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Blurring the lines between art
and not:
HJ, CG, GP & Bend

Story + Photographs by J R Compton

Kendra North

Kenda North


The first piece of art to catch my awe at the four openings we hit in rapid succession Friday evening, June 17, 2005 was this Kenda North photograph of a woman in blousy pink chiffon at Craighead-Green. Before that I was blithely passing on and by anything and everything before my eyes that purported to be art.

Sometime after that I decided that when I go to a bunch of openings when I don't really feel like going to a bunch of openings, I should go somewhere really unimportant first, so I can get past ignoring perfectly decent art by looking at art that either doesn't matter or is so mediocre I don't care then but when I saw the real stuff next stop I'd appreciate it before I passed it by.

As it was, we went to Holly Johnson's first, and I could not bring myself and my attitude to the level of enjoying the obviously amusing intellectual constructs of Terry Allen, who is probably a much better artist and sculptor than he is a singer and musician, although he has been successful with both mediums, but I didn't give his complicated but well crafted and dually densely delineated in both words and sketches two- or three-dimensional art a chance.

After I wrote the above compariston of Mr. Allen (Mrs. Allen is a great performance artist) as artist vs musician, a friend gave me two more Terry Allen CDs and a note, saying, “Maybe you will like these. : ),” and I feel the need to state that I love Terry Allen as a singer and esepcially a songwriter; he has some of the best musicians I've ever heard playing with him; and if I can think of any more rock stars who also make art, I'd happily compare their format talents, if only in hope of getting more CDs.

I watched Kenda North's photograph of a pigeon-toed woman in a high heels and a pink dress sitting in a pool somewhere for several minutes. I couldn't not watch it; I kept moving around the area; kept trying to look away; kept being drawn back; can't for the life of me figure out why.

Her work has had that effect on me before. (See Short Show Review from 2005 and Black & Blue — The Agony and the Ecstasy from 2000.) Then I thought I knew why I was so drawn to the simplicity of floating textiles and female form. That was more alluring. This one is one of those pieces I just couldn't get away from. I needed to keep looking at it, and keep coming back to it. I just wish my photo of it showed more of the underwater textures and wave reflections in the dark areas.


Larry Graeber - Swamped

Larry Graeber - Swamped
oil on canvas - 50 x 80 inches


Larry Graeber's Swamped was another one of those images I could not not look at. Of course, it's big and bright and vivid and was hung in a big open space at the front of the gallery.

This image has going against it that it is spottily lighted. Something most people probably do not notice when they see work in galleries. I knew it was going to be an issue, and I thought I could correct it in post, but I couldn't. I should have used a flash, except that crashing blue light does nasty things to any bit of shiny in the paint, and I did not want to draw attention to myself photographing the art, although that was less an issue than it used to be.

It used to be that I was probably the only person at an opening shooting photographs of the work. Now everybody and his mother does it. Other people with nicer cameras and other other people were aiming their phones at works on the walls at all the galleries all evening.


Cloud from CG Sidewalk - photograph  2005 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

White Cloud with Black Linings shot from
the sidewalk in front of Craighead-Green


I saw this big beautiful cloud from inside the front windows at C-G, but had to get outside to get all the curly gray bits around the edges sharp. I've long collected But Is It Art? shots of objects and spatial arrangements that obviously were not art but might be anyway — in and around galleries and other official art spaces, and there's several of my older ones illustrating the newly updated Art Spaces Index page now.


Looking In - photograph  2005 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

Looking In at people looking at work in Craighead-Green gallery


I'm not all the way into one of my Art Ennui periods, but I seem to be flirting with the possibility. Either that or it's summer. A lot of people think the art world goes into hiding during the summer, but it's quite the opposite. I can understand hiding out somewhere it's cool for the duration, but a lot of interesting art and art ideas and art events happen in Texas summers because the rest of the year is too busy being Dollars, Taxes, as Victor Dada used to sing.

I guess someday I'll have to track some of those down and write about them. Then, too, it could all be atmospheric. Humiditity.


