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TSA @ NorthPark - Art, Craft & Clutter

Story + Photographs by JR Compton

Kevin Parma - Raise Yer Hackles

I've been linking my photographs of the annual Texas Sculpture Association Membership show at NorthPark (through March 31, 2003) shopping center for the last several days, but those pictures are way over on the TSA site, and I've been thinking about them long enough that I have some things I want to say.

Of course, I have some favorites, but here I'm just going with the photographs that turned out the best, although, of course, I wouldn't have shot them unless I liked them or saw something worth sharing in them.

This, however, wasn't one of my quick-walk gallery watzes. It took many long minutes to warm to this show. I walked all around and through it twice before starting to shoot these pictures.

I'm not a big fan of sculpture shows at shopping centers, except that it's nice there are art shows beyond galleries and museums, and that some people who go to those places get to see sculpture. NorthPark may be unique — I don't attend shopping centers, so I don't know these things — in having their own, superb collection of fine art sculpture, which is always confusing, since the TSA show is squeezed in between peices from that permanent collection.

Besides getting their work seen by the general shopping public, showing at NorthPark is a difficult thing. It is difficult to see the work, plastered as it is, in the squalid big middle of commerce all around. In its own island space, it is cramped and cluttered, almost ghettoized.

To wit, the elegant, curving piece esconced in the middle of the walkway thoroughfare down NP's center, shown at the top of this story. I found the only angle I could capture this piece from. Then, when I began working it up for the TSA site, I realized I'd be selling bras instead of art, and I'd failed to get the artist's name for the hand holding the hat in the immediate background, so focused on the foreground piece I was. 

Talk about raising your hackles...

Briefly discounting its environment, I like that it's just barely there, simple, direct, elegantly curving, a slender sylph of metal, a looping abstraction. What I don't like is all those guy wires and supports. Until we get our Zero Gravity Units working, it may need all that claptrap, but it doesn't seem right.


M Brigid Kroener - Abstract #47

Another favorite photo from that afternoon shoot, is this, another simple piece. Except this one is smaller and more efficient, and simultaneously more substantial. Even better, it's self supporting, sufficient unto itself.

It's stuck off, away from the rest of the show's clutter, low, near the corner of the eating area, which is surrounded by green ivy looking stuff.

The dark green gives it a great ground against the bright, contrasty, afternoon sunlight stabbing down from the clearstory high above. The light was luscious, and in it, the piece was, too.

Rebecca Romanek Johnson - Resurrection (detail)

Another of my favorite photos showing the interaction of blazing sunlight on sculpture is this cluttered window of odd and oddly suspended objects and materials.

I didn't even try to figure out what it was about, so transfixed by the way light fondled and charged it. The light I saw may have been a momentary, transitory event, but I'm pleased I was, for a change, in the right place at the right time.


Kathy Boortz - Chagall Dance (detail)

Of course, I instantly recognized the author of these colorfully painted bits of handed and footed driftwood. We've considered Ms Boortz an Artist Worth Watching for quite awhile now.

And it was darned nice of her to include in her presentation a black background, so the piece didn't disappear entirely into the confusion. James Crowe did much the same on a larger, though still not quite large enough, scale.

Unfortunately, my photo of Crowe's as always, delightful, airy, colorful dangles didn't turn out well. David Hickman's use of a black background was another hint at professionalism at this messy show.

Buster Graybill - Who's The Fat Cat Now?

Here begins a more or less direct comparison of two figurative pieces. The big fish was bound to be a crowd pleaser. A species we all recognize, lying warily on a bright red bed (I cheated and extended the red, well outside its original, rectangular frame, to simplify its presentation here.

I also deleted the large, laminated paper placard proclaiming sponsorship of the fish art, that was unceremoniously taking up art space with clamoring commerce (not unlike those amateur hour artists who notch their business cards in the frame of pieces in open shows, only bigger and more demanding...)

It took some craft to get him and his lurid, thick veined and spiky face there on that vivid red bed at NorthPark. I certainly admire the craft of it. But I question the art of it. I like it well enough, even admire it. It sparked me to think about whether it conforms to Art.

Has it meaning? It is imaginative, but does it give rise to imagination? Does it cause us to rethink anything? It's a good laugh, and we need those, certainly. But I wonder whether a good likeness is enough to comprise art.


David Hickman - Nicole

There's craft here, too, of course. That's carved, what, marble? There's a lot of sweat and skill in both these pieces.

Hickman's carving is a face that is a head that is a streamlined object — reminiscent of Raymond Lowey trains, and clowns and... My mind floats away every time I look at this suspended piece of elegance.

It's also nearly completely white, although in the darkened photo above, I can see some gray stripes in the marble that I didn't see in person. Before I built its contrast, so you could better see its details, this suspended stone cloud was white on white on white.


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