told a story about a [Lesbian] Separatist restaurant she worked in years ago. When a reporter called wanting to write a story on the restaurant, they hung up on him. That’s choosing failure wholeheartedly. Running a “separatist” restaurant and then welcoming the press, that would have been flirting with failure, according to this rubric. To me, it sounds like you guys chose failure with the off Broadway opportunity.

TG: Oh yes, and that's kind of a theme, I would say, in my own life. I just really love this concept. I would say in my case, I was successful for a little while, but now I could be regarded as a spectacular failure. I have no money and live in a very small southern town where I am unemployed and not really on the national radar.

I was a deaf kid who found theater through Winedale, then Winedale because amazingly popular. I hung on for years, until I did Mauser and then Esther's. Esther's . . . well, I got to be a little star of the city, and I made money (an actual, if skint living) at it. I went from that to busing tables, cleaning out toilets. I went to New York and did a solo show called Heart of a Dog. And it got filmed and won a Villager Award (an early, early off off Broadway award), and I got a great review in the Voice.

But I was looking for people, other people to be in it with me. I was lonely. I loved the communities of Esther's and Winedale. But no one but no one seemed to be making collective politically charged theater, at least no group that I knew of. Admittedly my resources were small, but the landscape felt empty, and I kept looking, maybe, for people who were not there.

Claire, this conversation is doing something to me that I can't quite describe. I am so taken by the notion of deliberately choosing failure. We’re talking about what I secretly believe to be the intention of my own art, such as it is. Thematically, it is almost all about choosing failure: both those solo pieces, Out All Night and Lost My Shoes and Lardo Weeping (or Why Five Bucks is Paradise) and also In the House of the Moles, which I've written and rewritten and written yet again.

…mbg: So why do you choose failure?

TG: Because there is dignity there. My favorite creation is Dinah LaFarge of Lardo Weeping. She is everything the world is supposed to despise—fat, intellectual, funny, crazed, a scold. I do it in a body suit that comes apart for a literal strip tease. She rips herself apart, and then puts the pieces back together again. She fails spectacularly and publically, and the humiliation is unbearable.

…mbg: For you?

TG: For her. And yeah, for me too. And for the audience, as well, or so I'm told. In that moment, failure becomes something else—a failure of recognition, a failure of the world to recognize values… ugh, I hate that word, can you give me a better?

…mbg: Maybe failure becomes self-possession.

TG: Oh yes, I love that: failure as a means of self-possession.

…mbg: She picks up the pieces, now they’re hers. No one else has any claim over or stake in her anymore.

TG: But she would still offer it, and that transforms her failure into something oddly celebratory.

…mbg: Terry, I've been wondering why you put the word "mean" in the title of your memoir. Does it have something to do with failure?

TG: Yes, happiness makes you sweet. Failure initially makes you mean.

…mbg: And then?

TG: Meanness can suggest a way out of itself; meanness can be a kind of action that can jolt you—if you are so primed—into self-awareness. You ever see that film Queen Margot?

…mbg: no, I haven't.

TG: In the film, the French Protestants and the Catholics hate each other, and in one scene the Protestants, or the Catholics, I can never remember which, go on a frenzy of killing, just going nuts with it. One of killers is covered in the blood of Catholics and screaming with the joy of letting go of it all. He and the guy he is out to kill are strangling each other, banging heads against the wall, biting, kicking; they want to kill. Then, I think, they are both knocked silly and something happens and the Catholic guy gets taken to safety.

Months pass, and then by some grace of something, they meet. The Protestant sees the Catholic he was so hell bent to kill and breaks down and weeps and weeps and weeps. Because it was this terrible thing in him, this savage terrible thing that he wanted beyond all reason, and then suddenly it was gone. He was left, and he wasn't that thing. To see that the object of his terror had lived, it was redemption, and what was left was sweet.

It sounds too simple when I tell it, but there was something in him that I recognized: the seething, furious other. So yeah, mean.

…mbg: I think I understand, but there's also some deep mutual forgiveness there. Otherwise, how can you get past the meanness?

TG: Yes, a kind of uneasy understanding, fear and forgiveness.

…mbg: Maybe it’s something about really knowing what’s inside you, knowing your whole self, and despite that, coping.

TG: Yes, and failure is part of that knowing—that is, if you can figure out what that word, failure, actually means.

Galloway will hold book reading and signings in Austin at BookPeople on Thursday, September 3 at 7pm and at BookWoman on Sunday, September 13 at 5pm.

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

Eduardo Xavier García

By Claire Ruud

Young Latino Artists 14: TARP ≠ lona, Installation view. Courtesy Mexic-Arte Museum.

