In 1951, 16-year old Juanita Dale Slusher appeared in a hardcore stag film called Smart Alec
. She soon started stripping under the name "Candy Barr" in Dallas. She befriended Jack Ruby, was busted for pot, became Mickey Cohen's girlfriend, went to prison, was paroled, talked to the FBI about Ruby after the Kennedy assassination, and eventually was pardoned by Governor John Connally. She went back to stripping and appeared in Oui
magazine in 1976 (at the age of 41). In 1972, poems she had written in prison were published under the title of A gentle mind ... confused
. The title poem goes like this:
Hate the world that strikes you down,
A warped lesson quickly learned.
Rebellion, a universal sound,
Nobody cares, no one's concerned.
Fatigued by unyielding strife,
Self-pity consoles the abused,
And the bludgeoning of daily life,
Leaves a gentle mind . . . confused.
That's also the name of a 45 rpm record that was on view at the Pan Art Fair
, which was a hotel room "art fair" I put on in Dallas. The single was produced in a limited edition by Michael A. Morris
, and it features his grandfather giving a stentorian reading of Barr's poem.
Michael A. Morris, A Gentle Mind Confused
The Pan Art Fair is so high-tech!
Morris is represented by the Oliver Francis Gallery
, which was one of
the exhibitors at the Pan Art Fair
in Dallas last weekend. Gallery director Kevin Rubén Jacobs
not only brought the single--he brought a portable
turn-table so we could play it in the suite I had rented at the Belmont Hotel
The site of the Pan Art Fair--Dallas--a suite at the Belmont Hotel.
The first time I wrote about art in Dallas
, I wrote about the big institutions
--and the municipal/business power brokers that shepherded them into being. I was looking at the Dallas of businessmen, corporate technocrats who are highly concerned with Dallas's image and branding and how that related to "the arts." I suggested that there must be another Dallas, a Dallas of artists who worked through alternative structures. If the downtown Arts District and North Park Mall and Dallas Cowboys Stadium
represented the respectable Dallas of the business oligopoly, what were the artistic counterparts to the less respectable aspects of Dallas--the Candy Barrs and the Jack Ruby
s, the Peter Gents
and the Hollywood Hendersons
, the Dimebag Darrell
s and the Robert Tiltons
, the Bonnies and the Clydes of the Dallas art scene? Finding this alternative Dallas was one of the purposes of the Pan Art Fair in Dallas.
As I did with the Houston Pan Art Fair
, I scheduled this one to coincide with a larger, more mainstream art fair--the Dallas Art Fair
, held downtown in the Arts District. Unlike the Houston version, the Dallas Pan Art Fair only lasted one day. I didn't have the time and logistical wherewithal to do a multi-day fair. And it turns out that one day was fine--attendance was pretty good and I even sold some things. Plus it gave me the opportunity to go check out the Dallas Art Fair on Sunday.
The metaphor of "outlaw Dallas" vs. "establishment Dallas" came to mind because we had several artworks that related to the bad boys and girls of Dallas--the Candy Barr poem above and several pieces related to Bonnie and Clyde
by Michelle Mackey
. The three paintings Mackey showed came from the Star Service series, "based on a gas station in West Dallas
where Clyde Barrow's family used to live." The amazing thing is the gas station is still there--boarded up now and only accessible by trespassing. But from that starting point, Mackey creates what seem like completely abstract paintings that deal with the mythology of Bonnie and Clyde. (One of them is based on the pattern of the bullet holes in the car in which the pair were ambushed and killed.)
While she was there, we talked about the popular mythology of the pair. I am pleased to note that I introduced her to the classic country song "The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde" by Merle Haggard
From left to right, top row--two pieces by Jim Nolan, a painting by Michelle Mackey, and two more Jim Nolan pieces. The round things in front are individual pieces by Christine Bisetto.
Houston artist Jim Nolan
also participated in the fair and I decided to display his work with Mackey's because they had a similar palette of silvers and greys. Nolan is doing a residency at Centraltrak
, which seems to be one of the main engines of the Dallas art scene. I had a chance to visit it the day before the fair. The weird thing about it is that the artists live in their studios. Their "bedrooms" are in lofts above the kitchen in the open-plan spaces. The studios feel a little like post-graduation bachelor pads.
left, Jim Nolan; right, Michelle Mackey bullet hole abstraction; bottom center, Chris Cascio's portfolio of small pieces.
Nolan is the one who suggested I contact Mackey, Nathan Green
and Oliver Francis Gallery. I was familiar with Green's work
from exhibits at Art Palace
, but I didn't realize that he had relocated to Dallas from Austin. (Yes, Austinites--people move from Austin to
Nathan Green (top row) and Christopher Cascio (bottom row).
Nathan Green (top row) and Christopher Cascio (bottom row) with some Christine Bisetto paintings on the floor.
I also brought up some work by Christopher Cascio
, including his giant blowup images of drug baggies. He had a whole wall of these at the UH MFA thesis show. It was overwhelming.
Against headboard: a painting by Michelle Mackey. On the bed: photos by Emily Peacock and Christopher Cascio.
work by Christine Bisetto.
is a Fort Worth (I think) artist who was recommended to me by Christina Rees
. She brought over a ton of small pieces (and one larger piece). The paintings are of words she says to her children.
Her disc-shaped pieces (a few photos up) were actually rolls of tape unrolled, sprinkled with holes from a hole-punch, and rolled up again. I joked to Jim Nolan that these pieces were so grungy and abject in their materials that they made his work look precious! I think he took that as a challenge.
work by Christine Bisetto.
