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Index to All DallasArtsRevue's Supporting Member Pages of Their Art

Big As Night, Too
Questions Concerning Edges

THE OTHER PAGE contains an accumulation about this show in not much order:  
   Original Organizing Letters   The Space After Dark    needs   Expenses   blue wad of tape   The Rules of Participation  Show Calendar  
ASSOCIATED PAGES: The Space at 419 Tyler   Our first show 4 years previous   The First Edgy Story

Every time I thought about about the first Big As Night September 23, I remembered all the edgy art. When we got our chance at the same space a little more than a month later, that notion carried through, in my mind at least. I urged DARts Members to show edgy art — art that scared them to show. Then I tried to explain what that meant but only got everybody confused.

Still, a lot of the work at Big As Night, Too was edgy.

Kathy Robinson Hays - Lake Winnipeg

Kathy Robinson-Hays - Lake Winnipeg, 2006
ink & tea on silk, paper & wood 16 x 20 inches

I was hardly alone in admiring her work at The MAC's Trinity member show earlier this year, and though I waxed prosaic about it then — and probably will again, I flat do not understand what is going on in it and over and beyond her frames.

Her images are muted and amorphous, laid out in a nearly naive sophistication with barely a nod to being framed. not too far out there, but far enough to make me wonder what's going on in her mind when these things come out of her. My confusion is not altogether unpleasant.

Edge marks the line(s) between an individual artist's present and future work. The thin slice of daring and sometimes unsure transition between what they have been doing, over and into what they might do next. Carrying the baggage of the past over that nearly nothing border into the unknown journey.

I am not saying that beyond these edges lies The Future. All artists will never head in any one direction. That's the neat thing about art. Recognized art stars begin as surprises who've pushed themselves out beyond the crowd. Usually without having quite meant to — although sometimes by sheer power of will, by intently and intensely doing what they do better than everybody else, or by doing something new.

Nancy Ferro - Angel Food Cake

Nancy Ferro - Angel Food Cake, 2006
Mixed Media 18" x 24" x 3"

Nancy was the first to sign on to this show and the first to express worries that she didn't have art that would qualify as edgy, then she brought this. Talk about arting outside the lines.

I'd kidded her about her pretty work and told her to bring stuff that scared her to show .

This scared me.


Nobody knows what really was edgy till after the edges flare into the future. Then it's too late.

I like to think I know it when I see it, but anyone who thinks they know what art is edgy are likely to be confused or caught up in hype. There's sure a lot of that running around.

This page is another of my attempts to straighten out the concept. Like that's gonna work ...

Inevitably, when people try to predict the future, they get significant portions wrong, so I'll concentrate on the bridges between.

Art is not just edgy when it portends the individual artist's future or the artist tries something new or different. To fully qualify as edgy, the art must be an expression of self.

Michael Helsem - Los Cristianos

Michael Helsem - Los Cristianos, 2006
oil on canvas 18 x 24 inches

Longtime DallasArtsRevue writer Michael Helsem is also a poet and inventor of languages, which may be part of what he is doing in his painting, and a long-time painter. I liked this one's thick impasto, jaggy edges and unknown subject. And I like guessing.

Some of the work on this page incorporates the artist's persona in an obvious, physical way. Michael presents his Self more metaphyxically, and stronger.

Since the show, I've wondered whether requiring work finished within the last two months would be simpler, more direct than asking for edgy art. People, including artists, understand deadlines and rules. We ignore a lot of them. We compress and ignore them, but we get the concept.

Too many artists showed old work, some of it years old, or from the last century. Some of that was very good and some of it sucked. Big As Night,Too was not an edgy show, although it contained work on some edges that wasn't hard to find. This page is about the edgy work in our show.

Donna Ball -

Donna Ball - Projection 1 (Series of 3), 2006
acrylic on canvas - 22 x 18 inches

I had to ask. Donna said the objects here began as car bumpers, which she turned over in her mind and here. We are — all of us — tiring of what we have done before and seeking something better, newer, more us.

I'm a big fan of Donna's photographs and her long series of Birds of Paradise, but iit is still fascinating how she seems constantly engaged in expaning her work in so many intriguing directions.

