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02 - 02 - 02

Diana Chase - My Heart of Hearts - glass and copper - See text below.


2 gallery openings on February 2, 2002 caught my eyes and photographic attentions.

Mary Nicolett's The Lady Is A Tramp pantyhose art and Johnny Robertson's Still In Hollywood at 500X and curator José Vargas' annual Valentine Corazón show at the Bath House Cultural Center. We'll look at them here in reverse order, hearts first, but first a few comparisons.

Although I arrived early — and the 500 is a later night party place — 500X seemed as abandoned as the Studio gallery at Brookhaven College was when Mary Nicolett's pantyhose art opened there last week [ See below ]. Across town by White Rock Lake, The Bath House was packed with people, with fabulous free food and with art.

The inaugural exhibition at Brookhaven College's new Forum gallery last week claimed to be a survey of North Texas art, but of course it wasn't. Corazón was much closer to being a full-spectrum view of area art. Just for one instance, it had a full complement of Hispanic artist participation. The annual heart show had some great art, to be sure. But lesser forms were in abundance, also.

I used to drag pens and paper around with me from gallery to gallery. Then, back at home in front of my computer, I'd face the daunting task of making sense of all my scribblings, all the while wondering what this or that piece might actually look like, despite my initial, written impressions.

Now I photograph the works that I want to remember. My new camera usually gets the colors right, and the images still amaze me for detail. I took only a few pictures at the Tramp show, but then there were only a few pieces there, downstairs or up.

At the Bath House I filled up a Memory Stick almost before I realized I could. There's a lot to see with interpretations of the human heart by 50 Texas artists. My guess is that José Vargas invited the artists, then showed what the artists delivered.

As usual at The Bath House, the best work is in the big gallery, and many of the also-rans were scattered further from the front. Of course, your favorites and mine will probably differ, and there were individual gems all along the way.


My usual critical collaborator, Kathy, who was home nursing a nasty cold I keep hoping I won't share, asked the inevitable question when I called her after the openings. My favorite pieces?

David B. Hickman's Love Is In The Air copper and Bois d'Arc is simple, direct, and elegant in execution, and its meaning turns gently in our minds, like the child's balloon it mimicks in size and shape. It's a gleaming copper balloon spiraling into the wind of our collective imaginations, and it was one of the first pieces visitors saw.



Further down the same wall, Mark M. King's mixed media Four Stages of Reverie - Isolation, Cultivation, Migration and Elevation looks like a drawing or print. Or maybe even an etching. I'll have to go back and watch it awhile to discover its secrets. Like Hickman's piece above, this marvelously textured and smudgily colored work manifests a simplicity of presentation with a complication of content.


Jim Chupa's Labyrinth of the Heart may look here like a miniature. But this hulk of finely textured relief is four or five feet high, vividly colorful, and it commands awe and a wide swath of the gallery's attention. Its stylized approximation of the human heart crossed with a labyrinthian home startles and surprises, but you have to see it face to face to feel its full presence.

Something else that startles and amazes me is Diana Chase's Heart of Hearts at the top of this page. Its jitneyed complication of connections seemed about right for an emotional approximation of the human heart.

And the fragility of the glass inner heart is right on, too. A lot of art in this show is unnecessarily complex. So it's heartening to see crossed wires and multiple connections used in more direct communication.

For simple, straightforward vulnerability, however, it would be difficult to find a more poignant piece than Heather Gorham's superb Exposed for all the World to See acrylic on wood nude, with her framed and exposed, delicate crimson Polyform clay heart.


I used up most of the heart puns in my review of last year's Corazon show, so I won't bother you about the crystaline nature of Sheila Cunningham's mosaic Special Delivery. In real life the red seemed much redder, and the little mirrored bits fairly gleamed, which is probably why I stepped back for this shot. In the gallery, this Special D, 3D heart is a startling contrast of red and sparkle.



I didn't see this rusted rabbit-eared heart — or is that Hermes' cap? — on the floor in the main gallery at first, either. But I watched several people step into it at the opening.

I did not find its title card — it always takes a bit of detective work to i.d. works floating in the center or other nontraditional placements. Maybe that's part of what I liked about it, its underfoot anonymity. That and the fact that people kept stepping on it. Yet another needful, visual and physical pun in the complicated inter-realities of human art and hearts.


Rita L. Barnard's mixed media Hearts Held Hostage had a lot of people on their knees, peeking in close at all the freed and caged, winged heart symbols in this oddly complicated crisscross of sticks, tassles, hearts, stone, hook and cage.


eanwhile, back at the X,

The Lady is a Tramp - Pantyhose-based artwork by Mary Nicolett [ below ] downstairs and Still in Hollywood - Johnny Robertson - at 500X, through February 24

500X visitors were greeted with this slanted hailstorm of painted plastic hosiery Mary Nicolett calls Showers, 2002. Nearly filling the large, maybe 20' tall, left-hand wall in the pit by the gallery's front door, it may be pantyhose, but it doesn't look panty hosey. Even an obvious first time gallery visitor early at the opening knew it was art, knew that it affected her in startling ways, knew that she liked it, and was pleased to tell me so. I agree.


Nicolett's hosiery and painted wire Whirlpool, 2002, on the back wall — and other pleasant shapes on other walls — conformed more to our usual understanding of pantyhose materials — sheer, translucent and colorful.

But her work isn't always so lyrical, as this photo of her piece in Brookhaven's ungainly little Studio gallery — far from the official art department space — makes clear.


Upstairs shows at 500X often get short shrift. Comprising only about a dozen, mostly monochromatic tone and texture paintings that I simply did not understand was Johnny Robertson's Still In Hollywood.

But I fell for one painting up there as soon as I saw it. Not all intellectual, this oil on canvas Night Surf, 2001 is an emotional storm of dark, painterly slashes and swirls. I didn't need to understand it. I could feel it.

Story and photographs by JR Compton

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