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Previous DARts Exhibitions: 1026 Tranquilla,   Our White Rock Lake Artists Studio Tour,   Big As Night, Too
 
Studio Visits for Fierce

This is PAGE THREE — VISITS continue from PAGE ONE and PAGE TWO.
The Fierce Index links all fierce info including artists visited.

These visits were scheduled for the curator (me) to select work for Fierce. Sooner or later, every art-related action I take gets documented on DallasArtsRevue, so these pages grew. Eventually I will visit every artist in Fierce, though not at the breakneck pace I've set so far. These pages have been immensely popular, and it's surprising how different each is. There will be more.

I'm excited about bringing visits with Bob Nunn, Fannie Brito and Kapil Dixit that I've already done, and with Anna Palmer, James Michael Starr, Cecillia Thurman and others that I've scheduled or are tentative. More work needs selecting before the show opens 6-9 pm Saturday July 5. I'll record them and take photos. Maybe I'll catch up. Till then, I'm happy to leave it here with Enrique on top.

If words don't have quotes around them, they're probably mine. Gray words are me talking. Quotes are for artists. These visits are conversations, not interviews. I didn't prepare questions. I ask what I want to know as I learn enough to ask, often in the middle of the artists saying something else.

 

Enrique Fernández Cervantes - Portrait - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Enrique Fernández Cervantes

The biggest surprise yet was my visit with Enrique Fernández Cervantes, the much loved and appreciated Visual Arts Coordinator / Curator at the Bath House Cultural Center, photographer, and I am realizing, painter, digital collagist and assemblage artist, too. We email often, usually about Bath House stuff, and we talked and corresponded while he was shopping for a digital camera after being a diehard filmist, so I knew he had one and had probably been using it. He told me he had made fewer than fifty exposures with it so far, but he's done marvels with those, as you won't see in this story, but if you come to the Fierce show, you may be as taken aback as I was.

That he is a good — and getting better — painter was my biggest surprise. He's so busy promoting everybody else's work, he hadn't made a peep about his own. Of course he can't show it at the Bath House, but I've talked with him at length several times, and it never even came up. So when I saw his new work, I was startled.

What I expected was a continuation of his series I'd seen over the last few years. Dark, dense black & white or monochromatic color images of his Mexican heritage. I'd been very interested in those somber photographs, and that's why I invited him to be in Fierce. But what I discovered surprised me. I am impressed how good a painter he's becoming, and his digital collages caused me wonderment.

"Lately I have been showing more of my photographs because of the same challenge that I am facing with the lack of a space — a studio — to paint. If I had more space, I would spend more time on painting than now, whereas with photography all I need is the camera and now the computer." Yeah thank goodness, there's no more darkroom. "Nnyeahhh. I used to," he said. You like darkrooms? "Yeeahh." I was really good at darkrooms. He must have been, too, to make photographs as rich and meaningful as the ones that led me here. I never even had any inkling that you were a painter. He chuckled quietly.

Enrique Fernndez Cervantes - The Birds - photo Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Enrique talked about the movie, The Birds.

"I don't know what to show you, because I draw, I do assemblage. Lately, I've been doing these boxes, too. Inspired by the Rita Barnards and the James Michael Starrs of the world. As a matter of fact, this one — Rita liked this one, and that was a compliment, that she was willing to exchange this one for one of her pieces." Oh, great, a trade. He giggled. "And that's always nice when it can happen." Yeah. These are very nice. You can show any of these, if you wanted. What do you want to show? "Well, at first, because I was doing those photographs... Let me show you something on the computer." I followed him back through the house he shares with his sister and her husband, to the living room.

"I like reading a lot, especially Magical Realism from Latin America, where they merge reality and fantasy. So I've been doing a lot of that — a lot of people living in harmony with birds or interacting with them in a way that you usually do not see them do, in real life." This is yours? "Yes, I just finished this last week." Wow. wow. I'm impressed. "Two sisters. They did not know they were coming to see me to pose for this," he giggled quietly, "but it's just a story I was writing with these two pictures."

How did you get the birds to pose? "These are from White Rock. I take popcorn to the lake, and I start feeding them. I throw the popcorn very close to me, so they come close, but not enough that they go away after eating, because they don't eat the food, if I'm there. After a while of feeding them, you can tell, they get mad." They're tired of this game. "Yes. They start making noises." I am  looking at the piece more carefully: that's wonderful. I have never seen anything like that. All I've seen is black & white, somber studies. He laughs. This is fabulous. I'd love to show this. "Oh, thank-you," he says quietly. This hasn't been shown anywhere, has it? "No."

Enrique Fernandez Cervantes - More Magic Realism - photo Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Enrique Fernández Cervantes - more magic realism

He showed me another piece, a dual portrait of himself. Not gloomy. There's always a little bright side in it, I said referring to the black and whites I'd seen. But it's that high density photography of quiet solitude, I said, slowly putting all those adjectives together. That your work — before — and that follows it, and I adore self-portraits that actually reveal — and that's very revealing. "Yeah, my family have told me that," pointing to the Enrique on the right, "he appears to be sinister." Like he's the bad angel standing on your shoulder telling you to do something wrong? We both giggle. "Yeah, something like that." That's wonderful, too. Show me more. If you've got more. He didn't. These were very new. That's just fabulous, I whispered aloud. Oh, I'm excited to show that. I don't think anyone would expect that from you, and that's always terrific. He laughed. We both did. What a delight to discover such surprising work.

"My older pieces dealt more with my cultural identity." I told him I'd considered asking about that,t but I worried it would be racist, because I didn't ask questions like that about white people's work. "That was the result of being homesick." For what? "I was born and raised in Mexico City." How old were you when you came here? "I was 18." How old are you now? "37. The older work was more about that. With a connection to the people from Mexico, and the symbolism and the iconography from Mexico, too.

Fantasy Animal from Mexico - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Fantasy Animal Bobble Creature

What third piece would you like to show? The two new ones are, to me, thrilling. I mean, they're good. They're really, really good. But also something I wouldn't have expected from you, at all — "That's a good thing." Oh, yeah, I think so. — Just because of my limited knowledge of your work. "I haven't been very good about really promoting my work." It's hard to promote everybody else's work and your own work, too.

"This was the beginning of that style, and I'm giving you my secret here, too. Because I look at a lot of old Baroque paintings, like Caravaggio and the chiascuro type of paintings. I was trying to imitate that look. The sunset lighting." That's very nice, and you say that's the first of your current series? "Yes. Right. But I like what's happening. I don't have images of the model who was going to help me this morning. I was waiting for her, and she didn't show up, and that was a shame, because — let me show you a sketch that I was doing."

Enrique Fernandez Cervantes - Drawing - photo Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Enrique Fernández Cervantes - drawing

"A lot of these figures that are flying in the air, remind you of Chagall's flying couples, but there's a concept I want to explore in that series of two or three photographs that deal with couples — a man and a woman — and the problems of communication among them. In art it is very hard to communicate something to your partner." I know. We both laughed.

