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Last Friday I had the opportunity to attended the reception for the graduate shows by Manuel Pecina and Jana Miller at The University of Texas at Dallas. Both shows were visually stimulating, in very different ways, and I’m amazed at how they played off each other so well.

Pecina’s works entitled The Arena consist of printed photographs on stretched canvases of a performance shown at UTD about two years ago called There is Never a Reference Point. The performance is based on the journal writings and watercolors of Jamie Dakis a woman diagnosed with Dissociative Personality Disorder (more commonly known as Multiple Personalities). I remember seeing the performance vividly because rather than normal seating the audience is seated on stage and immersed in the performance with the actors all around you.

Pencina’s work really captures the essence of the performance with its blurred figures and vague subject matter. His pieces also feel oddly biographical (perhaps due to being shown with Jana Miller’s work) telling a narrative the viewer is a part of yet separate from. The tension in narrative plays right along with the tension in the performance. I remember being overwhelmed at times by all the action going and Pecina’s ability to capture that feeling makes his body of work a treat to behold.

Miller’s show is equally compelling, consisting of several photos of her grandmother Jo Harvey Sullivan, some of her shoes and a few sweaters. Miller has photographed her grandmother performing common everyday tasks, but displays them with multiple Jo’s in a different phase of the task. The result is an army of grandmothers preparing breakfast or checking the mail that conjure up memories of my own grandmothers who seem like little armies always working away at this or that.

By far though, the best piece are the photos of Sullivan’s feet displaying her various shoes. The piece conjures up the cliche “walk a mile in a (wo)man’s shoes” and are enough to make any podophobic squirm.

The shows are up until September 19th and the Visual Arts Gallery at UTD. Go check them out.

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Along with The Impressionists I got to see last Saturday, I also had the pleasure of experiencing the Kara Walker show My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love at the Fort Worth Modern across the street from the Kimbell.

Kara Walker’s show is definitely not for the faint of heart. Between the depraved sexual acts and the number of dismembered limbs it’s like walking through an Antebellum themed prono set and meat packing facility wrapped up in one. I have to give this show a hand for sending my conservative Christian sister packing after just two rooms. Full of sexual imagery and racial tension My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love is a delight that you need to go see before it leaves on October 19th.

Titus O’Brien had an enlightening perspective on the exhibit in a review he did for Glasstire in which he states,

Race is obviously still a (the?) pivotal issue in our national psyche, and the intractable wounds of slavery are even now too often blithely glossed over or ignored.

and I have to agree with him.

Walker’s use of black paper silhouettes to create everything from large scale panoramas to videos is impressive to say the least, but the real strength of the exhibit comes from how Walker addresses racism as a two way street. Walker doesn’t pile all the blame on whites, but instead tells a narrative that blends facts, fiction and just a touch of fantasy to create something truely disturbing that brings into question what the truth actually is.

If nothing else the craftsmanship alone is worth the admission (although if you act fast you can get in half price), so use the falling gas prices as an excuse to take a drive over to The Fort Worth Modern and check it out.

This weekend I got to attend The Impressionists exhibit over at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth. It felt like walking into a gallery show from the old board game Masterpiece. The Kimbell has it covered if Impressionism is your cup of tea.

Renoir and Monet have a strong presence in the exhibit, but I was most impressed with Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s work. His use of figures falling off the edges and hard outlines really add to the grit and grime of his paintings that capture the feel of Montmartre where he lived and worked. Toulouse-Lautrec’s painting really give the viewer the sense of being immersed in the night life of late 19th century Paris.

My only complaint of the The Impressionists is how it is setup. On the Saturday that I went the exhibit was teeming with bodies which caused traffics jam in the many areas around the more well known Impressionist masters.

My suggestion, if you want to enjoy this exhibit go during the week (maybe even during the half priced admission on Tuesdays and Friday evenings from 5-8 PM) to avoid the crowds so you can really get the full experience.

Michael Westfried put on a great show Wednesday for those of you that missed it. The art was good, music was great, overall just a fantastic closing event. The performances by Lockes, C-Swag and The Boogie Man were sick.

Michael’s paintings continue to impress me the more and more I see them. They lie somewhere between nightmares manifested on canvas and latex and crystallized vomit mounted on a wall. I keep asking myself how something that looks so repulsive can draw me in like Westfried’s work does and I can’t honestly give you an answer.

The process Michael uses to create his art is also highly unique. He first finds paintings that someone has discarded or that he has created himself and then changes them. He builds a barrier around the edge of the painting with anything he can get his hands on (sometimes even duck tape) and then pours on a few layers of latex house paint. Once these layers have dried Michael cuts, pries and rips the latex from the original painting.

One of Michael’s weakest pieces, unfortunately, was the video piece on display during the closing event. It starts out well, it just doesn’t finish strong. Maybe it just got hyped to me a bit too much.

More of Michael’s work will be on display at Central Trak during Geomorph. Go check it out.

On the eve of Michael Westfried’s closing event I thought it would be a good opportunity to put some thoughts down about Mike and possibly get more people interested about his show.

Mike is an interesting guy, not in the inspirational-fluffy-Oprah way. Not at all. Not to lessen Mike but he’s just not that kind of a person. If you would have asked me a year or so ago about Mike I would have told you to forget about him. As far as I was concerned he should have dropped out of school between his habitual absence from class and his disheveled appearance, but somehow he always managed to pull through.  I later learned that his first two years of college were troubled by the looming suicide of his best friend, who is also the subject of the video that he will be showing.

It wasn’t until I actually talked to him this past summer that i realized how judgmental I had been and that Mike really has something going for him. His peculiar creation method (better described as a destruction method) produces some really unique art. The eerie images that come from the latex paint Mike has ripped and cut from the surface of other paintings intrigue me. Most things don’t creep me out, but some of his stuff does…

I’m also excited about seeing his video work that will be on display during the closing event. I’ve never seen any of it personally, but it sounds great. Dumping paint on a friend, people bleeding and who knows what else I’ll see.

It all starts at 6:00 PM tomorrow in the UTD Visual Arts building.

This Week

Dec. 12 - Dec. 19, 2008
UT Dallas (Art Gallery)
Fall Arts Festival

Opening reception Dec. 12 @ 6:30 pm

Artillary Retrospective