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State Fair in Photos
Faux Folk: Point & Counterpoint
Pamela Nelson & David Bates
Beaded Roulette Wheel 2003
24 inches diameter
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
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
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.
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
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,
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.
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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