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The Trinity

Story + Photographs by J R Compton

Kathy Robinson Hays - Short Shift
ink & tea on silk, paper & wood

Often when I visit a show, I make a point to photograph all the DallasArtsRevue Supporting Members' work, so I can use them to link to their pages from the Calendar, Members Index and other pages. In the Trinity Show at The MAC through September 1, 2006, many members had outstanding pieces, and there was other superb work by artists not affiliated with this publication. Both are presented in this story.

Click linked names to see more art by our Supporting Members.

I did not like Short Shift first I saw it, but on return and re-return — I was drawn to keep coming back — I appreciated it more, then got fascinated. It was the favorite of several artists I asked for a favorite during the opening.

Rightly so. It has texture, color, mystery — What are those white-topped towers painted so 3-D I expected to touch them? I can see the river winding through all that diversity and fascinating, if unknown detail, but why the title? Why the odd round wood form arched out from the wall? What is this all about?

Lucky I don't need answers to like this work more every time I think or write about it or look at it. Deceptively complex, simple coloration, pleasing texture, deeply memorable.

Karla Leaphart - My broken heart lies at the river's edge
mixed media found objects

Karla Leaphart's subtle Broken Heart is a departure for her, though it follows a recent series into that new direction as well as extending her established fascination for organic and animal forms, warm textures and horizontal presentation.

See especially Bisfor One and Predator/Prey Three near the bottom of her member page (link above) for earlier work pointing toward this rich new, more sculpturally complex and collagist less flat painterly direction — while incorporating her lush textured muted color drawings (the fish, turtle, insect and frog), along with the recognizable detritus of contemporary life and more mysterious bits of texture, shaped into a nearly monochromatic splash of brown.

Tying fantasy and reality, staying on target to the Trinity River theme like few in this diverse show, and presenting in a format we have to visually explore to understand, this piece is intelligent and instinctive, subtle and direct. If Kathy Robinson's piece maps our city's river, this work portrays it — up close and personal.


Margaret Ratelle - Bridge, Bridge, Bridge, Bridge - mixed

Margaret Ratelle's Bridge, Bridge, Bridge, Bridge gets at the manaic over-fascination this city's elected and non elected leaders/back-stage directors show for yet another big expensive hunk of monumental boondoggle that will supposedly bridge the gaps in every realm of this area's troubled waters.

Or at least that's what I put into it, get out of it, and love it for that and every other meaning that can be squeezed from this lovely, back-story complex, overtly simple display. Margaret Ratelle is one of those precious few artists whose work often surprises and seldom disappoints.

Jeanne Sturdevant - Tears for the Trinity
digital drawing - 11.5 x 12 inches

Another predominantly brown piece — must be the mud — is Jeanne Sturdevant's popular (Artists noted it when I asked for favorites.) State of Texas face crying The Trinity River into the abyss of the Gulf of Mexico. I liked having my piece close to hers, although being stuck off in the Project Room seemed ignominious placement in this show, which demonstrates little concern for aesthetics.

Jeanne's piece speaks oddly cartoonish to anyone who finds that room and looks in that direction. It's obvious, of course, but has its own depth, too. It is of a long line of Sturdevant Texas faces.

MAC shows used to be placed immaculately, manifesting a subtle, fiercely visual transition piece to piece through the show. Even member shows were so carefully and intelligently placed that it was an honor to be almost anywhere along that careful string. Now, there's no rhyme or reason where what goes. Utter garbage on the outside walls promise more inside. Subtlety is lost. Quality trounced, then poked when it's down.

Almost as if work in that cool, little room on the side comprise a different exhibition, in some ways a better one. I guess I should feel honored mine is there, too.


Nancy Ferro - Trinity Princess

More brown. More fun with textures, lilting colors, a little history, some nostalgia, a general toying with the show's theme — what a concept!

The stars above, Indians, little blue clouds, several varieties of elderly wallpaper, a fairy queen and a magic frog, a red canoe, some cactus, depth, apparent depth, shape, form and a fantasy tableau.

Eli Lorenz - Trinity River - clay drawing

Another one of those pieces I was attracted to and repelled by, accepted and rejected numerous times. I photographed it, then wondered why. Wanted to put it in here and did not want to have to think about. Certainly did not relish having to explain or write around it.

Is it too simple or just simple enough? What about all that black empty negative space cradling the genderless body, dark egg wrapping it, harshly stark yet gentle. Why do I keep writing in opposites? Slightly bent circles. Easy and difficult.


