The Art of
Sherry Owens at Neiman Marcus
Photographs + Story by JR Compton
Notes on construction by Sherry Owens
herry Owens has snagged one of Dallas' best public art venues, and her work there looks spectacular. Many of the accomplished Dallas sculptor's organic works are fashionably displayed in the windows of the downtown Dallas Neiman Marcus store as the original entry in their The Art of Fashion series.
Note the reflections of neon signs across the street from the extensive site-specific installation that wraps around Main, Ervay and Commerce Streets in Dallas' nearly comatose Central Business District.
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All these images were shot from outide the store, looking in. I saw some familiar work inside, but I was so enchanted with the installations in the windows, that I didn't even go in.
It's worth the drive by or park and explore. If you visit at night, you can park free and wander around outside the building. The store and the vivid window displays are well lighted into the night. More pieces are inside, but the window displays are amazing.
Intersecting branches in the mannequins' hair and the stark simplicity of dark outfits; big, wild hair; and the theatric presentation amplify Owens' natrual style and set off her intricately interconnected conifers of wood and linen.
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Around the corner to the left from the image on the top of this page, Exhale extends the chimney-like breath up into the darkness through a soft, fibrous ductwork of manila and linen, with a steel wire and brass interior structure. The quote, clipped in the photo above, begins to explain Ms Owens' intent. It is presented in its entirety after the next photograph.
"My work references the natural world --
a world rich in materials and various life processes...
My hope is to engage the viewer physically,
intellectually, and spiritually to bring about
a sense of visual pleasure or earthly delights."
- Sherry Owens
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An elemental, untied bundle of raw material standing up and floating in the plain, white smaller window flanks one of the doors into the Neiman-Marcus store. In the mirror image window opposite is a photograph of the artist's hands working with wood.
The most abstract sculpture among the Neimans window works is this flat, twisted, extended knot of thin wood supporting the barest whisp of closed and opened nests of fledgling shoes.
This is the one window Sherry Owens did not create, but it blends well with her work, which often references nests, sometiimes labyrinthine. Here they are utterly simple, barely even knotted, yet supporting a dangling and escaping pair of high heel shoes, the strands of twirled sisal spiraling open. Neimans also elected to keep their own cosmetic displays, although the colorful displays do not detract from Ms Owens' work.
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Another classic Owens technique -- often in collaboration with fellow Dallas artist Art Shirer -- is a multiple suspension of soft or hard shapes. See Hanging Rocks at Connemara elsewhere on this site. There have been other examples.
Sherry calls this piece "a landscape... When I installed this piece in my show November at Parchman Stremmel in San Antonio, I painted the shadows. It was more effective as a landscape, but it also took ten hours. I didn't have enough time to do that here in the window."
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When I asked Sherry via E-mail how she managed to get such a deal, and showed her this page before all the identifications, after the photographs and in the middle of the writing, she responded the next day with the whole story.
"Our building had an Open Studios last November... You know, you were there. Stephen Toon, the Project Manager for Visual Merchandising at Neimans, came through the building, although I didn't even know he was there. He called the next week and asked to schedule a studio visit with me and to bring by "his boss" to see the work.
So he and Joseph Cimini, Creative Director of Visual Planning and Presentation at Neimans, came by and we had a really great visit. Initially, Joseph was interested in me submitting a proposal to construct approximately 300 nest-like structures for their display nationwide. He had explained to me that they were focusing on the "nest" or organic natural structures. My work was so adapted to this theme.
I thought about it for a couple of weeks and determined that I really wasn't interested in making 300 of anything... and to have them completed by February of this year! So I contacted him to let him know, and then he scheduled another studio visit to rethink other possibilities. After his visit in December, he was intent on purchasing three small pieces and possibly displaying some of the works on the first floor during Neiman's The Art of Fashion events.
Then about mid-January I had another studio visit, this time with Julie Kronick, Corporate Art Curator, and Kathy Arscott, Visual Manager, and Michael Albee, Joseph's assistant -- another great meeting.
We discussed the possiblities of works on loan throughout the first floor and displaying works in the windows. A week later we all met at Neimans to work out the details of the installation, labeling and did a walk-through to site pieces on the first floor and in the windows. It was all very exciting and happened so fast.
On Monday, February 4th, Neimans was at my studio with a 20-foot truck to pick up the work. We installed the pieces on the first floor that day. The following Monday, February 11th, the truck was there again to load the pieces for the windows. Art Shirer helped me both Mondays with the truck loading and Monday installations. I installed the windows from Monday to Wednesday.
The drape ( all windows are draped while being changed ) came down Wednesday night. Thursday I picked up Man Brain / Woman Brain from Brookhaven and installed it on the first floor and finished the installation ( setting and filling the water glasses ) for Receiving Gifts. Then I was done -- So it took 5 days total, doing the first floor and 11 windows ( I had to be out of the store by 8 pm every night -- a first for me since I am nocturnal ).
While working in the windows Wednesday night after taking down the drapes, we got some favorable hand signals and comments from people on the street passing by. It was like working in a fish bowl on Thursday with the glasses and people stopping to watch. Window Director Denise Knight did all the lighting and helped me hang cones Wednesday and fill glasses on Thursday.
Ray Souders ( who is responsible for dressing all the girls in the windows and on the first floor ) dressed the girls. I furnished him with sticks and manila to play with. The results are really great, I think.
All in all, it has been a wonderful experience, and I have gotten a great response. As for featuring other artists in the future, I don't know. They have never done something like this. I feel fortunate that I had enough work to put a show together, and how could I say no? It's Neiman Marcus."
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