This image may not yet be right-side-up, but it's getting closer.-JRC


Edgy is never always going to be good. When you're on or near the edges, good is not even a consideration. It may be what we get, but it's not the aim, although we always hope. You start by getting good at what you do. Then you push edges. It takes awhile rattling around inside those real and imaginary lines before you know where the edges are and which ones you can or want to push. Which ones need pushing.

When you're being as you as possible, quality is not that important. Expression trumps value. What is important is reaching beyond what you know and entering the space of unknowing and working through that with art.

Pause, then push some more. If you've always done the same kind of work, it's probably past due for some pushing. The edge beckons.

Kristen Erwin - Sugar and Spice

Kristen Erwin - Sugar Spice Everything Nice, 2006
acrylic on canvas - 36 x 36 x 2 inches

I assume this is Kristen. Emerging. Not sure from what. But proud of it. Certain. Assured. A transition — intentional or not — accomplished. Look at the others of her work on her page linked above. This is a leap.

I write about putting ourselves into our work, and Kristen had already done that. I was going to write about her series of abstract collages that we hung over the door to the low white room. They were elegant and intuitive, but this painting kept gnawing on me.

Like many on this page, it illustrates uncannily concepts presented in this essay. We hung it on "the Four Eyes wall", the first one inside 419 Tyler, with other double-vision pieces. Fascinating how artists use eyes and eyes augmented to explore their own visions.

The art on this page is not necessarily art I'd normally choose to write about, but I have carefully selected these pieces, because these are or are so close to what I asked for when I invited the Supporting Members of DallasArtsRevue to be in this show.

I hope these selections are controversial, but it doesn't seem so from here. Some of these scare me, too. The scarier they are, the more likely they scared who made them, and the more likely they are to be edgy, and beyond that, to be leading into new ways of making new art.

Marty Mitchener - Superstar

Marty Mitchener - Superstar, 2006
acrylic on canvas 18 x 24 inches

We put this piece in the bathroom at 419, at least partially because we didn't know what to make of it. We got what we asked for — scary art — then we were too frightened of it to treat it well.

Of all the artists in this show, and of all the work, Marty's Superstar was probably the scariest piece to put in the show — scariest for her, the artist. She pushed herself, I think, when she made this, fulfilling the show's most oft-ignored guidelines in startling fashion.

The artists who dared and risked, who showed who they were in a particular and personal way, were dancing out on the bleeding edge.

By either not being afraid to let themselves go into their art — or by being plenty afraid and doing it anyway, the artists who showed work that told us what they've been thinking and how they've been thinking about it, and did it in their own peculiar visual language, fulfilled their roles as artists.

Heather Gorham - Her Head of Fire

Heather Gorham - Her Head of Fire
10 x 8 and 5 x 5 inches - oil on canvas

Heather puts her Self into her art more overtly than most artists do. There, she either makes fun or delves into her soul. I'd guess that the best artists have learned to channel themselves and their talents. I don't think it's calculated. Quite the opposite.

They've found a non-physical place where they can be free to do, not exactly what comes naturally, but what they best know how to do, unfettered by all the those constraints amateurs feel so deeply but haven't the faintest idea what to do with.


We are not decorators. We are, at our best, stimulators. When we are doing that, we are scaring or amazing people and making them think new thoughts. Whatever imagery, mediums, colors, shapes, juxtapositions, styles or formats we use in that endeavor matters not.

What is important is our personal involvement and expression. Sometimes we know what we're up to. Sometimes it just comes out and scares us and makes us think, too. We either care or are oblivious to the process.

I have known artists who paint over the scary stuff that sometimes comes out in their work. Sad.

Process is wonderful, exciting and fascinating stuff, but if process is all we can think about, we're too far out of ourselves to make art that matters.

James Michael Starr -Cold Eye

James Michael Starr - Cold Eye, 2005
found objects 27 1/2 x 6 1/2 x 7 inches

Of all the artists whose process I know, James Michael Starr most strives to express his inner self, putting together the pieces he has gathered in what I imagine as an extended sort of automatic writing — automatic arting.