This year, Mexic-Arte Museum invited artist and curator Eduardo Xavier García to put together their annual exhibition of young Latino artists. Before the exhibition opened, García and I had a chance to talk about curating Young Latino Artists 14.

…might be good: You were trained as an artist. How did you end up curating Young Latino Artists 14 (YLA 14)?

Eduardo Xavier García: I have always been interested in the curating/production side of art. While I was an undergraduate here at UT Austin, I began organizing exhibitions. Then, in 2005 I founded the Sound Alternative Space for Contemporary Art in Laredo, Texas. For three years I directed, curated and maintained the artistic direction of the space. I had the opportunity to work with many different artists from around the country and from abroad who worked in a wide variety of styles and mediums. Along the way I developed a curatorial portfolio, which includes all forms of art ranging from installation, painting, performance, to an annual experimental film festival.

In early 2008 I decided to move back to Austin, and Sylvia Orozco [Director of Mexic-Arte Museum] invited me to curate YLA 14.

…mbg: How did you develop the concept behind the show?

EXG: When I set out to curate YLA 14 about a year ago, I had no concept. I simply set out to find artwork that spoke to me in some way. When artists asked me what the concept or theme for the exhibition was, I told them not to worry about that, to work and produce art that they normally do. My idea was simply to collect art and artists; once I felt I had what I needed, I would then step back and reflect on what I had collected. That would be my concept for YLA 14.

After I’d chosen the artists, I realized that one thing I liked about all their work was the absence of references to the recent financial meltdown. In other words, I liked the fact that they were working purely out of their hearts. (Not to say that if you work on the current financial situation, you are not working from the heart.) I simply found these artists’ work to be so detached and far away from the situation that the rest of the world was in—to offer a kind of lona, cover or shield, from the financial crisis through their creative processes. This transported me and helped me do the same thing.

…mbg: Can you give me some specific examples of what drew you to these artists’ work?

EXG: Some of Jorge Javier Lopez’s work is about personal guilt. It allows the viewer into the world of one man and his internal struggle. Another artist, Julia Barbosa Landois, simply works from within and explores personal themes that have to do with one’s self-perception, shaping or upbringing.

Overall, each one of these artists approach to their work is very introversive and personal.

…mbg: The two central parameters of YLA are that artists be under 35 years old and Latino/a. What do you think the implications are of curating an exhibition of Latino artists today?

EXG: It depends I guess on what a curator sets out to present or speak about. Myself, I am very interested in contemporary art and the progressive mindset of the artist today (this can be found in all ethnicities). In YLA 14, I set out to look for Latino artists that are producing work that speaks of them being here in the present yet looking ahead; making the statement that they seek solutions. So in a way through them I am voicing out this very perspective of mine; our collective perspective.

A lot of times people expect for Latino art to stay within the traditional boundaries or realm of the legacy of the Chicano Movement. The Latino, as well as any artist today, is aware of our surroundings and the world we live in and no longer falls under “expected” implications.

…mbg: It sounds like you’re saying we’ve moved past the moment of identity politics. Each artist is an individual first; of course cultural and ethnic backgrounds affect an artist’s work, but they don’t define it. Am I getting this right?

EXG: Correct.

…mbg: So given this situation, what’s the significance of limiting the artists chosen for an exhibition to Latinos/as?

EXG: The idea of “Latino art” has played a major role in the development and documentation of history. This history is part of the mission and context of Mexic-Arte Museum, and I was offered the opportunity to work within these guidelines. It is a great opportunity to get a good perspective or sense of what young Latinos are doing in Texas. But truthfully, I believe that the “key” factor for me in the YLA shows is that they give young artists the opportunity to exhibit in a major cultural institution. I know from personal experience that this type of show gives a young artist a sense of an open door to the rest of the art world. Through YLA and other programs, Mexic-Arte Museum has and will always help to encourage young Latinos to have a say so in the ever-changing art world.

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


Artists Respond to the 60 WRD/MIN Art Critic
Arthouse, Austin
Performance July 10-12, 2009

By Dan Boehl

Lori Waxman, 60 WRD/MIN Art Critic, Performance at Arthouse, July 2009. Courtesy Arthouse.

Lori Waxman, the 60 WRD/MIN Art Critic, had a desk, a computer and an assistant situated in Arthouse’s storefront. Artists dropped off their work beforehand. Waxman assessed the work in 20-minutes, her reviews appearing on a TV screen as she composed. (The reviews were later reprinted in the Austin American Statesman online.) While I watched her through the Arthouse window that Saturday, July 11th, an artist passed by carrying some paintings. I asked if he had been reviewed. He said, no, all the slots were filled, but there were a few walkup slots on Sunday. Those were going to be hard to get, he said. It got me thinking about why an artist would want participate in marathon art criticism and if they would get anything out of the experience. Mostly, I wanted to know if Waxman delivered on the service she offered: brief, serious reviews to all artists regardless of location, training, or reputation. So I asked seven participants some questions about Waxman’s performance. I wanted to get a wide sampling of artists practicing in Austin. To this end, I questioned participants in various career stages.

