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The Colloquy of Colors

Story by Michael Helsem
Photographs by JR Compton

Steve Cruz - Oriental Style


“Cariola: What will you do with my lady? — call for help.
Duchess. To whom, to our next neighbours? they are mad-folks.”

— The Duchess of Malfi, IV. ii.

Wildly careening towers, plummeting flying saucers, & giant naked women strutting against a dead black sky: chaotic normalcy undermined by a sly humor: such is Steve Cruz’s Oriental Style. You can see it at Decorazon, which has just opened its doors in the Bishop Arts District.

Right around the corner is Cruz’s own new gallery, Mighty Fine Arts which, although it has yet to feature anything as imaginative as this picture (Rosemary Meza being contractually prevented from showing here, alas 1), is cozy & interestingly eclectic.

Homewood Avenue, for instance, by Brad Cushman, is a “solarplate” print — eerie & nostalgic at once.

Counting these, the Icehouse, & the Lamar Street Complex (i have yet to ferret out), that makes the most galleries or art spaces this scribe can remember ever having been open at the same time in the southern half of the city.

Yet i cannot help feeling a sort of Weimar nightclub dread: what does it matter if there are two ant hills, or four, in the path of the riding-lawnmower of History?

I was pondering this as i drove into Oak Lawn, through multiple road-repair jams, my car with a new funny noise, & the sky turning pluviaminatory by the quarter-hour.


Susan Sales - Imitating Indians

Susan Sales - Imitating Indians
oil on canvas, 40 x 40 inches

There’s a For Rent sign in Florence Gallery’s window, & the “Pillsbury” of Pillsbury-Peters has been clumsily taken down. But ever since i got the postcard for Susan Sales’s show at Craighead Green, i’d been experiencing something unparalleled: i was looking forward to a show.

And what a show it is. At first all you notice is the triumphant profusion of color (desperateolive-brown, sovereign red); later, the brooding, intensely lyrical, troubled & troublingtextures.

The uniform gloss becomes (heresy of Abstract Expressionism!) the surface of a window into strangest space, limits & states of being.

You begin to believe that Squeegee Painting has at last found its Raphael. It’s all in the colloquy of the colors, then. Otherwise it would be easy.

What holds you more are the color field-paintings; about half the show consists of variously successful excursions into form, such as the postcard’s Victory Lap — post-cubist magnificent, & not much like anything else i have seen — , while the diptych Dream Machine seems forlorn & rather useless.

White is so tricky in abstract painting, & a painting that’s full of white is harder to do well than a exact realistic sunset. But Sales has a couple that work, like Fish Out of Water.


High Desert Desperado by Susan Sales

Susan Sales - High Desert Desperado
oil on canvas, 56 x 62 inches

She can be as decorative as the purple & gold Well Kept Secret; Imitating Indians out-Rothkos Rothko in a mystery of ochre, with tender red flickers.

Searching for the Muse, horizontal & shimmering with green, blue, white & pale brown, somehow evokes a completely realized landscape.

I went back to the first one, maybe the one i like best: High Desert Desperado. Here the veil is thinner, the violence more imminent. A brown both boiling & frigid, with edges of controlled savagery. Yet it’s so beautiful, like comfort music & truth, combined...

Afterwards, replete with the benevolence of hope, i yield to let another car through.


10 23/24 04

  1. Decorazon is at 417 Bishop in Haute Cliff
  2. Mighty Fine Art is at 413 Tyler
  3. Solarize has a web site at
  4. Rosemary Meza, married to Steve Cruz, shows at Cidnee Patrick Gallery, although there may not actually be a paper contract. (back to story)
  5. I couldn't find the word "pluviaminatory" in any of my dictionaries.


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