When we free our minds, and let our hands and fingers do the bidding of our inner selves along with all the accumulated understandings we have gathered over the years or decades of our work, we make edgy art whether that's our plan or not.

It's an act of spirit, and it is an awesome power, if we're willing to engage it — I believe that Jim has been stepping carefully over the edges with his Self flapping in the breeze for some time now. It will be interesting to see how far it carries him.


The best art comes when we are on automatic pilot. Our minds may not be all there, but our souls and spirits are engaged. It's less about engineering or intellect than emotion, although all of those become powerful by it. When we are who we really are and show it in our art we are alive.

Those who fall back on golden oldies work and crap they hadn't been able to sell in the years since they made it, and many of whom are probably thinking just as deep and scary thoughts but don't allow their struggles to show, chicken out.

Rebecca Boatman - Discovery

Rebecca Reagan Boatman - Discovery, 2006
pit-fired stoneware, mixed media - 14 x 6 x 6 inches

Rebecca assured me that her fetish-like objects portrayed strong women, but I and others saw them more as women under siege.

Artists can say what they think their art is about, of course, but they are only the creators. Viewers and crititoadies complete the circle of understanding and meaning. Especially while engaging in art along the edges, the artist is often continually clue-light.

I see figures unsure of themselves being attacked by unknown yet powerful enemies. These victims or former victims are still standing, wearing their piercing arrows like armor, "facing" uncertainty.

Perhaps because we created a space that looked — as much as we could manage on no budget and only a few days sweat equity by some of the exhibiting artists — like a traditional gallery, the artists who inhabited it with their art felt they should only bring nice art — nothing daring or scary. There does seem to be a correlation of rough spaces with rough art.

We smoothed this gallery considerably in the days before Big As Night, Too. The September 23 first, Big As Night event — as well as most other artists' work in the other spaces along Tyler the same night as our show — was held in some pretty rough spaces, and much of it seemed edgy and edgier. At least some of that art was being created and installed while we polished our bright white space.

Maybe those other artists put more energy into their much more recent art than into the space they would only occupy one night. Maybe that makes more sense. Maybe pigs fly. I'm not convinced.

Norman Kary - Collage II, 2006
mixed media - 13 x 9 x 3 inches

I wanted to use (did for awhile) Norm's "Stepping Into The Unknown," one of his inter-stellar, EVA spacemen pieces to illustrate the ongoing theme here, but this is much more appropriate — and human. When I emailed Norm for the correct title, he told me, "It is called "Collage II" ... as mundane a title as I could think of. It was an opportunity to use an object (that is a sink) that challenged me to use.

"As far as I am concerned it was an experiment from my studio that I thought I would show (to the public).I like the freedom to show work that doesn't "fit" the kind of work the public is used to seeing. I have shown at 500X 's Open Show many years (sometimes under an assumed name) that doesn't "look" like my work and putting a very affordable price on the work. Haven't sold one yet.

"These "experiments" tell me the piece is a failure; they don't see my name on the price list; or the work was placed upstairs with all the other looser pieces. I don't take it personally; it's fun to come to the Openings."

3-D collagists like Norman Kary and James Michael Starr — who both kidded about the common confusion between their work during installation, may have a leg up on edgy work. Putting physical elements together can be an essentially intuitive task.

Although I've tried, I've never got to watch either artist work — nor do I blame them. I'd want to talk, and they need to think visually, which may be mutually exclusive activities. I have, however, interviewed both about their work and process.

See interviews with both Norman Kary and James Michael Starr.


Only one artist in the show sold any art. Norman Kary, who with his good friend Art Shirer, placed and hung most of this show (with much help and some direction), sold two pieces to a couple who would not wait the remaining thirty minutes to take their work.

They had to have it right then. Still seems rude to take art off the wall in a one-night only, four-hour show, but since Norm hung most of that wonderful intimate little room his and other artists' work was in, why not. He quickly moved some art around and had it presentable in those piece's absence within minutes.

Soon as we heard someone wanted to buy art, I ran up the street to track him down. As if it were a revelation, some sort of a miracle. And in some ways it was.