…might be good: Please tell me about your career as an artist: How long you have been practicing, do you have formal training, how would you describe your exhibition record?

Laura Caffrey: While I can't cite specific formal training, claiming I am self-taught seems a bit untrue. I was always encouraged as a kid to make things, took art class throughout school, one studio art class toward my bachelor's degree, a handful of community college adult education classes (blacksmithing, metalsmithing, upholstery), then a masters program in architecture. I started making the assemblages in the midst of all that, so I am not sure how much of the teaching influences/influenced what I do. I have had several solo exhibits and participated in a handful of group shows, but I haven't ever shown in a traditional gallery space.

Jory Drew: If you consider middle school and high school art classes formal training, then yes. I, myself, personally do not and I feel it’s the same for rest of the kids in the leadership group in the Young Artist @ Arthouse program. We are all pretty much self taught and create art because we can and want to. From what I know about my teammates and myself we are all on the same level; when it comes to having our work in an exhibition it’s zero, zilch, nada …um haven’t done it. Except for the few that might have been in Ahead of Their Time (Exhibition for high schoolers, held at Arthouse) this year or in the past.

Michelle Foster: I have been a practicing artist for 5 years, showing in private galleries and independent coffee shops—everything from A Sense of Place, a juried exhibition at the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art in Georgia, to the local gallery Birdhouse here in Austin.

Ashley Love: I'm a self-taught artist, and I've always loved drawing, but I really started getting into it once I was in middle school. I've only had one of my pieces in an actual exhibition, and that was with the Young Artist program at Okay Mountain.

Erick Michaud: I have been an artist since 1991 (the beginning of my school training). I have been educated up to the level of a Masters of Fine Arts, and I have been showing in venues a few times a year since 1996.

Tom Rouse: I have been painting since childhood. I was a painting major at the University of Texas and received my BFA from there in 1971. My exhibition record is sparse at best. I've been in 5 group shows in the last 10 years.

Trick Yang: I grew up on TV and video games and since I was a kid, I would nerdily draw Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle mini comic strips. When we got a computer in the house, I found out about Paint Shop Pro 3.11 and I embraced graphic design. I think the combination of constantly doing both as a hobby has really shaped my work. I've never had any formal training.

...mbg: Do you have a history of being reviewed by local or national critics?

Laura Caffrey: Nope.

Jory Drew: Well in the Young Artist program we are critiqued by Jaime Castillo. He is very insightful and knowledgeable. But well… local and after a while you would, not to be rude, want a second opinion. And if someone like Lori Waxman was to come along, why in the world would you want to pass that up?

Michelle Foster: No.

Ashley Love: I've been reviewed online on Deviantart, but other than that, this is my fist time being reviewed.

Erick Michaud: I have been reviewed from time to time and occasionally I will be mentioned in something.

Tom Rouse: Except for the 60 WPM (which I considered more of a performance piece that a real critique. Although, I felt Ms. Waxman was genuine in her appraisal.) I have never been reviewed.

Trick Yang: Not at all! This was my first critique and I am glad for it.

...mbg: Why did you want to participate?

Laura Caffrey: I like to hear what people have to say about my work, and it seemed like an excellent opportunity. And I like to participate in unusual events. It was really challenging to explain it to people. I had to do more research on Waxman and this project to have a clear understanding myself.

Jory Drew: Well… personally I love hearing how others feel about my work and what it makes them think of. But also it’s great for experience outside the youth group and it also gets me more prepared for college and other professional critiques.

Michelle Foster: I find criticism valuable and necessary to my own art practice.

Ashley Love: Why wouldn't I? To have any form of review, critique, or opinion on my art is definitely something very valuable to me, simply because my art is getting out there, and people are seeing it.

Erick Michaud: I don't know. I thought it would be good for someone outside of Austin to see my work. I thought it was going to be more serious.

Tom Rouse: I wanted professional feedback, good or bad.

Trick Yang: Having received some good feedback about my work throughout the few years, I wanted to see what a professional art reviewer would have to say. Would she completely brutalize my work and reveal that my motives are based upon positive feedback from my sycophantic social circles?

...mbg: How much work did you take to Arthouse? How did you get it there?

Laura Caffrey: I took one framed assemblage, wrapped in plastic in a cardboard box and my handmade portfolio with photographs of my other work. My boyfriend dropped me at the door and went to look for parking.

Jory Drew: We, the leadership group, each brought four pieces, and as a group curated our own “show”, where we each got to have two pieces to present to Lori. I pulled the lucky straw and got to have three because some of my pieces are involved in series. We all pretty much bused own stuff there or had our moms drop us or our stuff off.