"There's a new series that's going to be called The Difficulty of Saying and Hearing I Love You, because it's hard. I was going to have the woman and the man screaming and trying to say, "I love you," but the other person is just ignorant of what's happening or indifferent to what the other person is trying to say. Then the roles would be reversed, because there was going to be another photograph where it would be the woman who is screaming, but they were going to be coming from above, and the man was going to be just standing right there like no one was there.

"So I really wish that that could have materialized, because it's a very personal message that I'm trying to express, but also the aesthetics, and it was going to have the same treatment as those photographs, because normally you don't see someone coming from the sky. So that was going to be piece number three." But she didn't show? "No." And she's been here before. She didn't get lost coming here, like I did. "No."

Small Painting Studio - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Back Porch Painting Studio with Painting in Progress

"So let me show you where I paint, so you can laugh." I followed him back through the house onto the small back porch. My lens wasn't wide enough to get it all in and it distorts that, but there's just enough space for him to stand there and address the easel. It's a great studio. He turned on some lights. Dark means cool, so I understand. "I'm going to do a show at Dallas Baptist University in either the end of September or the beginning of October, and it's the same series as the women or men with birds. And how they interact with each other, too."

He's taking classes there, because they're a private school and can accept his Mexico City credits, and because he can afford it.

"It's hot out here. It's uncomfortable working here, and I start painting and before you know it I am sweating, and the cat is scratching the door, because he wants to be in, and I have to feed the cat, and that's distracting, but that's going to be in that show, too." This is very compact. Small but not oppressively small. "When it's hot, it's hot, and when it's really cold, I need a couple heaters in here, but it will do till maybe I find another, nicer, bigger, house. It would be nice if it could be somewhere near the lake, but it doesn't have to be."

I remember talking with Enrique at the Bath House recently about how much he loves working so near the lake, that he would miss it, if he got a better job somewhere. I know you're a big fan of that place. "Yeah."

"I went to Mexico last December and found this little creature — a dragon or something." Does it bobble? "A little, but I think the fact that it was imperfect attracted me even more." Oh, this is very nice, I told him when I saw his personalized vision of Hitchcock's The Birds. "It's funny that you say it's nice, most people say it's odd; it's crazy." Well, but I've seen a lot of crazy art, so this is not outrageous, at all.

 

 

Richard Ray Eating Red Paint - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Richard Ray Eating Red Acrylic Paint (Right
after this photo, he rushed off to wash it off.

Marty and Richard Ray are dear friends. I've been to Marty's studio and their house many times. I've seen where Richard paints but I've never seen him do it. He's shy sometimes. But I've often seen her work, usually while talking. I'm a fan of both their work, have bought and been gifted with several. I will deliver Richard's birthday print after I discover which he really wants. For awhile it was the Crow vs. the Hawk, because he likes crows. I've got that printed, though it needs flattening. But lately he's switched to another, and I want to give him the one he actually wants. Find it a good home.

She's a potter. He's a painter. Sometimes he paints her pots. Sometimes they both do. He probably paints a painting every day.

Marty teaches at North Lake College in Irving, cofounded the White Rock Lake Artists Studio Tour. serves on the Board at EASL, and seems to be involved in other area art organizations and shows. We waited till now to visit, so she would have time to get pieces started. That's hardly ever a problem with Richard. I didn't know till this visit, that he's showing exactly the series I most want him to, though I was careful not to mention it before — and I've only ever seen a couple others in that series before. I keep redefining fierce, but those paintings fit all my definitions, and a couple more besides.

Marty Ray Talking - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Marty Ray Talking Intently

Their studio is not air conditioned but was pleasant with an air cooler and fans I can hear on the tape. As I started it, Richard vibrated his voice like talking into a fan, as Marty and I talked. He told of swimming nude, he called it, with about 50 other boys at the pond near Big Town across from Buckner Orphan's Home where he grew up. "Water moccasins were real bad," he said recounting a tale of catching a fish, leaving it in the watere then coming back that evening to find a fat water moccasin on the end of his line when he retrieved his fish.

What are you thinking about for this Fierce show? I pointed at Richard, because you are closer. "I found a few things from my Buckner Series and some old portraits — We'd have to look at them." Let's do that. First piece he showed was him in the water by the Titanic. "You know," Marty explained, "because he was there." It was dark. Gloomier than most of his.

"And that," he pointed to the corner where a stack of portraits stood, "is Vincent and Theo." And that's Gaughan. You were there, too, huh? And that's Modigliani. Marty said she'd never seen Modigliani. I suspect there's dozens, if not hundreds, of Richard's paintings that nobody's ever seen. The couple is building a new building in their back yard, twice as big as the old one, just so he can put his paintings where they can all be seen. What a treasure it'd be to sort through it. I've been wanting to for years.

Richard Ray paintings of Theo and Vincent - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Richard Ray - Portraits of Theo and Vincent

While Richard went off to bring more paintings, Marty showed me some sculpture by Kapil Dixit, one of her students, whom I hadn't been able to visit yet [but will soon]. While we were looking at those, Richard came in with what he called "Anna's Painting" of sunflowers she'd brought him for his Birthday. When she delivered them, she told him he had to paint them, though she didn't expect to ever see the painting. As Marty noted, "He signed it for her and everything."

Then he showed four paintings from what he'd briefly mentioned last year were from his "dark side." Not landscapes, not White Rock Lake. The first was very dark. He said, "This is about as fierce as I get." This is you. Childhood. "This is me and another guy taking our first drink." Downstairs in the boiler room? "Uh-huh." It was lurid in purples and greens, red and yellow flames and coals, a big purple bottle of Mogen David, framed by two young boys and a flaming pit.

The second had the clean and layered composition of his best landscapes with a built-in narrative and a proscenium strengthening the sense of depth and contrast. Of course, it included the big ferris wheel, the downtown skyline, rolling hills of trees, a profiled line of cars and a big, black tornado reaching down from dark striations above. You actually remember the1957 tornado? "Yes, I saw it from the third story. Me and this other guy saw it going over Dallas. And Marty and her family parked their car right here, he points to the line of cars. When I was about twelve years old." They didn't meet till much later.

Unfinished Flat Ceramic by Mary Ray - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Marty Ray - Unfinished Flat Ceramic

The next painting was more dynamic, violent, busier than I've seen in his work. Monochromatic greens with lilac highlights and one bright white spot partially hidden by belts snapping in the foreground. A lot of depth. A lot of action. "That's the Belt Line. We used to whip each other. You had to crawl through in your underwear, and we'd beat each other with belts." Wicked fierce painting. Talk about putting yourself into your work. "That is sort of fierce," he said. That qualifies. I agreed, asking, which ones do you like? "I like them all about the same," he said.