Anna Palmer - Bagged and Blue
plastic bag, water from the Trinity, acrylic

Yes. I know this woman. We are close. I knew she was thinking about a watercolor. We'd gone to the bridge a couple days before. Had no idea it would get this obvious, simple, direct. Midway through the opening, she wrote on the i.d tag, "touch it," had wanted people to come to that conclusion on their own and do it anyway, needed to give them permission, so they would. This her first exhibition.

When I saw it, I had to press the puddled, colored water at the bottom, squeeze it up, get physically involved with it. The green at the top is a bonus. Life along the edge of the river is green. Life along the edge of a plastic bag is a straight line, which are everywhere in nature. A slivered remnant of sky blue holds above the press-to-close horizon.

Bob Nunn - Westward - mixed media

A short map in a long series of maps. An oeuvre many rivers run through. This one perhaps an historic one. Maybe even one we know. Nearly abstracted aerial shapes like autumn leaves and spring vines jag an uncertain landscape.

Tiny settlements scatter house dots, street lines and block shapes, pencil grays among the splashing color. Furrowed farm fields' rib the land in alternating hues. A place. A space. Water makes it live.

Chris Bergquist Fulmer - Danger Uncontrolled Spillway Ahead
bottle, forks and photograph

Two forks. In the road ahead. A warning on a bottle on a shelf projecting from a tinted photo of a tranquil river. Medicine for the uncontrolled. A way to spill. An immediate red label, red screw-on-top bottle of danger dark liquid on a light glimpse of reality as we know it. Art that we barely understand, floating in its ambiguity.


Rita Barnard - The Unholy Trinity Sold Us Down the River
mixed media

Across the opened drawers of typeset quotes and opinions careful black on pristine white cards, above the title under a full battle regalia soldier walking down a tropical tree-lined river, it states, "The Father: Dick Cheney    The Son George W Bush    The Ghost Donald Rumsfeld" in tiny, all-capital letters. A marvelous short selection of old and new oil squirt cans on top of the gilt-edged cabinet.

I wonder about this piece. I like that it flows with the stated and the nominal and the visual and even the spiritual theme. I like the cans better than the overt political views expressed, even though I wholeheartedly agree (not that that matters any). I get lost in the waves of cards of tiny words, delicate in the face of gushing obscenity.

Another monochromatic brown piece with metallic and gray photographic elements, it shouts overtly of oil and protest and anger and abject stupidity. We pull the golden handles to open Pandora's miniature file cabinet. We're awash in quotes and want to grab those cans and thumb-lever oil on the flames.

Sheila Cunningham
The Trinity River: The View From Continental Viaduct
Artist Book (Flag Book structure)
open 8 x 15 inches

I never expected this to be by Sheila Cunningham. I knew she was working in series other than the optic eyes (which continue) but was shocked and amazed to have this complex fold-out book of the Trinity River be by her, whose work I've followed closely, intently for many years of incremental surprise.

Then suddenly this tranquil water fall of sky and calm textures, liquid in fields of blue, dark in shadows, green trees and already too many tall buildings.


Norman Kary - Shaman Box
wood, metal, objects with teetering bird

A gold-clasped, opened black rectangle topped with a teetering, continually chirping plastic Blue Jay. A die brings the element of chance. A metal pulley weighs the world, a tiny orb dangling in a dark, cloaked interior space contained in a pine box. All that is the bulb in a lamp on a black shelf projecting from the wall, a round-topped shadow tilting onto the pebbled wall. Another (same?) Blue Jay marks a scale at 150 from 40 to 220.

Probably the details matter. Maybe they don't. I like that it's an attempt to illuminate a dark, three-dimensional space. It says something, but I can't hear the words, and I don't care. I'm sure Norm could elucidate nearly everything. It's nice to know the details of this and that and the other, all planned out and clear. But where's the fun in that?

See also our extensive and profusely illustrated Interview with Norman Kary in his garage studio several years ago and the reviews he has contributed to DallasArtsRevue.


Melody Hay - Trinity - acrylic on canvas

My eyes skipped over these at the opening, and I almost didn't go in when Anna wanted to see the her first-ever art exhibition again. When I did, I found scattered work I wonder why didn't work me first time through.

Melody's simple, obvious symbol-silhouettes are utterly uncomplicated paint, shape, texture, color — perfect. We see the canvas, brush strokes, block-a-block of repeating shapes,.

Redless in a cwhich object does not belong onstruct of primary colors. Why does not the yellow bird fly? The fish swims. The tree stands. Only objection I have is if it's one piece, why do three signatures jangle the dark ground?