Michelle Foster: I took about 10 pieces to Arthouse via car.

Ashley Love: I pretty much took everything I was working on during the week. I've never done anything really bigger than my sketchbook.

Erick Michaud: I took one physical piece and a DVD with images and written information.

Tom Rouse: I took 6 paintings. The largest being 48 by 36 inches. I carried them in my truck.

Trick Yang: I picked three pieces, all were pen drawings. I got it there by zeppelin. Just kidding, I drove there by car.

...mbg: What were your expectations for the performance (what did you think would happen)?

Laura Caffrey: I thought there would be more interaction among the artists being reviewed, the critic and other artists waiting for reviews. I was surprised that the space for the process was so limited and tightly controlled. I had thought it would be more of an interpersonal event, and it seemed a bit mechanical. I have some ideas on what could improve it.

Jory Drew: When we all heard that we were going to be critiqued by Lori our reactions were very mixed. Some were excited. I myself was a little hesitant. But for the most part we were all ready to get started and wanted to see what Lori would think of our work.

Michelle Foster: I did not know what to expect, but I hoped for an honest critique of newer work that I could benefit from.

Ashley Love: I really didn't have any idea of what would happen. I just went with it.

Erick Michaud: I don't know, I guess I was hoping there was going to be some dialogue before she wrote about the work. I had misinterpreted what performance meant in her explanation of what she was going to do.

Tom Rouse: Other than being "discovered" and featured on the cover of ARTnews, I thought it would be fun.

Trick Yang: I didn't actually know that she was doing a performance piece by reviewing my work until after I arrived. Initially after I finally realized that it was a performance, I was afraid that it would affect the quality of her review. Her "receptionist" told me they were running late and could not fulfill the time slot I had chosen, and I had to catch a flight out of town, so I just left my work there.

...mbg: Did the review offer you any insight into your work? If so, what kind of insight did Waxman provide? If not, what do you think Waxman missed?

Laura Caffrey: I can't say Waxman's review hit on anything I hadn't already thought about. Nor do I think she missed anything. Spot-on, really. Which was both good and bad. I got no new insight, but that meant confirmation that I am successful getting my ideas across.

Jory Drew: Lori Waxman looked at my work with a very conceptual eye, where I look at my work mainly visually. She saw things about my work I don’t even think about or pay attention to. She opened up my eyes to something other than visual pleasure and made me think of the directions in which I’m taking my work.

Michelle Foster: Waxman offered the advice to know when to exercise restraint with my mixed media assemblages. I heeded her advice and found it especially helpful. At times I keep adding to a piece until I have ruined it. This advice caused me to take pieces created since at a slower pace, and to stand back from them, and give them time before just slapping something else on top to cope with the feeling of something being missing.

Ashley Love: She definitely let me see how my audience views my work and was very positive in the way that she described it.

Erick Michaud: She got a good handle on some of it, but I couldn't help feel that I was getting the short end of some stick. It was "her" service not the service to a community that mattered.

Tom Rouse: I think Ms. Waxman did a fine job with the time she had.

Trick Yang: She really put to words, especially on my piece, Communication Device I, what I was trying to go for, in such a concise manner that I don't think my mind would have allowed me to. The reference to Dr. Seuss was not purposeful but her acknowledgment of the linkage was flattering, there is a little bit of Dr. S in each one of us anyway. I really don't think she missed anything, she could tell the methodical and purposeful nature of my work despite the fact that they appear to be "doodles." She was readily able to see though those generalizations and formulate my motives into words.

Dan Boehl is a poet. His chapbook Les MISERES ET LES MAL-HEURS DE LA GUERRE will be available from Greying Ghost this fall.

Okay Mountain, Austin
Through September 19

By Claire Ruud

Polymict at Okay Mountain, 2009, Installation view. Courtesy Okay Mountain.

With Polymict, curator Nathan Green offers an innovative curatorial approach to a beautiful, if somewhat conservative, theme: an homage to form and color. Green, a painter himself, selected five paintings apiece by Logan Grider and Ludwig Schwarz to hang on the gallery’s walls. Then, he asked two younger artists, Warren Aldrich and Lillian Gerson, to spend a week in the space creating an installation in relationship to the paintings. The project channeled the youthful exuberance of Aldrich and Gerson into a clearly defined framework. They created three playful assemblages of furniture, scrap wood, mirrors and other found objects. The well-edited installations never overwhelm the paintings (which can easily hold their own). Rather, the relationships between the two- and three-dimensional works sensitize the eye to form. The symbiotic relationship here reinvigorates the visual pleasure of abstract form.

Ludwig Schwarz, Untitled, 2007.

