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Strange Art Night
 
Story + Photos by J R Compton
 
 
Adding to the visual melange, Ray Spangle's machine
projected this glowing fly, rocking unsteadily
clockwise along the walls in Plush's main gallery
with crowd-drowned buzz soundtrack. (See below.)

I'd expected the Irving Bible Church to be a quaint little white board building with a cross on top, tucked back in the woods along some quiet, tree-lined street out in IrvingLand suburbia.

Not sure where I got that notion, but there it was floating in my expectations still, when we rounded the the third wrong turn in the big middle of a major industrial park. Yet another giant, faceless building in a giant, soulless landscape.

I couldn't believe this was it, but it said it was, and I could see a badly lit fake Guernica large and floating above people talking and shaped sculpture silhouetted below, in an upstairs window.

We climbed the corporate stairs into the faceless corporate building to find a colorful array of a closed cafe, some guy at a table fiddling with techy sound equipment and low temporary walls of oddly metalic-looking machine art, more about which soon.

fake Guernica, not by Picasso

I'm a Picasso fan and naturally love his 1937 anti-war masterpiece Guernica, even hope someday to see the original. But this clearly was not it.

Flanked by a large fake Salvador Dali St. John of the Cross and a large fake Magritte (the one with a dove flying over the ocean — vaguely religious, in intent, I guess, maybe, and) nary a brushstroke in sight, painted emotionally flat on that huge wall, some of the paint still a little glossy, like a really bad paint job.

Talk about Suburbia not honoring the art.

Is this legal? Is it morally right to rip off major artists this way? Aren't churches supposed to be the paragons of virtue and moral right?

Why would a Bible church fake art by a misogynist artist our own downtown museum refused to buy in the 50s 'cause they thought he was a Commie?

Strange art indeed.

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Heidi Strunk - Diu

Heidi Strunck - Diu, 2002
Purpleheart, satinwood, MDF board, padauk, gonzalo alves,
zebrawood, pine, birch, lacewood, brass, mirror glass, metallic floss, acrylic

We made the long journey to Irving to see Heidi Strunck's new work, completed since she lost her sight about a year ago.

Over the years, I've acquired a pleasant, if not overzealous, appreciation for Heidi's oddly left-field approach to sculpture — funky, bright, textural materials usually involving large-diameter ropes of sisal, carefully crafted in a formal presentation truly unique. I have never seen anything like it.

In a too-often me-too art world, Heidi was one of a kind. Still is, despite these new pachinko flavored pieces I expect are on the way to something more profound.

The new work looks over-simplified, as if machined or mass produced, industrial. I won't say soulless. There's certainly something of her still in it — maybe the dangles of metal floss or her newly enforced sense symmetry, but it was never this severe before.

Despite comprising mostly exotic wood, it's seriously missing the funk and natural textures.

Heidi Strunk - Namgya

Heidi Strunck - Namgya, 2003
particle board, rosewood, padauk, pine, birch, canahuate, purpleheart,
lacewood, wenge, mirror glass, brass, metallic floss, acrylic

Tactilely, however, it may be fascinating, with all those bumps and shapes, curved lines and straight, ins, outs and edges. I never thought to close my eyes and fondle these stringed-instrument-sized and -shaped objects, but what sculpture is all about, after all, is shape and texture and mass.

Artists in transition do some strange things sometimes, and losing sight is a major blow to anyone's mind set or life trajectory.

The most fun we had there, besides arguing theology with a Catholic who claimed not to understand the word Fundamentalist, was reading the short I.Ds and long materials lists next to each piece, like up there and to the left here.

It seemed an overabundance of exotic woods, but I only looked, didn't touch.

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Our 2nd stop was the 500X members group Christmas show and sale downstairs and EASL benefit silent auction, up. In many ways that I warmed to quickly — sink or swim, the weirdnesses continued.

Tara Welch - Learned Helplessness

Tara Welch - Learned Helplessness, 2004
color photograph

The first piece, in the pit just inside the big clanging front door, that caught our eyes was Tina Welch's brightly colored fem pol food photos.

We had to laugh. Soul lives here, and irony runs deep.

Tina Welch - Ungrateful Little Bitches

Tara Welch - Ungrateful Little Bitches
color photograph, 2004

Sometimes art at the X gets a little assembly line itself, but this time, despite the mixed-message food art and glassware — or maybe because of it, we felt right at home, welcomed.

Comfy in a place that understands dark undertones and laughing out loud (LOL)'s firm position in fine art.

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STD Glasses

Jen Rose - STD Glasses, 2004
etched glass - Left to right:
Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis and Herpes complete
with micro-images floating over the names

We looked around at the stuff upstairs at the EASL auction, but except for a piece by Plush owner Randall Garrett that I really should have photographed for our little rogue's gallery here, we were ready for our last art stop, having handily missed The MAC's Blue Yule again, it ending early enough to clear the house for their real cash cow, the theatre crowd.

 

So it was off to Plush in dankest sleezoid downtown Dallas, where the art and the crowd were even more informal, interesting and diverse.

Laura Abrams - Om

Laura Abrams - Om, 2004 - bronze

First thing Carol noticed — and liked — when we came into the crowded little gallery across from the boarded up old Sheraton Dallas on Commerce Street — was this cast bronze piece by Dallas artist Laura Abrams.

Carol called it a turd, and when she told Laura how much she liked it — and a dull amber cast bronze gourd in the opposite corner of the room, Laura, already resplendent in smiles, quipped, "Are you telling me my art looks like shit?"

We all laughed.

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Suza Kanon collage

S Kanon - untitled

The text: "The way I was raised and
lived my life in Africa, I was never told I was beau-
tiful. Never. If anything, I thought of myself as aver-
age. The boys looked at my cousins and the girls
in our family more than me.
In my heart I was
vulnerable and had low self-esteem
about my
own beauty, but not about who I was as a person."

In the narrow back hallway, opposite the room with a couch (Plush keeps moving, but the couch always goes with) and lots more art, even more informally scattered, was Suza Kanon's fem gem above, center stage in a small collection of word-crammed postcards to a friend.

The one with Marilyn was the only card with an image, except stamps. The rest were hand-lettered into oblivion I didn't read, only appreciated the postal textures and censored addresses.

 

For a change downtown, parking was easy and, despite a Hud's worth of meters lining both sides of the street far as I could see, free. I pulled Blue inside the decrepit, boarded up former multistoried parking lot, and when we left I noticed yet another piece of informal art squished out on the dark concrete ramp down to the street.

It might have been ice cream or something more creamily solid, but it made great tracks and within moments after I shot this, we did, too, abstracting ourselves into the city.

anonymous treadmarks in ice cream

December 11, 2004

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