Backroom at the Bend

The back room at Photographs Do Not Bend Gallery — over the kitchen sink


Art is fascinating, but real life is much more interesting than that. I always try to go into the more private spaces at galleries, like the bathrooms, offices and the kitchens. CG's big new kitchen is amazing, and I really should shoot it next time I'm there, but often it is the much more private spaces at those places that have the more meaningful art.


Bend Driveway - photograph  2005 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

the driveway along the side of PDNB gallery


Photographs Do Not Bend on a hill going down into deep nowhere behind and beneath upper Oak Lawn is a gallery gill filled with new and old photographs in what must surely have been an old house, complete with driveway and what looks like, beyond that, a tree in the middle of it on the other side.

I like the way the lines ripple and wave down the variously sagging bits of house into the vanishing point tree, once Anna pointed out the visual possibilities. It's a mixed use zone with way too bustling businesses busting new verticality and quiet, tree-lined streets of elderly homes working their way through life.


O Heads next to Goss

Os and technicolor hair with our own reflections next to glitzy Goss gallery
— Almost Art close to a lot of the real thing and I think it's rubbing off.


We saved Gerald Peters for last, because it was open the latest and I worried about finding a parking place. None of our other stops offered any complications in that regard, and it turned out GP was easy, because we spotted an open slot in front of the hair salon next door to the new, glitzy, Goss gallery, cater corner across the big street, walked across — and saw an easy slot in the GP lot.


David MacManaway - Balancing Act

David McManaway - Balancing Act, 1998
mixed media - 6 x 3 x 2 inches


Never know what we'll find at GP, but that's a lot of the fun. The McManaway piece is a tiny treasure and so nice to see that David is still doing his busy little put-togethers — joy Jomos beyond the boards and boxes. Wheels upon wheels, clowns, horses and tight-wire ballerina, very in keeping with summer action and passion, colors and shape.


James Surls drawing

James Surls - Head In Hand Again
graphite on paper - 11.5 x 8.5 inches


I think of it as Our Local Museum. In an era when centers are museums and museums aren't in the center of anything, it has the sweep of indoor and outdoor space. The amazing variety of Dallas and Texas and everywhere else-icas art and artists. A hairy little drawing by former Dallas sculptor James Surls tacked to one wall, cutesy American portraits on too many others right now — always a wide mix, with depth and scope — and something as inexplicable as a multiplex plug array set into the hardwood floor.

This trip I especially remember Deborah Butterfield's downed steel horse brown in the red-yellow of low-ceilinged tungsten light in the evening bright back hall, against the grayish scrim over the windows looking out on an orderly late daylight, bluish and seriously surrealist sculpture garden a real museum could only envy.


Multiplex Box in the floor at Gerald Peters

multiplex plug array box set into the hardwood floor


I wanted to back up and photograph that scene, but there were too many people, the major drawback of going to openings, and when we bump into friends, the best thing going. I recommend young and beginner and student artists go to gallery openings, because they're free and free-wheeling, offer great views of the spectra of art going on out there here, and it's a marvelous opportunity to talk art with the artists and other people who attend.

What I used to do was find a boisterous bunch all lively with art conversation, and just stand there listening for a long time until there's a break in the conversation and I have something to say, say it, then listen a bunch more and get to know a widening circle of people and artists. It's the one time we're there just to be along for the ride, and the ride is more fun with more folks along.


Monitoring Well outside Gerald Peters gallery

This rustoid face on the floor outside
Gerald Peters claims it's Monitoring Well


We were hungry for something besides and beyond art, so we set out to walk back out across the trafficky street when Anna noticed this face staring up at us from the driveway. We had to look back, down past its triangular nose, deep into its hexnut eyes to realize it might just be doing what it says.

From there, the view back over to our car included the new Goss gallery, closed for the evening but glitzing its gloss in neon too bright not to take a visual hint and yet another photograph of something that could be but probably isn't art.



Glitzoid Goss

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