Surface reigns supreme throughout the exhibition. Grider’s paintings, all less than two feet square, are the smallest and most seductive. In Double Dealing (2009) for example, unusually shaped blocks of solid color—browns, reds, blues and black—suggest depth at one moment and flatness the next. Schwarz’s paintings also embrace their flatness, but repeated patterns often create the effect of layered cutouts or puzzle pieces, as in Untitled (2007). But in each instance, the illusion ultimately flaunts itself as such, and flatness prevails. Aldrich and Gerson’s installations successfully play on the flatness of the paintings surrounding them, extending the investigation of the painted surface to three-dimensional mixed media.

The exhibition’s biggest triumph, however, goes to the curator. In a recent solo show, Green, primarily known as a painter, began exploring the possibility of incorporating installation into his own work. The results were mixed. Presently, the artist’s curatorial endeavor suggests a way forward. In Polymict, the paintings by Grider and Schwarz act as a set of parameters. Experiments in three dimensions occur strictly within those parameters. The paintings propose the questions to be asked and the ideas to be investigated, and the installations respond in kind. Eureka!

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

Jana Swec & Jared Theis
D Berman Gallery, Austin
Through September 5

By Lauren Adams

Jana Swec, Red, 2008, Ink and colored pencil on paper, 24 x 34 1/2 inches. Courtesy D Berman Gallery.

There has never been a time, during my life at least, in which the debate over humanity’s impact on nature has not been at the forefront of public concern. We are inundated with news of shrinking ozone, deforestation and global warming. Many, including myself, sometimes wonder whether nature is losing the battle. That’s why I found the work of Jana Swec and Jared Theis, now on view D Berman gallery, so refreshing. Both artists revel in nature—its surprising strength and inspiring perseverance.

Jana Swec magnifies nature’s resilience through her delicate ink and pencil drawings of trees. The artist's leafless, knobby renditions twist and move in unnatural ways, taking on life straight out of a storybook. These creations, though barren and daunting, seem familiar and accessible, echoing popular characters such as Harry Potter’s Whomping Willow or the trees in the forests of Sleepy Hollow. The movements of these creations seem so fast and urgent that they evoke human emotions; Knuckles (2008), whose twisting knots are teeming with nervous energy, recall such mental images as wringing hands and knotted stomachs.

Perhaps the strongest image in Swec’s collection is Red (2008). In this piece, the twisted branches evolve into a group of elephants. At the same time as these creatures stomp playfully through the water below them, their raised trunks and limbs morph seamlessly into twisting branches. As Swec points out, the elephant shares many characteristics with her own forceful, tree-like creations. The animal’s wrinkled skin is easily likened to tree bark, and both the elephant and the tree share the reputation as bearers of ancient wisdom. Swec’s elephant-trees embody a double nature; gentle giants who are capable of leveling villages with their stampede.

Jared Theis has likewise created pieces that express his concern with the “clash between human civilization and the natural world.” His small ceramic pieces, the highlight of this body of work, suggest, in the same instant, both a macro and a micro view point. Inspired by coral reefs, wasps’ nests, termite mounds, and birds’ nests, these pieces, viewed up close, take on the texture and composition of natural formations. However, take a step back and the perspective changes completely. Where there was once a ribbed coral formation there is now a paved road way that winds lazily through plots of farmland and riverbeds. The doubling of the small ecosystems and human made networks suggests that the two can live in harmony, or perhaps that no matter how far human construction progresses, the natural world will find a way to survive, in even the smallest of spaces.

Jared TheisApril's Joke, 2007.

The show at the D Berman is well worth visiting, even for those who are exhausted by the environmental debate that seems to have no end in sight. The delicate and intricate construction of the pieces in this exhibition echos the subtle beauty found, but often over-looked, in nature. The atmosphere is quite inviting and I, for one, couldn’t appreciate this more. Many things concerning the environment these days, be they documentary, art, or organizations, leave me riddled with guilt; feeling as though I had personally set fire to thousands of acres of rainforest. I find it refreshing to once again take pleasure in the beauty of nature. The work of both Swec and Theis conveys that, although it is made up of fragile components, nature is still a force to be reckoned with.

Lauren Adams is an intern at Fluent~Collaborative.

Lonely are the Brave
Blue Star Contemporary Art Center, San Antonio
Closed August 15

By Wendy Atwell

Justin Boyd, Opening night, performance, Lonely Are the Brave. Photo: Justin Parr.

As a curator and an artist, Hills Snyder plays a shaman-like role, offering awakenings. He fulfills this expectation yet again with Lonely are the Brave, a show he recently curated at Blue Star. The art by Jesse Amado, Justin Boyd, Kelly O’Connor and Chris Sauter is mostly installation-based, theatrical and complex. Snyder writes in the exhibition notes that his own touches are “not artwork as such but tweaks by the curator,” yet this trickster charm is part of Snyder’s careful generosity. He drops clues like breadcrumbs, enticing viewers to explore the art like a forest in a long-ago fairy tale.