The fourth piece seemed simple, almost serene. Framed with Buckner buildings, a preacher thrusting a Bible at a primly dressed young man (Guess who?), crowned with one long bright cloud hovering over a spaced-out Dallas skyline. Interior were two objects floating, one glowing and tilted back saint and one snake, tight composition in nearly monochromatic heavenly blue with white and green highlights. Fierce in yet another dimension. "I was bringing a few memories out," Richard understated somberly.

"Oh, I love the tornado, Marty said when I was counting out the three for Fierce. They've never been exhibited anywhere, J R. [Although] a black and white version of the Tornado is in the [EASL] coloring book. "But he's never shown them anywhere," Marty said. "Even in our studio tour, he didn't want them out. I think he's been saving them." I felt honored to see vivid moments from his childhood, a kind of self-involvement I'd never seen in his work. Fierce.

Pots by Marty Painted by Marty and Richard - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pots by Marty. Painted by Richard and Marty

"All right, so you've picked Richard's," Marty announced. Yeah, that was easy, I said ironically. "I knew the time was coming near, but all I can show you is something's that's not finished." Fine with me. I knew she'd been busy and had planned time to finish whatever we chose for the show before Fierce. I didn't know she'd fallen and injured her arm.

"My serious work I'm not doing for sale, and I'm in a lucky position, because I have the job, and I don't have to worry about selling. But I do know some people who enjoy purchasing some work from me, so every once in a while, I make these pieces, like those sailboats — nothing for this exhibit. But playing with those sailboats, my idea was, well that was a fun subject, something different, and you could really take any subjects and play with designs. So sometimes I just play with designs, but I know in my mind that I may be using subjects that people," she giggled, "that people are drawn to, like cats." and sailboats.

Marty Ray - Spring Plate

Marty Ray - Sleep Walk, 2005 - stoneware, colored slips and glaze

She talked about her sore arm. "But luckily I already had some pots made, but I hadn't joined them. I had intentions to throw some bigger things, but here's one in process. It will look like the colors of this, although I don't have it done. But the nature of ceramics is that it has to dry up. I want to be able to put some of the color components of this. It's finally got a name. It's called Nature Walk. See, I love these trees and people and things flying around, but I keep thinking, now what are these about?"

"Well, they're about nature and about people." I liked. "But you had mentioned that you wanted pieces that had never been shown. This is the one I won the Mad Potter's award for in the George Ohr Museum in Biloxi, Mississippi. But that's not around here, I equivocated. "Oh, well that's also been in the Craighead Green show. I mean I don't mind reshowing it." Oh, no, no. I'd much rather show a new one. "Anyway, this is from 2006." Ancient.

Marty Ray - Joined Pot

Marty Ray - Joined Pot Yet Undecorated

"Anyway, so this is one that I'm expecting would be finished. And I'm not even thinking about the word fierce." Good. It only gets people in trouble, and it's not a good thing to be thinking about. "This is even further unfinished, but this might might come in finished." Wow. That's very unfinished. "My hand has been unable to — I did try to — Look at this from here. I did try on these to, you know I like to do these big round parts, then put on the little topknot." A little minaret. "I'm trying to put on a tiny little topknot. That one's tinier than that one. So this is the topknot for this. Which is not as tall as I meant to make it, but anyway it's going to be."

What is the story this is going to tell? "Well, I think the stories are just about where I live. Just my environment. It's not a story." I see it as a story. A narrative, if you must. "Anyway, I can't tell what the story is, but it's related to my environment. And I don't have anything else." Two is fine, I defended, but she was already on to other pieces in progress. "I have this one that I'm in the process of painting. This is called Cocktails and Art. This one is about art. Of course, I've not shown that one before. And see this one? That's a little wall piece that I've been working on. Well, I haven't been working on it; it's been sitting there for a year, and when it's completely finished, it'll be those colors. So I plan on finishing that one, whether or not it'll be in the show."

Matry Ray - Little Wall Piece - cprpy

Marty Ray - Little Wall Piece

Well, that'd be nice. To have two round and one flat. "The problem is I haven't figured out how to put it on the wall." We could lean it up against something. "No, no. I'll do something. Well, okay. I will plan on finishing this one. Actually, my little plaque is dry, and all I need to do is put the colors on it. I feel good about that one. I will feel good about being able to finish that little plaque."

"I don't know if I'll feel good about this one yet, because it's not there. And I have that one that's a possibility." Yeah, this looks along and definitely an art thing. I've always liked your art things, because we're all involved in that game. "You know, naming those is always — like Art Exhibit, Gallery Night, Art Walk and Cocktails and Art." Yeah, I think a lot of people are there for the cocktails. Certainly not for the art. "There's another one in process. See the green and white one?" Uh-huh. Nature again.

With that wrapped up, Richard asked if I understood which of my bird photos he wants, and I stared blankly. Marty said I'd called it Gang on the Edge, a poetic title I remembered naming something, but I can't see it. He said it was "from last month," so I'll be able to find it easily, and he set about making a drawing of it while Marty and I talked. "Yeah, I wanted one that nobody else would pick. One that was a real original."

"Somebody else might overlook that one." But I won't be able to get to it for awhile, I told him. This show is just taking up everything I have. "Oh! Marty said. When I go. I go every once in a while and look to see what you've got up on your visits. How do you do that?" With difficulty. When I came here, I was within one of finishing them all. But of course, I've got too many scheduled for next week. How many more visits?"

Richard Ray as Modigliani - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Richard Ray as Modigliani
Anna's Sunflowers are behind him.

Oh, who knows, I disparaged among general laughter. I just sort of ignore that part. I keep track of who's next, and I think I have Bobby and Fannie next Wednesday mentioning people I know she knows. "And your piece is there," Marty reminded me. Yeah, still. My piece from the last EASL show, in Fort Worth, is still at Bobby's studio. I never picked it up. But I will next week, I added hopefully.

She asked how big is this space? Meaning 14th Street, and I told her about the Space page with the video of me walking through it, saying There's big spaces and a lot of little spaces. And some of yours might be better in the little spaces, because people will come right up to them. Whereas bigger pieces  like Matt's working on and Nancy [and David Hickman and I hope Sherry Owens, and maybe even the elusive T. Stone] are working on will be better in the large room, and Ken Shaddock's stuff will be in the back room with an Adults Only sign on it.

Richard Ray - Self Portrait - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Richard Ray - Self-Portrait, 2005 on the wall in their studio

It's called 14th Street Gallery, and it's in Plano. It used to be doctor's and dentist's offices, which is why some of the spaces are quite small. They were examination and drilling rooms. It's also a digital photography studio. You send your picture in and they make big prints of it. I didn't mention there was a hair salon somewhere in the back.

Marty asked, and I answered that she has some stands. Nice solid wood ones. I just don't know how many Gaby has or how many we're going to need. She said she'd bring some of hers when she delivered their work. I look forward to seeing their finished products.


