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M Street? Lakewood? Artists’ Studio Tour 2006
Story + Photographs by J R Compton
All contents copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.
he first iteration of a new artists' studio tour can be an iffy thing, full of missteps and outright mistakes. But, except perhaps for the name, this one already has the makings of a great tour — lots of excellent artists, a full diversity of ethnic and color and art forms, and a mostly unified sense of places.
I set out to beat the clock on this tour, and I met my goal — and got lots of wonderful photographs and a few sterling memories along the way.
I'd planned to stop at David McCullough's studio first, because he was the only artist on the tour to send me an invitational map. But Jesus' place was right on my way there and way out of my way back. Unfortunately, my old friend Jesus was not at home.
That's not why I didn't stay long. I didn't stay long anywhere. Of the 11 stops on the tour, I visited 10 in something less than 3 hours. I did not go to Dahlia Woods Gallery, because I go there often already, since I do photography and their website for them, and I don't feel comfortable writing about them here. Not so much because I believe in objectivity — I don't. But because of the appearance of objectivity. Sometimes I need that.
Nice people, though. And I wish them well in their new gallery, and Dahlia's studio is right in the middle of the gallery, so it fits several of this tour's categories, although geographically it is well outside the tour's named location.
Second stop was Michael Tichansky, Judith Williams and Robert Mateo Diago's studios, all in close proximity. I thought I was going in David McCullough's studio and was surprised to instead find Judith and her work downstairs in the building in back. Michael and Robert's studios were upstairs, Michael on the right and Robert on the left, figuratively and geographically. I've known Judith and Michael since before they were Judith and Michael.
I didn't know Robert or his work before today, but I'm glad to have got the chance to. I liked the exciting color experiments behind the workspace above, though I was less enchanted with the placid landscapes seen on the right, of which there was a whole wall, the betweens of which were happily stained with paint smears. I like details like that in a working studio.
These tours aren't about what I like and what I don't like, although I'm usually quick to note those. What these tours — and this is a brand new one of those — are all about is seeing where artists live and work, and maybe seeing some of their work, too.
At that, this oddly named tour — why can't it just be called The East Dallas Art Tour — was wildly successful. In less than 180 minutes I toured ten very different studios, involving almost twice that number of artists and their very different homes and studios. The variety was wild, as you will see, and diverse.
I was initially attracted to this tour because I knew some of the artists and hadn't seen them in awhile and/or had never seen the insides of their home/studios — and wanted to.
I loved that, except for the strange attachment of Dahlia's studio/gallery way down in Deep Live Oak, all the artists on this tour are in a distinct area. Still, calling it M Street or Lakewood is misleading. It may be vaguely helpful, because people know where those streets and that area are, even if this tour really isn't in those places. What it is, most precisely, is East Dallas.
The tour's founder — near as I can figure; I've yet to receive any official press release or publicity from them — lives in a smallish apartment north of the real M Streets. I suspect he has M Street envy bad enough to call this tour that, even though only two of the 19 artists listed on the map actually live on a real M Street.
The real M Street on this tour, however, is Moser, where 50% more tour stops are (than those silly other M Streets). There's where reside and/or studio David McCullough (and wife Barbara West), George Goodenow, Michael Tichansky, Judith Williams and Robert Mateo Diago.
Among those folks — all of whom (except Diago) I've known for decades — a lot of art happens. Besides that, Barbara West has been administratively involved in major Dallas institutions and knows every body. She's a regional resource and a local treasure.
While I was standing out there photographing these giant whatever-they-ares, two people stopped to ask me what they were. For image files that need names I called them agaves, but that's just a guess. I love their absurd surreality of size. Great things to have in front of a sculptor's house.
But David McCullough is also a painter, works on paper, in reliefs and talks. He may be better at that latter item than anything, but some of his paintings and sculptures continue to startle and amaze.
Barbara told me the reason so few of us have ever been inside their home is because it's so messy. I told her it was the first stop on the tour where I really felt at home. My office doesn't quite match the mess above, but I'm still in the competition.
Of the living rooms on this tour, this was the most inviting. I love the fabulous clash of textures and shapes and the utter unity of color and forms. Amazing. And nice!
The incongruity of objects in a kitchen cupboard near where Barbara was doing dishes while we talked spoke loudly of the diversity of practicality and art about the place. Of course, it was my favorite stop. These are old friends.
A couple of doors down that same "m street," Moser, was George Goodenow's place that looked more like a posh gallery than a home. I hadn't seen George for at least two, maybe three decades, but he's a regular reader of this site, he said.