One “tweak” is the Sage & Squirrel (2009), a folksy living room where viewers may sit and watch the 1962 movie that inspired the exhibition’s name. Filled with vanitas items (“Death wearin’ rappin’ Hamster cap; Snagglepuss, even”), it is a jumping-off point and a site of enrichment. A bookshelf next to the recliner offers titles that further the dialogue, a physical bibliography of supplemental reading.

In the movie, Kirk Douglas stars as Jack Burns, a displaced cowboy who attempts to brave a frontier that no longer exists. Burns’s relationship with his horse symbolizes the sense of freedom and the unknown lost to the new boundaries of the West.

In the large gallery room just outside Snyder’s viewing nook, Justin Boyd projects a loop of one significant scene from the movie against the wall. It is Burns attempting to escape from the law; to the left, the words “Promised Land” appear in mirror image. This serves as a backdrop to a signpost with broken bailing wire hanging down from it, once connected to the “Promised Land.” Boyd cut the wire, which he had used as a conduit and source of the sound, on opening night at the end of his sound performance. Replayed on a monitor, this eerie, shrill sound taints the area like a wasteland.

A close-up of Douglas’s face captures the actor’s ability to channel bravery against impending defeat. Amado’s swags of multi-colored fringe are perfectly situated to mourn Burns’s loss with all of its allegorical implications. Draped across an 11 by 54 foot wall, the decadent, ceremonial material is held up with map pins and adorned with golden bubbles and silhouettes of gesturing hands.

Sauter cut various-sized holes out of a plywood reproduction of his childhood bedroom. Outside, the blank plywood walls appear riddled with large bullet holes. But inside, the empty holes become simulations of stars in the night sky, transposed against the furnishings, which include books like Mysteries of the Ancient Americas. A telescope, built out of the round pieces cut from the walls, stands in the center of the room, pointed towards the stars. This wondrous, magical space stands as a testament to the expectation, mystery and excitement of discovery, and recalls another frontier: childhood.

In O’Connor’s Mirror Magic (2009), a large, black mural is painted on one wall, and from multiple points in the painting, colored yarn stretched across the room like prisms. The scene sets viewers on the other side of the mirror from childhood’s synthetic fantasies. Disney characters, painted in dripping black, stare dumbly through O’Connor’s painted mirror.

Wendy Atwell received her M.A. in Art History and Criticism from The University of Texas at San Antonio.

...mbg recommends

No te rajes

By Claire Ruud

Levi Dugat, we are taming the lions in our chests, 2009, Graphite on paper. Courtesy the artist and Domy Books.

Senator Ted Kennedy said, um, sung it: ay, Jalisco, no te rajes. And we loved him for it. On that note (excuse the pun), we push forward into the fall after a rocky summer.

Anxiety: Exhibition and Catalog Release
Pump Project Art Complex, 702 Shady Lane
Opening Saturday, August 29, 7-10pm

The theme of Cantanker’s third annual summer catalog is well-timed. After nearly a year spent in a state of anxiety, sometimes I’d frankly prefer to feign a state of complete calm. But as my therapist will tell you, repression merely creates a bigger mess to clean up later. So let it all hang out at Anxiety this Saturday.

Sterling Allen: Use Your Ilusion
Jessical Halonen: Rx Garden

Art Palace Gallery
, 2109 Cesar Chavez
Opening Thursday, September 3, 8-10 pm

If the title of Sterling Allen’s upcoming exhibition at Art Palace leaves you hankerin’ for November Rain, take a second glance. Either Allen can’t spell, or he’s already playing with our minds. Meanwhile, in the gallery’s Project Room, Jessica Halonen sculptures and works on paper draw inspiration from botanical illustration and experiments in genetic modification.

Immesurable Space and Infinite Worlds
AMODA Performance 13
Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 River Street
Performance Saturday, September 5, 8-10 pm

Flash from the past: six of Austin's most accomplished percussionists will perform three crazy cool compositions from the 1960s and 70s: Iannis Xenakis’s electroacoustic Bohor (1962), Luigi Nono’s Con Luigi Dallapiccola (1979), and best of all, Xenakis’s Persephassa (1969), commissioned by the Empress of Iran for performance at the historic site of Perselpolis. Whoa.