 

Green Flying Monkey Waiting for A Piece of Art to Join - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Flocked Green Flying Oz Monkey Waiting for A Piece of Art to Join

My conversation with Norman Kary started in edgewise. He was talking about some show in Plano, the city he lives in and in which we were sitting in his living room watching a flow of family to and fro through and out his home. Two teen kids, a wife, a dog. "I've been working on a couple of newish type works that I'm not sure how they're going to go over," he began. "I actually wasn't going to show them anywhere." Why not I wondered aloud? What were you going to do with them?

"I was just going to display them around my house. See how I like them." How you like or how somebody else likes them? "Yeah, how I like them. And maybe if people had comments, I'd let them make comments. You see, I have a variety of work." I see a Soderquist over there, I interrupted. "Yeah, some of this stuff is mine. Some of this stuff is a lot of other people I can live around. And I like to interdisperse my work, so if they find it particularly... they can comment upon it. Whatever. Stuff like that," he trailed off again.

Tell me about this new body, of work. "It is more framed-like pieces. They are framed and enclosed. Because the last show I had [at Craighead Green where he is an exhibiting artist], I had pretty much a mix of sculpture and objects. Lots of objects, actually. But this new body of work is going to have more of a flat surface to lay on. And objects on it, some of which are fabricated by me."

Norman Kary - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Norman Kary in His Studio Garage

Did you do well at your last show? Did you sell some pieces? Norm did not hesitate, "I didn't do that well. I sold work, after the show went down." That same work? "Yeah, it sold, but it took awhile before —" It took people longer to figure out they wanted to buy it? "I think so." Because it was different? "I don't know. I'm really not sure." Nobody ever knows, really. "I don't know what motivates people to buy my work. Sometimes they see it and they really like it, and want it right away. Others have to think about it, and come around to it. And I think that's what's happening. That could be because I try to put enough mystery in my work that you may not know why you like it for the reasons you like it."

Or it could be that his work changed. I thought fairly radically. It takes buyers awhile to catch up with changes like that, and meanwhile Norman is off into new directions altogether. Took me awhile to catch up. Often does.

"And I know my work is not always an easy thing to sell. Of all the galleries I've been with, most all of them have said my work is difficult to sell. They do say that right out to me." But they still take it on? "Yeah, they still take it on, and they still seem to sell it."

In the last few years, Norman has made what he called "a concerted effort to get his work seen in wider circles." He came "really close to getting into a gallery right up the street from the Menil, but they moved to Arizona." Norm trailed off again, muttering about maybe he'd hear from them again, and they'd want to show his work, "But again I don't know. There's a lot of logistics in showing out of state. How do they pay for the work getting moved? Plus, if it's a fragile piece..."

Most of yours are. "Yeah, exactly. Trying to move some of these is like a nightmare. So I've tried to, in this new work, and in a couple of them that I've already sold — ones of them that never really got to be seen at the gallery. They got sold the day I got there, not long after I left them. They asked if I had a couple new pieces. I said yeah, I'll take them there, and this last show, the group show, did you go to that? I thought maybe you had."

Kathy Boortz hanging in Norm's Studio - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Early Kathy Boortz Bird Suspended in Norm's Garage Studio

I had, but I'd forgot in all the photography and trying to keep up with the fast-moving conversation. Who knows? I try not to go to the galleries all the time. Sometimes I just need to get away. "I know what you mean. I can completely agree with what I've read that you've said." Art ennui. "I completely understand. Yeah, no kidding." I haven't burnt out on birds, yet. But I probably won't go on to cockroaches. [At that time, I hadn't published the Kaplinsky visit, so Norm hadn't a clue what I was talking about, but my laughter was contagious, as both ours continued to be.]

"Yeah, I've been reading each new visit. I like Charlotte Smith a lot, and she continues to intrigue me with the different ways she shows her work. I really thought it had limitations to it, but she has shown she can do a lot more with it." She sells those boogers. She sells most of what she makes. "She's great. She's got like an LA connection... I stopped by Pan American, and that's a group show, too. And they have a small grouping, and it's great."

There ensued a long tangent off from "L A," as Norm radio commercial voiced with vibrato wonderment, then veered through Joel Cooner gallery art and Magick objects I love to photograph, and Norm sees at his friend Art Shirer's studio, because Art makes stands for Joel, and then we were both talking about magic. "He just had some objects that I would have never known what they were. Things used by Medicine Men and Witch Doctors." I like the magic stuff, a lot. "Yeah, it is cool."

"In my work, I've always been interested in magic. I've got a small collection of magic books, but I was an amateur magician when I was..." You're talking about prestidigitation, I tried to differentiate. "That kind of magic, yes." But I was talking about spiritual stuff. "I know what you're talking about. But I was into magic for awhile just to get to the subject for awhile, because some of my the new work is leaning in that direction as well. And some of the work I had in my previous show was leaning in that direction. Circuses and magic and that sort of thing, even clowns. And I think some of this new stuff is leaning in that direction as well."

Norm's Prize - An Art Shirer Piece - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Norm's Prized Piece by Friend and Fellow Sculptor
Art Shierer - Icon, circa 1994- steel - 40 x 13 x 6 inches

"I'm afraid to come right out and just do stuff that looks like it's magic apparatus, and I might go that route, I'm not sure yet." Like any artist, we do some things sometimes just to scare ourselves silly. "Yes," he said. And then we find out that, oh, that was really a breakthrough. That seems to be the way it happens. "Yeah, I think you're right, there," Norm said. And I've asked people for the piece that scares you the most, to show, and that frightens people. "Yeah. 'Cause you're putting yourself out there." Yeah. Well, that's what fierce is all about. Norm and I laugh and chorus, "Yeah."

We descended into talking about galleries and art spaces awhile. Great gossip not needing transcribing here. Except I was talking about going up in somebody's tiny elevator, and that sparked a Norm memory: "That's how I met Robert Rauschenberg. In an elevator. I actually rode the elevator up, two flights with him and Patricia Meadows. It was the weirdest combination of situations. And I got to meet him, and he was a nice guy. It was all just a wonderful experience, and they left, and I went the other way. It was real cool. And I haven't seen much about him on the way of a tribute on anything." Probably the big magazines. "That's what I was thinking, the art magazines will all catch up next month or something like that."

The conversation delved into Ovation on Cable TV, all about art. Sports... Then Norm brought it back, "I read more than anything. I love my collection of books, and that's one of the things I've been the most interested in."

Norm Shapes - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Norm's Found Shapes Among His Heroes: "These works are found objects
that Art Shirer mounted for me, and they are part of my Urban Artifacts"

What's this thing you're going to do for this odd show in Plano? But that devolved us in another long tangent about art spaces, then eventually wound back through contracts and galleries in Dallas and Fort Worth and how to approach new galleries in other places, and artists we both know who were in one gallery or another but aren't there anymore, and artists we like and don't like, and Presidents' art collections and Cowboys & Indians art, which I like but Norm doesn't.