Chapman Kelly paintings on the wall tie into a long history of Dallas art. I probably should have spent more time with his work that was not the young nude women, which bored me silly. I think I might have found some interesting textures in those four paintings on the right side of the far wall, their soft colors and asian textures.
That's George leaning on the bar at the far left. I don't really remember his photography per se, but I greatly admired his Cibachrome work. Instead of printing photographs onto that once well-known color photographic print "paper" — or in addition to that usage — George peeled back Ciba's separate cyan, magenta and yellow layers into geometric and other forms. Using photographic materials for his own purposes. Off on his own tangents. Pursuing a different rhythm.
Brilliant, in several ways. Then, some time after he began working with neon as an art form, he discovered a way to dim that electric medium, thereby making his fortune by saving electricity and its cost, for all I know, around the world. I was interested to see two of his Cibachromes in a way-too-neat downstairs office.
But the real treat was seeing a darkened room of his glowing neon work upstairs. It's not obvious in the photo above, but the long piece on the left is on one wall, in the middle is a corner, and the blue diamond is on another wall. There are cords dangling from each, but I like them presented this way, dense colors on black ground, although to render the yellows and lighter colors of the one below, I let the walls go a little light. You can even see the cord.
This stuff thrills me. Beyond painting. Three and more dimensional. Sculpture but pure color. Dense and throbbing with it.
My next stop was Cindee C Kueny, who is one of the only two artists in this so-called M Street Lakewood Artists' Studio Tour who lives on a genuine M Street. Her husband, who was sitting on the front porch of their home reading when I arrived, looked up and smiled when I took his picture. Cindee continued talking and working as I shot hers.
I followed the signs to her studio in back and up a stairway. It wasn't always easy to know where, exactly, to go to find the studio at each stop, but the signage to the stops was excellent, usually one at each end of the street, and then another neon yellow sign out front on whichever side of the yard led to the studio, although that may have been too subtle for some visitors who asked directionally-challenged me where to go.
I liked being in Kueny's upstairs, garage studio, warm with color and closeness. I could tell it was a real studio, because there was a real artist making art right there in front of me. There were places on this "studio" tour I never got that impression.
At Jim Frederick Studios, number one on the map but my eighth stop, I appreciated the brown-orange wall almost more than the digital line of trees on it, and I didn't look at the cards for sale in the shop set up downstairs (below), just admired their color and squiggled forms from a distance.
I was more interested in the goose-neck lamps lining the ceiling and the medium-tech shelf units and nearly pristine condition of what may actually have been a working artist's studio.
There was more going on up the stairs a quarter of the way up which I stood to get this shot. This man saw me waiting for the area to clear and took the time to pose there, sorting through... something. He may be Jim Frederick. I didn't ask.
Upstairs, the guy who did the tour's publicity and website had a room crammed with his own work, but no studio in sight.
At the next stop I discovered an artist who photographs what he called "sacred places around the world."
When I asked to see where he actually made his art — his studio — this being an "Artist's Studio Tour," he showed me a garage apartment filled with colored photographs (below) but no darkroom or computer, both of which he said he used.
The piece he showed me when I asked what exact sacred places he photographed, was a blue night sky of what he called "dawn after a full moon" in Vienna. I'm still wondering about that.
Sacred Places is a fascinating idea. I remember a show by Carolyn Brown who made magnificent and often immense photographs of churches and other sacred places around the world — and the feelings I got from viewing them.
I have also photographed the very early American sacred place now called Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico in a similar pursuit, and I am fascinated with the concept of photographing personal magic, so I am intrigued by the notion, if not Munro's execution.
Many of his photos were of statues of angels and crucifixions and other religious icons. They were interesting enough displays, but I got no inkling of this artist's actual working space or process.
As I was rounding the back yard into Terry Nikolis' garage studio, I heard someone leaving, say this was one of her two favorite stops on the tour. It was not mine, although I did not engage the artist, who was ruffling through the attached house looking for something.
I stayed long enough to make this photograph.
On my next stop, I was enchanted with the contents of a smallish nondescript home at the far end of a short but many-treed cul de sac whose location was clearer than my previous stop, whose turn-street's name was missing on the tour's otherwise adequate map.
A printmaker's press in the anteroom got me excited before I realized that the house — listed as that of artist Silvia Thornton and sculptor James Crowe, although I didn't stay long enough to find out which artist's work was which — was brim filled with art by these artists and probably others.
I remember that warm and cozy feel not many places yield, with art and color every where.
Except where these three hats were on my way out.
Great start for a fine little tour. I hope it stays as small and diverse.
If anyone has identifications I missed of the art work above, please e-mail me.
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