Bear Guerra: Postcards from Invisible Cities: Photographs 2005-2009
L. Nowlin Gallery, 1202 A West 6th Street
Opening Saturday, September 5, 6-8 pm

The photographic journalist, Roberto “Bear” Guerra has worked for Amnesty International USA, taught English in South Korea, and holds a degree in Cultural Anthropology. For a great introduction to his work, check out this project he worked on with his wife in 2008 working with his wife, Ruxandra Guidi, Coca Sí, Cocaína No: Evo Morales' Coca Policy in Los Yungas, Bolivia.

Nathan Green & Dave Bryant: Don’t Let Your Time Do You
MASS Gallery, 916 Springdale Road
Opening Saturday, September 5, 7-11 pm

These days, Austin may feel like a desert island, but it’s no paradise. Nathan Green and Dave Bryant promise a desert island, and the paradise part to boot, at MASS next weekend. Well, knowing Green and Bryant, don’t count on it. They also describe the installation as “ramshackle” and “idiosyncratic.” Now that’s more like the guys I know.

Levi Dugat & Leah DeVun: Your Heart Is Not a Museum
Domy Books, 913 E Cesar Chavez
Opening Saturday, September 12, 7-9pm

Leah DeVun, who you know and love for her photos of saucy, young Hannah Montana groupies, teams up with Levi Dugat, who you may not know yet, but you’re gonna love. The two artists will show graphite drawings of family and friends, and a girl’s best friend.

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

announcements: exhibitions

Austin Openings

USE YOUR ILUSION: Sterling Allen
Art Palace
September 3 - October 10, 2009

Art Palace gallery is pleased to present Use Your Ilusion, a solo exhibition by Austin-based artist Sterling Allen. The works in the exhibition, which consist of video, photography, sculpture and drawing, are centered on the artist’s engagement with optical illusion, visual perception, and trickery.

Opening Reception: Thursday, September 3, 2009, 8-10PM

Rx GARDEN: Jessica Halonen
Art Palace
September 3 - October 10, 2009

Rx Garden explores the issues surrounding the use of genetically modified plants in the pharmaceutical industry. It includes a series of gouache on paper portraits of plant-based drugs as well as sculptures inspired by biopharming (a process that uses genetic modification to ‘grow’ chemical components, including human proteins, in plants that are harvested to make drugs).

Opening Reception: Thursday, September 3, 2009, 8-10PM

Austin Opening

Don't Let Your Time Do You: Nathan Green & Dave Bryant
Mass Gallery
September 5-30, 2009

Don't Let Your Time Do You is an experimental collaboration between two Austin artists, Dave Bryant and Nathan Green. This exhibition will feature a large-scale sculpture composed of found objects, peripheral art materials, and handmade objects that aim to transform MASS Gallery into a desert island paradise cum defunct natural history museum.

Opening: Saturday, September 5, 2009, 7pm - 11pm

Elliot Erwitt
L. Nowlin Gallery
September 23-26, 2009

In collaboration with John Cleary Gallery and Austin Center for Photography (ACP), L. Nowlin Gallery will be displaying the work of Magnum Photographer, Elliott Erwitt, a member of Magnum Photos since 1953 and icon of fine art photography.

Austin on View

Mark-Making: Dots, Lines and Curves
Lora Reynolds
July 11 – September 19, 2009

This group show explores how the simplest of forms create the foundation of every artists' work.

What Is Not But Could Be If: Corinne Loperfido & Kevin C. Foote
Birdhouse Gallery
Opens Sunday, August 23, 2009

Kevin C. Foote and Corinne Loperfido, Chicago and New York transplants,
have teamed up to display an "eclectic" series of portraits and ideas.

Austin Closing

Jana Swec and Jared Theis
dberman gallery
Closing September 5, 2009

 Jana Swec finds inspiration in nature. The lines of her pen and ink drawings undulate across the paper, creating intricate, abstracted forms of merging trees, root structures, and elephants' trunks and legs.

Jared Theis combines his mastery of finely detailed ceramics and his passion for music to create the body of work /Measures/. These slabs of clay are delicately etched, resulting in relief-like qualities that rhythmically push and pull into the surfaces.

New American Talent
Closing September 6, 2009

The twenty-fourth in a series of annual juried exhibitions, New American Talent features the work of emerging artists working in a variety of mediums. This year’s New American Talent exhibits the work of 26 artists from the United States—12 of whom currently live and work in Texas.

announcements: events

Austin Events

Immeasurable Space and Infinite Worlds: Three Monumental Works for Percussion and Electronics.
Austin Museum of Digital Art
Saturday, September 5 2009, 8pm - 10pm
Admission: $12-$15

Amoda and the Mexican American Cultural Center presents three groundbreaking works by two of the most significant composers of the 20th century. Performed by six of Austin's most accomplished percussionists, armed with a truckload of percussion instruments, these stunning works will surround concertgoers with sounds they have never heard before.

