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Faux Folk: Point & Counterpoint
Pamela Nelson & David Bates

Point   Counterpoint

 Pamela Nelson's Big Wheel of Canal
David Bates painting

Pamela Nelson   Beaded Roulette Wheel   2003
mixed media   24 inches diameter

David Bates
Latern Fishing II   2000
painted wood relief
48 x 36 x 6.5 inches

Intriguing combination of separate exhibitions — Pamela Nelson at Cidnee Patrick and David Bates at the Dallas Center for Contemporary Art. Both SMU art grads. Both are upper middle class American artists who make Folk Art images for a living. Both were immensely popular in the 80s.

Bates still is. People who've never seen his work want to track it down and buy it. He's investment grade. Nelson's sudden turn away from the fun and often funny, faux folk work that made her famous, was less successful.

Though her descent into abstraction did not net a lot of new fans, some of her work is in the collection of the President of the United States, and First Lady Barbara Bush was a special guest at Pamela's Legend Award dinner.


woodpeckers in wood and paint

David Bates   Woodpeckers   1998   painted fabric, wood and metal


Both artists have undergone significant transitions of style and format over the intervening decades, although Bates' subjects and many of his compositions have not changed. Pamela may, finally, have returned from her voyage through academic abstraction of the dull and drab kind.

Nelson's colors have turned brighter, and she's once again incorporating wit and wisdom with words. Her distinctive, multicolored, daubed patterning is ubiquitous, although we haven't — and may never again — see the buttons and glitter.

In recent years, Bates has been tentatively exploring the third dimension — essentially extending his usual compositions of woodsy folk, flora and fauna a few inches out from the canvas. Nelson's once fully dimensional work has become largely flat.

Pamela Nelson - Afterlife Spinner

Pamela Nelson   Afterlife Spinner   2003   mixed media   89 inches diameter

The big spinner above spins, generating that sound TV gameshow viewers will instantly recognize. The words the arrow can point to are, clockwise from the arrow point: "Limbo, Eternal Life, Poof, Paradise, Arcadia, Damnation, Pearly Gates, Reincarnation, Hell, Great Beyond, Big Sleep, and Heaven Now."

Both shows are vivid and colorful. Pamela's at Cidnee Patrick is bright, busy and informal. David's should have been at the DMA and kinda looks like it was, all formal in the dark, museum-like Dallas Center for Contemporary Art galleries.

Bates is this year's DCCA artist Legend-award winner, and Nelson was a few years back. His retrospective is stately and formal. Her self designed show was a whimsical delight.

Pennywort Pool with Rednecked Heron

David Bates   Pennywort Pool   1988   oil on canvas

This magnificent, large-scale painting is the star of Bates' Legend Exhibition at DCCA. Near the peak of his mastery — and popularity, Bates' deep East Texas swampland paintings were complex and colorful, with East Texas Exotic subject matter. -JRC


Style or Substance: In- or Out-siders?

Counterpoint by Toby Tanzin

There's something disingenuous about Pamela Nelson and David Bates' work. She gets fame and fortune from Dallas for producing wallpaper. He paints like an illiterate Black man. As usual, Dallas validates and encourages the trendy, the superficial, and the fake. All style, no substance.

Bates, the rich White educated Black Outsider artist, comes closer to substance in some of his work, evoking mood and narrative.

I do like Nelson's piece on the cover (detail below), her Rose Window looks like skill and thought was involved.

detail from Pamela Nelson's Rose Window

DallasArtsRevue welcomes your feedback. See also the Feedback page, where Pamela Nelson's own feedback to this story is.

More of Pamela Nelson's work on this site may be seen in JR's Collection, including: painted plate, patterned birds, shaped city scape, Kazoo Radio, and booty from her estate sale.

More of David Bates on this site may be seen at David Bates at Dunn & Brown Contemporary and in coverage of DCCA's Pairings Show, and panel discussion.

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