So you want to show me what you've been doing? "Well, it's really hot out there, because it's an unairconditioneed garage-like place." So you work in the heat? "I work in the heat, and I usually just have a fan or something blowing in there." You've never thought about air conditioning that space? "Everybody I know has thought about air conditioning that space." Laughter. "Only in the summer time. When I was down [in northish Dallas], I'd just open the garage door, and that'd be good enough."

So do you work less in the summer? "I don't, actually. I had a huge tree right outside my window that shaded the studio, and it was tolerable, but now that it's not there, it's really hot." That took me by surprise: The tree just walked away? "The tree that died. It was a huge Bradford Pear, and it was a beautiful tree. This one was huge, and they only live ten, fifteen year at the most. This was 20 years old and had been pruned, so it would stay together well enough. But eventually the branches just split itself apart, and one huge piece fell between the houses, and we had to have it hauled away."

Then the tape stopped, dipped into another universe somewhere, and when it came back we were talking about taking time off from art sometimes. "Yeah, it's nice to be able to walk into the house and do something else for awhile, then come back. That's what I love. I don't know if I could handle having a studio away from my house. You know, if I had the option of two miles down the road, as opposed to a smaller place right here. I think I would take the smaller place."

Norman Kary Studio - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

This Side of Norman Kary's Garage Studio

Tell me about the work that you might put in this show. "Well, okay. The subject is magic, and it has astrological images in it, a circus and clowns in some of it. Well, four of them I really wanted you to see, but Craighead Green — I had to take it down for that CADD thing." Well, let's see what you do have. It was warm in there, but not terrible, and his studio is so fascinating in lots of tiny details, I hardly noticed temperature.

I wandered around Norm's studio, clicking at fascinating details, I could never show all of. But it was next to heaven for me. Seeing an area, lost in all the pieces, where he had pieces of a future collage spread out, studying the juxtapositions just to check out visual compatibilities. Each new set setting off memories and mixing those with possibilities. Books stacked on the floor, two brass looking rounded bird cages. Pieces I'd seen before — I always pay special attention to Norm's work anywhere I find it, because I always find it fascinating.

More than reading his words or even listening to them, wandering around the minutia of his studio I felt I was peeking into the gears of his mind. Watching the synapses firing, sensing the synesthesia of sensations it might be like being Norman Kary putting all those textures and colors and shapes together into his own magic.

Ebay Stage Set Picasso Sculpture - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Norman Kary's copy of Picasso's Still Life, 1914 - wood and cloth - 18 x 9 x 3 inches

He pulled me out of my reverie to show me "a piece that is coming out of nowhere that I just started on about two weeks ago. Sherry Owens gave me this birdcage, and I turned it upside down on this gumball machine, and I've been working on this pseudo-looking spaceship satellite thing, and that's a piece I thought you might be somewhat interested in."

Any chance you might finish it by the first of July [then the delivery date]? "I could, if you'd like to have in there, I would be happy to set that up." I can't see this well enough to know, but it would be very nice, too. And they go together, obviously. "Well, they could. It is part of a series, and I'm using these cast walnuts. So I had a good time casting all these walnuts for hours and hours and hours at a time. It was fun."

I have to wonder about artists sometimes, I said. "Yeah, why walnuts? Why casting them? Why can't I find a damned walnut when I needed one. I swear to God, I went to all these stores, and they said, 'wow, that's seasonal. You can't just find a walnut anytime you want." Not so bad in here, I noted, becoming aware that I'd nearly lost all track of temperature. "Yeah, it's tolerable when the air's blowing."

I'm busy photographing details, and Norm's selling me art to show. I'm buying. "That's the Cassini spacecraft that went to Saturn. To photograph the winds of Saturn. I downloaded that from NASA's website, and I made a model of it, if you need to know that." I nodded. I need to know everything.

Norman Kary Studio Table - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Studio Table Full of Art, Past, Present and Future: the Bell Jar in the foreground is
Norman Kary - Towers with Clouds - Object with cotton - 7 x 4 x4 inches

"This is another piece I thought you might be interested in, I don't know. It's kinda weird. It's kinda wacky, and it has motion to it, and I like it." That is nice I agreed. "This is in progress. This is in progress. That's a finished piece, but it's about two years old. Never been seen before. And that's where the walnut idea —" I jumped back into the conversation asking mundanely. Some of them take awhile, huh? "Right." I asked about a piece I couldn't tell where stopped. Norm said, "I've always wanted to make a piece that starts on the floor and works its way up the wall and have different aspects to it. And I didn't know what kind of limited space you have there."

And it goes on like that, like the Marx Brothers talking to each other and listening and all talking at the same time, and it being fun and funny and sometimes ridiculous and serious and almost all art all the time. Wonderful and delicious banter. I want to be back there soaking in it and spitting it out. But I don't want this to go on as long as. As it sometimes goes on when I tape record a conversation.

Eventually, we decided on several somethings to show, but if he were to go back and redecide on some things else, I probably would never know. Or much care, he's so good.

I'm a major fan of Norman Kary's work. Even have something early by him that I adore in my collection that's about translucency, and my tongue wants to twist that into trans-lunacy, and that's probably true, too. But I have to mention that Norman also writes for DallasArtsRevue, and I visited another studio of his some years back when I was making little tiny pictures that would load fast, back when everybody had slow old modems, and when I in-site Googled his name it came up with seven pages of instances on DallasArtsRevue, including a couple of not-pleased letters on our Feedback pages. He and his good buddy Art were so instrumental in the last DARts exhibition — and it was so much fun watching them work together, that I made sure to invite both artists to this show soon as I knew about it.

 

 

Matt Kaplinsky and Progeny - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Matt Kaplinsky and Progeny, Allie (for Alexandra) —
Who goes stoic when a camera sees her.

Matt Kaplinsky is the most diversely amazing artist I know. He finishes two paintings a week, sells one. "Sometimes it takes two weeks, sometimes two months." He's handy with houses and things that need doing around them. He painted their new one. Pink and green, too. He grows things. Bonzai. Paintings. More, as we'll discover. Conversations with him are fascinating. His words are dense, thought-through, carefully considered. Yet he's plainspoken, friendly.

See also Jim Dolan's interview with Matt a few years ago when the Kaplinskys lived in Lakewood.

When he paints, he may have five, six paintings going at once. Often quite different. Paint needs drying on one, he goes to another. He always has ideas for the next one and the one after that. His studio has armies of paint cans. "I'm a compulsive buyer of paint," he says.

"I've got an easel set up so I can shove it one way or the other. A lot of the pieces I work on are four or five or six feet. I've got five by six canvases I'm about to get some more foundation down, pull one out and set it over here and start doing something else, then come back to doing this. This little-bitty guy I smeared all this oil paint around — I've got an idea. Over what was previously a piece of crap."