Imperative : Heather Tolleson
Saturday, September 5 2009, 7-11 PM

Heather Tolleson is a painter, sculptor, and mixed-media installation artist. She continues to focus on pure formalism while utilizing materials classic to artists for centuries, reused and reinvented for the modern world. This installation seeks to find harmony in dissonant materials, usage, misusage, and the interplay of context in an experimental lexicon.

I've Never Been so Happy
Rude Mechanicals
September 10 - 20, 2009, Thurs - Sun at 8pm
Admission: $12-21

Rude Mechs is proud to present this work-in-progress presentation of their new western operetta performance experiment. The performance fluctuates freely between high art and Hee-Haw, treating both with respect.

Tickets on sale now!

Fake Fun in the Real World : Duncan Malashock
Saturday, September 12 2009, 7-11 PM

Duncan Malashock presents new works consisting of animated websites as interactive portraits. Themes include artificiality, motion, and the combination of fluorescence and abstraction with subtlety and personality.

Houston Events

Learn About Free Schools
The Skydive
September 5, 2009, 2-3:30pm
Admission: free

Continuing their series of events for Saturday Free School for the Arts, Skydive presents a history of free schools.

Bill's Junk grand re-opening and Optical Project ping-pong tourney
Optical Project
Friday, October 16, 2009 4-8:30 pm

The Heights' iconic emporium of the disheveled re-opens in its original location at 1125 E 11th St. after an exhausting, but air-conditioned summer at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. Optical Project is using a survey of large-scale thrift store modernism as a backdrop for it's first end of summer, straight elimination, winner take all ping-pong tournament

A Miscellany of Objects: Lisa Orr
Optical Project
Friday, November 20, 2009, 6-8:30 pm

Nationally known Austin ceramist Lisa Orr fills Optical Project with her exuberant, baroque pots, and other interesting items.

announcements: opportunities

Job Opportunity

Associate Education Director, Kinder Foundation Education Center
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Closing Date: August 31, 2009

MFAH seeks a creative and motivated educator who will work with senior education staff to implement a long term plan for the KFEC that builds on the existing momentum of the department and broadens the scope and significance of the Center itself. For more information, click here.

Director of Development: Chinati Foundation
Chinati Foundation

The Chinati Foundation, a museum for contemporary art in West Texas, seeks an experienced professional to build and manage a development program to fuel the growth of the organization.

Duties include identifying and researching prospective donors, and analyzing, developing, coordinating, and implementing fund-raising plans to achieve income goals for membership, annual giving, capital, and endowment campaigns. The Director of Development will be responsible for grant applications, direct mail solicitations, special project fund-raising, and for prompt donor acknowledgement and recognition. She/he will maintain the accuracy of the donor databases and files, membership and donor records, and an on-going program of prospect identification. In addition, the Director of Development will manage special events and programs for members and donors, plan and manage cultivation events, and will serve as liaison with businesses, foundations, and government agencies. Please send resume and cover letter with salary history to Search Committee, Director of Development, Chinati Foundation, P.O. Box 1135, Marfa, TX 79843 or via email to: mstockebrand@chinati.org. The Chinati Foundation is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

Director of Marketing: Long Center for the Performing Arts
Long Center for the Performing Arts
Closing Date: September 15, 2009

The Long Center for the Performing Arts in Austin, Texas seeks an accomplished executive with a minimum of 5-7 years experience in non-profit marketing or arts management and a successful track record of developing and expanding audiences/customer bases. A willingness to work evenings and weekends as well as attending performances or other Long Center-related functions as required. To Apply: email cover letter, resume, three references and salary requirements to pbeutel@thelongcenter.org or mail to Paul Beutel, Managing Director, Long Center for the Performing Arts, 701 W. Riverside Drive, Austin TX 78704.

Executive Director: Ellen Noel Museum
Ellen Noel Art Museum
Closing Date: September 1, 2009

AAM accredited Art Museum in West Texas seeks energetic experienced museum administrator to work with Board of Trustees, a dedicated staff, and enthusiastic volunteers. The successful candidate should have at least 5 years of Museum experience and preferably have an MFA degree or Master’s Degree in art history or museum studies. The Director has oversight responsibility for the Museum’s programming and resources which include: sophisticated facility, an expanding collection of American Art, an active exhibit schedule, and strong educational programs for all ages. For more information about the Museum, visit http://www.noelartmuseum.org.

Executive Director: Arts Council of Brazos Valley
Arts Council of Brazos Valley
Closing Date: September 18, 2009

The Arts Council of the Brazos Valley, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization serving residents, artists, businesses and visitors of the seven-county Brazos Valley region, is accepting applicants for the Executive Director position. The ED is the CEO of the organization with a wide range of responsibilities including fundraising, administration, and affiliate relations. Information including a job description is available at www.acbv.org.

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