The tape on the floor piece (above) kept coming undone during the course of the day. (Future conservators take note!). The string pieces were meant to be displayed on a wall, but we couldn't drive tacks into the hotel wall so I showed them on this end-table.
Work from Re Gallery--top: Kristin Cochran; middle: Ricardo Paniagua; bottom: Kelly Kroener
On the day before I was set to leave, Wanda Dye called me up. She runs a new gallery called Re Gallery
which will be showing work by Benjamin Terry
, who I was already showing. I knew the suites were big, so I said yes. So she showed a variety of small work by Kristen Cochran
, Ricardo Paniagua
and Kelly Kroener
(and Benjamin Terry, of course). In retrospect, I wish I could have come up with a different display concept than putting the work in this window--it tends to put the art in a shadow (the effect of which is exaggerated by this photo).
Oliver Francis Gallery, left to right: Arthur Peña (the bubble wrap piece) and Keith Allyn Spencer (three pieces).
Oliver Francis Gallery's other work (by Arthur Peña
and Keith Allyn Spencer
) was displayed on the ironing board that came with the room. I liked this because it reflected the "make do with what you got" attitude of the gallery. (Over on Main Street in Deep Ellum, Oliver Francis Gallery had three temporary shows up at three vacant storefronts. Apparently they had made an arrangement with the landlord.) The ironing board turned out to be perfect for these small objects because it brought them high up off the floor. You don't have to bend over very much to see them. (That said, Arthur Peña wasn't satisfied with the placement of his piece. He took it and balanced it on the doorknob of the closet. Artists are very particular about this sort of thing.)
photos by Emily Peacock.
The suite had two very comfy daybeds. I took all the cushions off to make big flat display spaces. Emily Peacock
's photos were displayed on them. (Emily Peacock, Christopher Cascio and Jim Nolan are all veterans of the first Pan Art Fair in Houston.)
More Ben Terry.
Benjamin Terry had three pieces in the exhibit. I had encountered his work before last summer at Cohn Drennan Contemporary
. I liked how alike the three pieces were while also being very different. The self-portrait with triangles piece shows that he is an pretty skilled draughtsman. So it's funny that the other two pieces are so minimal and devoid of drawing (one has a ghostly remnant of a portrait). In a sense, I feel like they were three approaches to the same subject matter, but this is just a guess on my part.
I wanted to have a small item to sell or give away for the show, and it was too late for me to make T-shirts. So instead, I made a zine containing my earlier blog posts about Dallas. They are badly "typeset" and feature the worst low-grade photocopying possible. This hand-bound zine shows a callous disregard for craftsmanship. Dallas
is the inauspicious start of a possible series of zines called "Panphlets." I'm a committed blogger, but what can I say? I still have a nostalgic love for physical books and magazines and zines.
I think this is the Oliver Francis Gallery table at the Fallas Art Fair. In any case, this guy with his hand on the chair is Kevin Rubén Jacobs
After the Pan Art Fair officially shut down at 8 pm (and the last attendees were ushered out at 9:30), I went over to the other
alternative art fair, the Fallas Dart Air
, held in a barbeque restaurant called Mama Faye's over in Deep Ellum. It consisted of various art organizations, both non-profit and otherwise, including Centraltrak
, Mai Koetjecacov Editions Wichita Falls,
Oliver Francis Gallery,
Semigloss Magazine, Shamrock Hotel Studios
and Studio DTFU
I don't know what was in the jars at the Shamrock Hotel table. Art, I suppose.
It seemed like a lot of the Dallas Art Scene was present, many of whom I had met earlier in the day at the Pan Art Fair. There was live music and it was a very social atmosphere.
The purpose seemed less about showing (much less selling) art than about raising the flag and having a good time. But I did actually buy something--a copy of a local art magazine called Semigloss
. I haven't read it yet, so I can't say if it's actually good. But it looks
Pierre Krause and the hand of Jim Nolan at the Fallas Dart Air.
But aside from that, I mainly drank beer, ate barbeque, and fruitlessly tried to follow people's conversations (such as the one in the photo above with artist Pierre Krause
, who did one of the Main Street installations that Oliver Francis Gallery hosted). But it was loud and I was tired. I went back to the hotel and collapsed. A long, fun exhausting day.
Is there something different about Houston and Dallas? The two cities are very similar. Dallas is much more like Houston than either city is like, say, Seattle or Boston. But I go back to the piece Christina Rees wrote for Glasstire
, "Dear Young DFW Whippersnapper Artists."
She wrote, "There is no real economy for your art being made here in DFW. Almost none. Not enough to make a living. And there isn’t a mainstream press, like there is in NYC and London, to cover your career if you made a commercial leap anyway." But this wasn't seen by her as a bad thing necessarily. Instead, she wanted the artists to take it as license "to fuck things up." She was calling on artists to be outlaws.
So maybe this is the difference. Houston artists have so many opportunities. There are all kinds of spaces here to show work--including work that is challenging and uncommercial. Lawndale
alone puts on something like 12 shows a year--or is it 16? When I saw Kevin Rubén Jacobs' three shows in the disused retail spaces on Main, I was envious. Why don't Houston artists do stuff like that? But then when I thought about it, why should they? In Houston, Pierre Krause wouldn't need an abandoned storefront. She could put an installation in Lawndale's Project Space--or any number of places around town.
But this is just a superficial reading of the situation. When I visit Dallas, I hardly see a lack of opportunity--on the contrary, I rarely can visit every art space I want to for lack of time. There's a lot of them! So probably I'm pushing the metaphor too far. Nonetheless, it makes me happy to think that there is an outlaw Dallas art scene, and that the Pan Art Fair brushed against it for a moment.