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Visiting 500 Expo 2003

Story and Photographs© 2003 by JR Compton 

I finally got to see the 500 Expo 2003 show judged by UNT art prof Vincent Falsetta on its last day. I expected a high quality show and knew there'd be many instances of interesting work.

Iris Bustillos - Husband, 2003
mixed media in resin

Although many nice pieces scattered the gallery, the first piece I saw that truly captured my imagination was Iris Bustillos' Husband soft assemblage in the little member's gallery. Of course, I had to touch the furry bits. I knew it had to be deeper than what I could see. But what I could see was startling and intriguing.

It was a sort of simple complexity. A tangle of soft, natural materials stashed in something white and containing. Soon as I saw the unkempt sticks and straw, I came up close.

From that close view, I almost missed seeing that as collar. Looking at it now, it's an obvious symbol. Then, though, I was mostly startled by the jumble of stuff and resin, monochromatic browns, the white shirt blending into the white wall behind.

I was careful to photograph it. I wanted to study it more. I didn't expect to learn much about it, but I thought what I did know about it would be difficult to write.

Luckily, Iris was gallery sitting that last day, so I asked her to tell me more about Husband. She smiled, gently explaining she was married, and it was for her husband.

It was a Mockingbird nest, she said, and it is the male Mockingbird that builds and maintains the nest.

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Jennifer Gassiraro - the pink ladies 1
mixed media

The first piece I noticed, just inside the front door, was a pinkish, plootched pillow looking painting painted with a short spectum of red, pink and orange spots.

I liked looking at it but never, until just now, thought to wonder what it might be about. But I don't really need or want to know. I still like looking at it, vaguely wondering and enjoying its strangeness.

C.J. Davis - Blue Sticker on Paper #4, 2002
acrylic, house paint and wax on paper

In an oddly similar, plootched dimensionality, this monochromatic cyan wax painting by CJ Davis just sort of shook my shoulders and made me look and think about what a painting is or can be. What can I say? It's one of my favorite colors. I can't explain it. I just like looking at it and wondering.
 

Wang Nanfei - Coke and Milk, 2002
acrylic on paper (detail)

Another bit of inexplanable painting is this smallish, textural painting which I suppose could actually be of a glass of Coke and a glass of milk. Or maybe it just looks like it could be.

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Jim Snow - Drone, 2002
oil on canvas (detail)

Looking at these images as I attempt to write something intelligent about why I chose these instead of any of the other pieces in this show, I think I am glimpsing Vincent Falsetta's genius in selecting work that pushes at the boundaries.

Except for one piece upstairs that looks too much like his own work, I was continuously stimulated by his selections. Kathy and I have been thinking and talking a lot lately about jurrying shows, and I couldn't help wonder whether I would have chosen as well here.

I realize damned few boundaries actually exist for painting, and I'm in favor of the direction, little as I may understand it. I love seeing the new and different, especially if it attracts me enough to spend sufficient time to see the boundaries being bent.

Before I placed the Drone image above, while writing these words, while distinctly remembering the title and that it was formed of a bunch of brown insects with wings, I thought I remembered seeing the silhouette as a drone airplane, not a truck.  

Sometimes I like to find the things that aren't really art, but if an artist had put them there, instead of, say, somebody who wanted a cool breeze to blow through, we'd have to call it art. There's always lots of that at the 500.

And on this visit I looked for those images as well.

This spooky scrim, straight ahead as I descended the big wood, front stairway (I need to go back to get those better) seemed kinda spooky. I liked the mechanical silhouettes in the upper right corner and its window-esque treatment.

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I've always thought of this elaborate arrangement of pipes and meters hanging on the front of the venerable 500X building near Fair Park in the extended deep Elm area as sculpture. I've photographed it many times on film.

As for many years, I was inexplicably drawn to the blinking lights and multitudinous Xs -- I once counted well past 500 X-shapes in 500X's vicinity. Somewhere, I have a black and white photograph of them.

Now, like the tracks that once carried loud, heavy trains past the curiously closed (even on a hot day) big, roll-up door of the X's loading dock, many of those Xs are gone.

I couldn't help but remember the grand sport of crowding into that floor-to-ceiling aperture in a hot August night, us all screaming at the top of our lungs as the train screamed and squealed and screetched and rattled slowly by.

I wandered around the place for a long time, glorying in the summer-like heat of a warm winter day, gathering images and matching them to my memories of the artists I once knew who once lived there.

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 since the page was updated September 7 2008