Oh, and the other big news was that Kathy Boortz was invited to show in an upcoming animal-themed show at Valley House Gallery, one of Dallas' best. We were envious.

Barbara Mabli - Joyful Rain, 2, Rotated

Barbara Mabli - Joyful Rain, II, Rotated, 2006
collage 20" x 23"
image courtesy of the artist

Barbara's work is consistently out there. We replaced one certifiable edgy work she'd brought that was too overall gray to hold its space in iffish light, with this charmer that reminds me of open heart surgery. Some vivid cross between a real heart and a candy one in red with real veins and arteries, she'd made it for the Bath House's Corazon show last February.

Her gray piece that holds its place on her Member Page very well, was, I believe, the only piece that anyone brought that was not in the show. This replacement was not the only piece that arrived at 419 North Tyler after the delivery deadline.

All four of Art Shirer's work was, in his inimitable style, delivered well after deadline. When we had a pretty good idea where all the art we had was going, and where needed some more. Like Count Basie, he filled in the spaces in our little impromptu show. Since Art put more effort and time and sweat into this show than anybody, he got special dispensation, and probably always will.


Other than that all we got was a good time, a lot of art talk and the experience of a lot of very different artists working together — producing another show. I kept thinking of those 30s movies with young Andy Hardy and the gang putting together a stage show. Like that, putting together this show in that space had the sense of community about it that I — and obviously others — miss. It was long, arduous, fun and amazing in many ways.

The night before the show, Anna and I finally put together a DallasArtsRevue flyer that explains what this site is about with a few links to important indexes. The text of that flyer has since transmuted into the Simplified Introduction to DallasArtsRevue.

Rita Barnard's Totem

Rita Barnard - What Is An Eight? - Mixed Media 32"x 32"
When I Am Finished - Mixed Media 24 x 24 inches
You've Got To Have Heart - Mixed Media 32"x 32

The best of Rita Barnard's paintings and installations have strong elements of either Self and Family or Politics. As Rita has done before, this vivid personal work deals unflinchingly with her sister's medical issues.

The sum of those aspects as well as her politics, which sometimes scare people, often approaches edginess. Instead of calling it that, however, I'll settle for classifying them as the mature work of an often daring artist who crossed over some pretty fierce edges some time back, although the differences may be subtle.

Another mature artist in an amazing long-term groove is Kathy Boortz, who creates her work in an uncommonly intuitive fashion, But I still wouldn't call it edgy, which name should probably be limited to artists actively engaged in crossing the lines while letting their true selves shine through.

There's more that needs saying and showing about this quick up-and-down exhibition, and I'll probably say some of it in future stories.

I'm especially interested in defining our set and setting in a series of near neighborhood photographs shot during my daily visits there. And a page gathering all the best photographs, showing our progress through the steps up to the show.

But this is enough for now.

J R Compton - Fan, Light Pulls - copyright 2006 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

J R Compton - Fan, Light Pulls
ink-jet print - 13 x 19 inches

Desperate to counteract the curse of old art and unsure whether my work was in any manner edgy, everything I brought was shot and printed within one week of the show, while I was already plenty busy doing other stuff for it and DARts.

The most and best of what I brought, all under the same deadline everybody else had, were photographs of the building at 419 North Tyler where the show was.

I had cake-walked all over too many notions about golden oldies and the accidental new, and still harbored deep feelings of not-good-enough and too-boring about what I delivered, but it was recent and scary.

I watched people watching art all that only night of Big As Night, Too. I especially watched a guy in vivid pajamas pants and strange unmatching shirt (it was Halloween weekend) stare at this photo on this wall and step back to contemplate it.

A little later, I saw him walk to the middle of the room and gently touch, almost fondle the pulls hanging there. He didn't pull, he just got in literal touch with the objects in the photograph he'd figured out.

I always worry whether my work holds meaning. So I was pleased with that subtle connection and confirmation. I have long lost expectation to sell work, but seeing him do that was direct visible feedback of the priceless variety.

And, yeah, I was the official curator of this exhibition.