Donna Ball - River Flies

Donna Ball - River Flies - photograph

Fascinated by dragonflies, I like both these works for some of the same and some of the least same reasons, mining mediums, possibilities, colors, lines and shape. I remember noting both at the opening, then they evaporated or I did.

Donna's orgy of flies mating, joyed and jazzed with life's process, procreating, recycling, abstracting as only photos can, is and seems unlikely, all on as real and fancifully figurative a simple structure as a bridge over a river.

Carol Swenson Roberts - Wildlife

Carol Swenson Roberts - Wildlife

On opening night I decided I didn't really like that that much. That I loved it. That I wasn't really sure. That it wasn't good enough. I worried for its oversimplified flies and messy, complicated ground.

I don't know whether what I think I see was put or happened in complicated coincidence. We never know these things. Sometimes we just stand and wonder.

The fantasy of life growing in the top-heavy background, a dimension away from the flattish flies oriented nearly the same, as if pinned to wild wallpaper or flying through a narrow glass hall too-serious bug photogs confine their creatures in, so they always show their best sides.

Beyond the blue flies, fathoms of green space and time like ectoplasmic growth bursts through a wild sci-fi confusion of primordial being, ungainly, kinda messy. Like life.

Matt Kaplinsky - Blue Butterfly
various paints on masonite

Stylized certainly, with nearly recognizable images in the orange hot lava-flow landscape beneath the blue's shadowed dark. Image-oriented rather than his previous color and texture directed 'canvases.' All those images floating by are more real and distinct than much of his mostly abstracted work before.

Fascinating to watch an intuitively talented and intelligent young artist's work change before my eyes. In the past, people have asked who are the rising young artists to watch. No one's asked in a while, but Matt Kaplinsky would be my first nomination. He's on fire with passion for his art and Art, molten with need to talk about it every chance he gets and electric in his constant change.

See also DallasArtsRevue contributor Jim Dolan's interview with Matt, In the Backyard with Matt Kaplinsky, A Profile of the Artist.


Fannie Brito - Serie Azul - oil

Fannie's piece may need those silver and black borders I usually edit out, but without those here, the painting is less. Less compelling. Less energetic.

I seriously doubt this was made for this show. It's too like others in her recent series. Blue series, without much blue, except in opposition to all that yellow, waiting invisibly. A knot of energy. Flowing. Almost splashing. In the time-lapse slowness of exploding.

I like Fannie's work. I have a small one I cherish. Her large paintings have real power. My little one could grow exponentially one day when I'm not looking. I think I see it out the corners of my eyes sometimes, expanding.

Limiting size to 24 inches in any direction (although not every artist was constrained by the rules, and they hung the rule-breakers anyway. Is anyone paying attention?) seriously limits some artists' freedom.

Size matters. Fannie's piece is bigger than the matrix of its X and Y axes.

The Trinity - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

J R Compton - The Trinity - digital photo composite

Hardly objective to write about my work, but objectivity is hooey. This piece was there, and I know more about it than anybody.

I waited till five days before the entry deadline to start. (Not a competition. All legit members' work accepted. Deliver the work on time, and you're in. No rules really, unless you wanted to follow them.) We drove down to the river after openings under a spectacular sunset, mostly mute when I stood on the bridge and shot down the river.

First time I delivered my piece to The MAC, it was the background. Just the literal local Trinity. Pretty. Blue river reflecting sky and set sun. Trees deep green. After my original shot was too dark, I cranked up the flash, shot again, hardly expecting anything. Lightened trees, gave it edge and a little depth.

After filling out the MAC's forms twice (my fault) and placing Number 33 in the first big room, I drove home, flashing on it as backdrop for a rising egret I had a whole other day to deliver. The bird fit, overlapped dark edges, sucked depth into it. The dragonfly on darking wood completed the trinity.

Raised Catholic, I ken what 50s novelist Robert Penn Warren called "The Big Twitch, the Little Twitch and the Holy Ghost, who's probably a twitch, too." If I understand, God the Father is Nature, everywhere in this. Everywhere everywhere. God The Son ascended into heaven — white like light, egret as cruciform.

The one I know is Holy Ghost, often seen as tongues of fire — pure spirit, passion, communication. What combines us, in all the betweens. A golden dragonfly winging up to balance and support the triange. A little gold in the bottom corner.

But that's just me. I know too well artists only get to start the discourse, the real meaning set by whom sees it and sees in it what they need out of it.

August 10 2006

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