A Compulsive Buyer of Paint - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

A Compulsive Buyer of Paint

Did you think so when you first painted it? "Yeah... I knew. And sometimes I think I really want to do something that's interesting, but no one really cares for it, so I wind up painting over it. He showed a piece I liked but admitted I wasn't the buying public. "Yeah, that'll get painted over."

Do you know what they like? "No, I don't. I'm not sure. I do things, things sell. Obviously there are bills to pay."

Did art build this house? "No, no, no, no. But it does pay for a lot of stuff. It took a lot of Jennifer and I combined, more Jennifer than me to make the house happen. Art bought pretty much the furniture and some other odds and ends." When he had opened the door to the baby's room, he announced "all the stuff that art can buy."

At first his new studio seemed smallish. As I stood there photographing it and engaging Matt in conversation, it grew.

"If you gave me a space that was, say, 50 foot by 50 foot, I'd wind up with a lot of junk spread all over the place and still do the same number of pieces of art. So in an effort to try to stay focused — I can work on anything from one to six or seven pieces in here. Then I get two or three finished, and I get them out the door, and I get a couple more started. I still keep up a pretty good pace, just like if it were more space. It's just better organized. Plus I have the third car garage, which I use if I'm doing something — I still do garage work. Right now I've started reorganizing everything, it was so full of junk. If I'm going to stretch canvases, I stretch them in my workshop area, which is the third-car garage, and it's got a lot of tools down there. If I'm working on Masonite, I might trim it down there, then bring it up here."

"I want to work on really huge pieces, but not everyone buys big pieces. So, again, I'm just trying to stay focused on trying to earn a living. If I can get it up the stairs and in through the door, then it's the right size to buy. So, basically, anything that's six feet square or smaller."

Corner of Matt's Studio - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Matt Kaplinsky - Melted Church (Reminds Him of the One "also painted by Georgia O'Keefe")

Do you show someplace or are you just in contact with people who buy art?

"I've got art hanging in Jones-Walker in Dallas and Nest in Austin. And then I deal with a lot of interior designers and a couple architects and people who have clients in New York, and there's a dealer I've recently started working with that's shipping things to Florida, Baltimore and possibly New York. I've been wanting to do something in New York for ever. The closest I've gotten is selling a piece that's three-feet square to someone that lives in New York."

My mind returned to Fierce. What do you have that's finished? Or what will you have that will be finished on the first of July?

"Umm. Hard to say. I was kinda —"

What do you want to show in it?

"I've got a few pieces that aren't here that — one's that's kinda lighter, pastely colors that I like the idea of. It's sort of like it's squares and stuff, but it almost looks like a landscape. And then there's a five by six foot thing that I haven't started yet that the idea shouldn't take me but a week or ten days to do. I haven't really decided. I mean do I want to do big something that might be pretty cool or do I want to do something — I don't know. How do you put yourself into one canvas? It's sort of a mood thing."

Some people insist that I choose. Some people have ideas, then they run with it. There are some artists who are working on a piece, and I've seen parts of it, or I've seen a drawing or something like that. Or I haven't seen anything, but I trust them. I don't really have to know exactly. Whatever they show up with is probably just fine.

"I didn't get the sense there's a particular theme."

Oh, no. No theme. God, no. Some people just don't know. They will have a variety of styles and formats available, and I'll pick some. Some people know what they want to do. By my understanding of the word, fierce, it's an artist who knows what they're doing, and does it — expresses themselves with it. So if you want to make a big piece, and you've got some ideas for it. Hey, do it. Surprise me.

Matt's Undercoating - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Matt Kaplinsky - The Act of Underpainting - With a Sponge

"That may be just what I'll do. I've got cases of these big canvases downstairs. Like one of these five by six foot pieces with craziness all over the canvas. With this —" he said pointing to the Matisse-ish underpainting (above) he'd been doing while we talked, with vivid reds and blues and greens — "this I'd say is not craziness."

Nah, that's pretty organized, I agreed.

"But I'm not all that crazy about ... that. I mean it's something I can only do with moderate enthusiasm. But if someone was going to buy it, then ..."

It may end up that somebody will buy whatever it is you do, either there or someplace else. But I'd much rather you do something that you have a lot of enthusiasm for than something you think will sell or something that somebody already wants.

"Well then I know what I'm going to do."

Well, then, good. Great! A glimmer I can see. A little sparkle going on.

"I've got an idea. It'll be pretty neat. It'll have to be done by both — I'll have to lay it down to work on part of it and stand it up to work on part of it, but it'll be kinda fun."

Okay. Do that. That'll be excellent.

"Yeah," he paused. "That'll be fun. It won't be so far out of control that nobody'd want to buy it. I mean it'll still be saleable, but ..."

If it's something you want to do, that'll be fabulous. That's the fierceness in it. Some people wanted to do a fierce piece, but I tried to explain that when they put themselves into it, then it becomes fierce. But to decide ahead of time that you're working on a fierce theme is just not going to hack it.

"Like, where colors fuse and blend, but at the same time they have their own distinct places and maybe there's a lot of action and drama. You know. Maybe in the figurative sense but also in the literal sense. So in some way trying to make a sophisticated action out of throwing a cup of paint at a canvas. Just an angry splash, but then making it, oh well, there's the actual stuff going on around it."

Napkin Art by an Architect Friend - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

"International Award Winning Architect" Ryan Coover - Fishies, on napkins

"So what I'm going to do for Fierce I think involves pouring and splashing, but at the same time drawing, because I love drawing shapes with charcoal. Like a lot of my more recent pieces that have a lot of elliptical forms in it. I get this charcoal, and I draw a bunch of elliptical stuff, then I paint, then I draw some more, then some drawing and paint — put some painting and drawing in it — layers and layers of painting and drawing — and paint that's going wild and paint that's very intentional — whether it's painting with my hands or a sponge or a brush — or whatever."

"So I think the Fierce piece will probably be a pretty — I'm excited to do it."

That's fabulous.

"I was just lacking a little bit of confidence when you walked in. Like, is it going to be cool? But yeah, it'll be — it'll be — pretty neat."

All this time Matt continued painting while talking. I can hear the music playing when he was too busy to even talk. The scuff scrub scuff of his kitchen sponge on the surface of one painting or another is loud throughout the tape. Sounds almost like sandpaper.

I asked if he thought his paintings through, layer by layer. He thought about that. "I tried to figure that out once. I sort of imagine mostly how I want it to be. And then I deconstruct it. So I'm kinda working backwards from something. [Long pause.] I just start doing stuff to it."

"And once in awhile, I'll get to where all my spaces where canvases that are up, I've done something to, and I have to let the paint set. That's when I run down and mow the lawn. For an hour I might pull weeds or work with one of my hobbies — that I'm itching to tell you about, but I'm kinda afraid to."

Because you're afraid I'm going to write about it? Or because it's going to expose too much about you?

He returned to talking about how he paints. The question of hobbies hung in the air. A little tension not being resolved. He talked about the importance of layers. But all that time, the question hovered.

