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Small Sculpture in Texas  

Bigger Toys

A loose assortment of artists and interesteds gathered at 500 Exposition on a hot overcast Sunday afternoon June 15. The gala opening the night before had left its marks on some of the situations Frances Bagley had set up for interaction.

Three bags of blue were no longer suspended within a piece near the balustrade. One of the musical sandbox notes hung like drawers near the top of the back stairs fell or was pulled or nudged from the wall. Someone else had walked into the inviting pole bridge plank into Kathy's Corner.

The big stump Frances had connected with a rope and pulley not really fixed to the ceiling, was dragged across the floor.

Sandbox pieces were stolen, missing or interchanged, and when I came through the massive steel doors of the converted warehouse a small iguana was slithering across the concrete floor.

Not everyone had stepped carefully over the stone step boxes in the foyer. One had a large crack across its breadth and the cage wire on another was loose enough for other little green lizards to be contemplating escape also. But Frances caught them easily and reactivated their object d'art status.
She said she felt an informal gallery talk would be helpful, because her art "was almost too personal."

Frances Bagley, enjoying a year's leave of absence from a professorship at UTD, seemed at home in the semi-structured informal discussion mode.

She described her variously suspended sticks and stones, ropes and ribbons as "dual narratives of fantasy and reality."

"They are stories," she said. "But I don't think you need to know that."

More people arrived; others wandered around the huge art space, visited the splendiferous munchie niche beneath the front stairway. The fan wasn't running in the hallway upstairs, but the big roll-up railway door provided a bearable but sweaty sociability. The sky was darkening and rainful, and steady breezes rifled through.

"The content (or story line) is personal," Bagley said. "The issue is planes of space and ways to define them and the implications of those planes."

"I set up situations that invite you to be involved: I'm even glad someone threw up."

Her poles and triangles were "loose," she said. And the lizards are "sexy" and "scary." The grave, rectangular steps coincided with Frances' "feeling of being emotionally upset [at] the death of a relationship."

"I burned those things to hurt them, because I hurt, was in pain." Now she is "kind of disappointed; they're so pretty, so lyrical in a way."

"Psssss," she remembered aloud the burning, emphasizing the pain.
Most of the works at 500 Exposition through August 12 were not designed for the spaces they occupied there.

However Kathy's Corner (so-called because of a regular gallery member's predilection for using that corner space in previous shows) and the lizard boxes "are what they are because of their space."

The queue of the walk-around Gallery Talk classroom ebbed and flowed. People came and went. At one point Frances asked almost plaintively if she were being "too self-indulgent." Reassured by her 'students,' she continued.

"I never stop experimenting; when I have a focus, I get bored," she said. "It's almost more important that the understanding comes after I've finished than before. Because then I learn more."
One woman at the opening had told her she'd "have to be very confident to display things that were so poorly crafted." Frances took that comment about her sandbox drawers as a compliment, but admitted that she'd got "more interaction than I wanted."

The pieces in the play-with-me sandboxes were buried, uncovered, moved, smoothed over and interchanged per intention. But she hadn't counted on the outright damage to the several pieces broken or moved during the opening.

But "One of the most releasing a teacher told me," she reminisced, "was that art is bigger toys for bigger boys."

Dallas Arts Revue #2
September 1979


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