I asked where he learned all this art stuff. He cited auditing an art history class that didn't tell him how, but gave him a lot of ideas. Matt said he didn't like to read fiction or history or soap opera books — best sellers. "Things that entertain me are Art Since 1940 or this book on cockroaches. That is the things I like to read about."

"I have a few bonzai trees, and I like gardening," he said, then spoke briefly about the paintings he was working on. Then about gardening out here versus the eco bowl that is Dallas, and how different is the wind and heat, bugs and ecosystem out there. How he fought spider mites and desiccating heat with his bonzais last year.

work by a friend? - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Richard Ross - Hecho In Mexico

"You can't work 24 hours a day. I used to have a lot of different snakes. Then when Jennifer got pregnant, I wasn't so sure I wanted a toddler or an infant around a bunch of snakes. And then I had some bad dreams about that. And I also noticed that my reflexes aren't what they used to be. So all those things combined. I had venomous snakes for about 17 years, and that was enough. But I've always liked culturing things, and that's why I like gardening and growing bonzai trees and for most of my life I had an aquarium."

"So somehow, and I still haven't figured out how this happened. Well... Ten or twelve years ago, I started keeping a couple of different bugs, because it was kinda neat to keep. Well, one thing led to another, and now I've got one of the most diverse live bug collections in the United States. And it focuses on cockroaches."

I love cockroaches, I told him. I photographed them almost exclusively for about a year. That came to a point in a piece I called Menu Cover for La Cucaracha Mexican Restaurant with what looked like all the cockroaches holding hands and dancing on a red and white checkered bistro tablecloth, and that kinda worked cockroaches through my system. When I see them now, I usually try to kill them, with whatever I have, a shoe, a hand, a paper towel, whatever.

Dealing with Primary Colors - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Matt Kaplinsky - Learning to Deal with Primary Colors

"Well, you know the big ones that live outside have always given me the heebie-jeebies. So there's a certain irony in me keeping cultures of live roaches." I said, a lot of people try to keep them out of their house. But like Tracy Hicks keeps frogs. "Really?" Matt brightened and I continued. His show at The MAC right now. "Yeah, yeah, yeah," Matt chimed enthusiastically. I told him, I don't think those are alive, but he keeps them alive at home. On his website, he has them singing. Matt finished doing something, said "Just a second, and I'll show you something that'll really flip your wig."

I told him that all the cockroaches on my menu cover were from one cockroach, so I've looked at a lot of cockroaches up close and personal, adding that I wrote a book about armadillos, but I was of the opinion that cockroaches are really the Texas animal, although they're everywhere else, too.

"Okay, follow me." And I did, to another room across the hall with a rolled up towel stuffed at the bottom of the closed door. He opened it. I said, well this has the flavor of Tracy's bottle,s and I could see why you'd want to air it out.

"Well, I keep some meal worms. I need to change their substrate, because it's full of ammonia, and I wanted to vent that — everything from the common fear variety to the lobster roach." Whoo-hoo-hoo. The photographer clicks at everything I see. "Nice little colony going there." They actually live that way, in piles? "Oh, yeah." I have so many different colors and sizes and varieties." Now, if there's any of this you don't want mentioned in your story, I said, you have to tell me, and I will observe. Brief silence. "This is a Pacific Beetle Mimic. See how they look kinda like beetles?" Uh-huh. "This is one of Hawaii's imports."

cockroach - photo Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Long Horned Hissing Roach - Gromphadorhina oblongata

I was thoroughly impressed, continued uttering wows and oohs and ahs and neats as he showed variety after variety, often letting them crawl on his hands, remarking about their various colors and behaviors — like hissing. Some were beautiful. Some were strange. After awhile, some looked ordinary. Big but like beetles. Once in a while Matt picked one out of a bin and put it into his "miscellaneous" bucket because it didn't seem to belong to the others in the same tight lidded plastic bin.

He said he has a lot of glue traps around the room to keep them from wandering off. He feeds them fish food and they live in cardboard that looked like disheveled egg cartons and wood chips. He showed more than a dozen varieties — black and white zebra striped ones, and "these guys with light green on the bottom and bright green on the top "but they're excellent fliers, so I don't" let them out for walks, I completed. Matt knew them all by name, common and Latin and gave fascinating details about each. Somewhere in the middle of the cockroaches, the tape gave out, and I turned off the recorder.

Later, by email I asked why. He said, "I keep them because I am interested in them and the fact they are so diverse and misunderstood. I rarely sell any to other bug keeping people — I am not interested in commerce or their value really (other than a roach has a monetary value!) — though I have supplied quite a few to a couple of universities. I probably make enough money selling some to pay for the quantity of food they consume — about $500/year."

 

 

Nancy Ferro with Kayak - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Nancy Ferro in Her Studio — with Kayak

Listening to the tape of my Nancy Ferro visit is almost as much fun as the real thing. Glad I have the photos to illustrate this, my first taped interview visit. Nancy and I are friends. Have been back into the last century. I've been in her studio often. But this time was official and Fierce.

First thing she showed me with the tape running were folk art pieces by her father, who started making art after she did. A howling coyote with a leg rain-blistered from being outside too long and other figures. We're inside her house, after exploring her new deck, which supplanted the lush flower garden I'd admired at the last White Rock tour. Gradually, there'll be a vegetable garden there and a new flower garden over there.

Bolivian Fat Jesus - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Nancy's Bolivian "Fat Jesus"

On the table in the den was a wood carved cat in whose cut out, extended log-like torso three little yellow carved wood birds looking out, that her father did. Nancy said that a little girl sometimes leaves breadcrumbs there, so they'll have something to eat. She showed a Mayan crèche by her favorite Oaxacan clay artist, Josephina, whom Nancy likes because the artists renders large, Mayan noses on her characters. Nearby was a Bolivian "Fat Jesus" with attendant stamped metal angels.

Now we're sitting back in her studio and she's showing pieces of her work in progress for Fierce, with which she's taking the leap into three dimensions. Her work has always leaned in that direction, with shadows and depictions of 3D objects, even bits of frames and other attached objects referencing that dimension, but nothing as boldly three-dimensional as the piece she's making now.

Nancy Ferro's 3-D Dot - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Nancy Ferro's 3-D Dot

She explained, step-by-step how she gathers the wood, builds wood stretchers, puts plywood on redwood, then covers that with canvas, which, she said, "you can never see. I guess there's something traditional in me that I have to have canvas underneath." She seals the wood with gesso, then seals the canvas with more before she puts the paper on. She can't work on an easel, she says, because she has to lay everything out.

Some of the Wallpaper She Loves - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Some of the Lush, Old Wallpaper Nancy Uses in her Work

"So then I start pulling out papers from all my different sources to cover it, and once I get that worked out, then I start gluing." She showed me a piece she'd just added, squished it in place, then put a small barbell weight on it, to keep it down. "So this is all very, very planned." I asked if all her work was and she answered, "the beginnings are planned. The next stage is just the opposite."

Understanding Modern Art Breath Freshener - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Understand Modern Art Instantly Breath Spray and Other Objects

"I have this tarpaper [cut up into circles and lines], and I get on that ladder, and I stand way up high, and I drop them like Dada. Over my stuff, and then I trace around them, wherever they land, and then that's where I fill in with color or pencil or black or whatever I want to do. So the first layer is very planned and rather architectural and design-oriented." Then that gets mostly covered up? I interjected.

"Yeah, but it's really important that it's there. I've tried every now and then, not to do that — I tried it last week," she said showing me a piece, insisting I could not use the picture. It was very like her other work, but there was something missing. Something empty about it. Plenty of dark and all those elements I know to expect in her work. But soul was missing there. I asked if it confused her. "No. I don't like it," she answered emphatically. "It's not finished, but I don't even want to finish it."

Margaret Van Waggoner Painting - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Margaret Van Wagoner Painting in Nancy's Den

Our conversation veered off in several directions, then the veteran teacher brought it back. "So I trace around them wherever they fall, and I choose particular numbers, too, J R, with these. I try to have certain combinations." She pointed at a sequence of numbers on the wall. "See the numbers?"

She paused, citing "a senior moment," and I photographed it, asking her to put her hands back up that I'd missed the first time. "Fibonacci," she suddenly remembered. "The Fibonacci Sequence." I'd seen it mentioned in science fiction and suggested it had to do with randomness. She answered, "Yes. And no — the branches on a tree and the things on a pine cone — all those things are done in a sequence. That was his whole idea... But they add up.

Fibonacci Sequence on the Wall - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Fibonacci Sequence on the Studio Wall

"Anyway, that's how I choose my numbers," she summed. What numbers? I asked, again. "The numbers of circles or lines that I draw on it." Followed by more visitor digression, which she deftly brought back again. "I did the flat one without anything coming off of it, and then I got into turning the picture frame around, because I liked the back better than the front." More texture and color, I interjected. "And this one seems like a natural step — This is my fierceness. We laughed. "Then I make those circles three-dimensional, so they each need to be sanded, then sealed and glued.0 "This," she hefted the stack of wood circles, "ill be one solid thing. And it will represent one of those," she pointed at the dark circles on her paintings, "three-dimensionally."

"Then three to five of those on the floor in front of this. They'll be coming off of this." So it'll be art escaping from itself? I interrupt. "Yes. It is. But these things are going to be white. With a little color. And some straight ...," she trailed off. "No black." She repeated. "No black, at all." More purpose behind all this, I say, than we ever dreamed. "Yes, she responds. "And then there's going to be one three-dimensional figure. At least not showing any color. But I'm going to use Old and Found and New together."

"It feels like a kind of an evolution," she said with some finality. I went off on another tangent, we talked a little about some artists' need to fill up every space, which she shares, to an extent. I took another sip of the wonderful almond tea she'd made for me.

"So that's my story," she finalized.

 

 

Portrait of Jason McPeak - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Jason McPeak

Jason McPeak was the first artist not a DallasArtsRevue Supporting Member who asked to be in Fierce after I put out the call for artists favorably reviewed here. When he emailed, I in-site Googled his name, saw he qualified, said sure. And he jumped on the opportunity. Gotta admire that kind of confidence. It's that easy when one knows what one's doing and what one wants. That big infectious grin and commanding presence help.

Jason's Bedroom Table - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Jason's Bedroom Table - Bibles On Top and Art All Around

His acrylic-framed suitcase of janglies — crown of thorns? — in the Bath House's Corazon 2004 show (shown under the table) wowed us. That same year, we wrote five (short) paragraphs about his Laid to Rest at Day of the Dead there too. The next Corazon featured what we called "another strange wonder" and he's been in other shows there since, though he said that he's ready to branch out, beginning with the selection of works he offered for Fierce.

From the moment I walked in the front door he'd later open to throw more light on this or that I was photographing in his apartment, it looked like he'd just moved in and hadn't acquired wall decoration. Yet. Neat as a pin doesn't begin to cover it. The serenity of blank space was refreshing and hopeful, though photos of his family crowded the mantel.    

Two Paintings So Far - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Two Paintings So Far

Jason McPeak was making plans and confidently taking them on, step by step. He knew what he was up to, but prying it loose from him was less easy. From the samples he showed, he was already painting. Had more than a knack for it. Had a stack of plastic-wrapped canvases against the living room wall, nudging into his finished sculpture display. He had carefully cataloged his work so far and was getting ready for The Next Step.

But Not Yet. He didn't want to sell at Fierce. Not a problem, I told him, just an opportunity. I told him I wanted three pieces.

Clearly not what he expected. Not the plan. After me gently pleading and him quietly considering for many minutes, he finally said I could have two. I didn't want this to be a one-hit wonder show, with just one shot at understanding who an artists is. I want to show depth and let viewers figure out what the similarities are in a single artist's diverse works.

The Piece I Did Not Chose, But Wanted To - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

The Piece I Did Not Choose
But Wanted To

Choosing wasn't easy. I had to look at the four pieces he'd mounted along the living room wall long quiet minutes of my own when I began to understand what I was seeing. Opening my eyes and my mind. Not distant from automatically not liking, I didn't know what I was looking at first time I saw the four rough textured pieces lined on the wall.

Bin of Found Objects - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Bin of Found Objects Waiting to Become Jason McPeak Sculpture

Then as I slowly sifted my mind around them, figured out I not only liked what I was seeing, I was more and more intrigued by the multiple complexities in their simplicities of shape, materials — and stories. As we talked about them, I learned more and appreciated. Began to understand what he put into them. Still only at base camp deciding what's in there for me. Then he wanted to take away my new treasure. Big flip-flop, 360-degree turn-around in those few minutes.

Work from Before - Copyright 2008 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Work from Before

His previous sculpture was like that, too. Took thinking to twist understanding out. What he's doing is obvious enough — puzzling disparate pieces of found objects slowly into strong compositions. But how the pieces work or what it all means is more elusive. Notice all the circles. That's God in it. When you see them in the show, you'll pull together fishing references, too — hooks, boats. More will be revealed.

He finds things, puts them together, studies that awhile, eventually adds something else. It's a slow process, thought-laden and intense, might take years, so it's not surprising it takes time to figure it out, begin to appreciate it. Painting might be quicker.

Jason McPeak - skeleton art

And Before That

The big red, brushy looking circle you'll know when you see it, commanding its space in simple brushy splendor, circles in circles radiating red like the fiery presence of the Holy Ghost comprises mostly a large, rough, worn-nearly-out street cleaning brush he passed by on the High Five many times, days after days, before he finally stopped to pick it up.
 

This is PAGE THREE — VISITS continue from PAGE ONE and PAGE TWO.
The Fierce Index links all fierce info including artists visited.

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