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At DORF, a thoughtfully curated exhibition of self-portraits

    Installation view of
    Installation view of "Self-Portraits" at DORF, May 9-19, 2019. Work by, from left to right, Katy Horan, Alan Beckstead, Jennifer Ling Datchuk, Terry Powers, Christine Garvey and Margarita Cabrera. Photo by Eric Manche/DORF.


    How many DORFS does it take to change a light bulb? I don’t know, I just love the way the word sounds. But there’s no denying this “village” south of Ben White Boulevard in Austin gets the job done, if that job is presenting symphonic group exhibitions where you feel all the artists’ minds at work and the visitor experience is nurtured and allowed to breathe. For instance, there’s always a really excellent takeaway checklist — on its header, DORF’s distinctive logo is as delightfully awkward as the sound of its name: unless I’m hallucinating, each of the four letters is just barely larger than its predecessor, like it launched itself out the door and got bigger in the process.

    The DORF logo
    The DORF logo
    “Self-Portraits” continues 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 18-19, at DORF, dorfworld.com

    And that’s a great metaphor for the mission of this spunky, artist-run home gallery and its soon-to-close, thoughtfully curated pop-up show, “Self-Portraits.” No simple head-on-shoulders renderings here; instead each selected artist grapples with nuance and meta-concepts — how to self-present, which aspects of character and context to focus on, how many personal narratives to unpack. How do I see myself subsumed within how the world sees me — or not — and how do I express that?  These 21st century considerations of private within public (as opposed to the other way around) are inflected here with urgency and pathos.

    San Francisco-based Terry Powers literally paints himself being drawn. You catch about half of his sandaled foot and that’s all, the rest a portrait of his tousled home and the young artist drawing him. I like the conversation between her two feet — dark socks, heavy leather walking shoes — and his five bare toes. The artist and subject (each are both) in relationship, a two-way generative process.

    Detail of Terry Power’s “Emily Drawing Me in Kitchen,” 2019. Oil on Linen. Courtesy the artist and DORF. Photo by Ryan Thayer Davis.

    Alan Beckstead and Margarita Cabrera complicate that venerable portrait dynamic by placing themselves in broader social contexts, their messages similar despite very different artistic approaches.

    Beckstead, a longtime San Antonio arts patron whose own exploration of painting is relatively new, uses photography to inform his painted portrayal of friends at an annual retreat, the crowd of gay men relaxing around the pool, a community at ease. In the lower right corner, the artist’s partner is drawn in loving detail, his head, shoulder and hand deftly rendered from sensory memory. This is who we are/I am, the work says, reaching to be portrait, self-portrait and contemporary history painting, too.

    Cabrera, a nationally recognized artist from El Paso whose activist art is made for and through community collaboration, shows works on paper relating to a public project she was creating for El Paso’s unique and troubling history as a border frontier. Stencils of cut metal work contrast militaristic imagery with symbols of healing, calling to mind San Antonio’s unique and sometimes troubled histories. Titled “Uplift—Bird,” the digital prints speak to community will, the artist’s self-portrait implied as part of that whole, not separate from it.

    Margarita Cabrera
    Margarita Cabrera, “Uplift—Bird,” archival digital prints, 2018. Installation view in “Self-Portraits” at DORF. Photo by Ryan Thayer Davis.

    Three Austin-based artists working in different media create charged self-representations filled with psychological tension.

    Bug Davidson channels moments of Gena Rowlands’ award-winning performance in John Cassavetes’ 1974 film, “A Woman Under the Influence.” Sequenced painted video stills focus on Davidson’s singular figure, the surrounding space all shadow and glare. Cinematic narratives of fraught mental states seem reduced to a series of sharp gestures and poses, each one an alarm — can we recognize the warning signs now? How much distance exists between then and now, her and them?

    Christine Garvey continues her recent exploration of the feminine grotesque in an installation of starkly menacing body parts cast from viscous raw materials (tar, foam, plaster) and hair. Arranged in no earthly bodily order, the sculptural forms — called “Boundary Creatures” — suggest fierce agency.

    And Katy Horan’s winsome illustrations take a heartrending, purposeful nosedive here in a digital animation depicting three key phases of a woman’s body — before, during and after pregnancy. Presented on a floor-bound, vertical light box that draws our attention down on her, this Everymother character’s transformation is sparsely rendered but emotion-soaked and impossible to disregard.

    The artists/homeowners Sara Vanderbeek and Eric Manche created DORF as a bastion of art energy to serve the exhibition needs of a broad network of friends and colleagues, as well as talents they are always searching for. I like their embrace of artistic ambition, and enjoy watching it run alongside personal subjectivities and a knack for professional presentation, each strain given free expression in authentic ways. The ensemble of artists gathered here links art school friends, a patron and client, fellow ICOSA collective and Crit Group alums, and several of the most active exhibiting artists in the state.  Two of these are Jennifer Ling Datchuk of San Antonio and Austin’s Michael Anthony García, who both investigate aspects of identity through performance-related works of art.

    Jennifer Ling Datchuk
    Installation view of works by Jennifer Ling Datchuk including “Pluck,” 2014, video, and from her series “Blue and White,” digital photograph; porcelain blue and white pattern transfer from Jingdezhen, China. Photo by Eric Manche/DORF.

    In a suite of works from 2014, Ling Datchuk presents herself in the frontal, face-focused pose of traditional self-portraiture. But observing appearance is only the start. Of biracial heritage, Ling Datchuk interrogates conventional Western beauty standards and the hierarchical, even colonizing, attitudes and behaviors that seek to enforce them.  Across a video performance and three documentary photographs with enigmatic paired objects, she asks piercing questions.  “He loves me, he loves me not,” she sings in the video as she plucks each hair from her eyebrows, later reconstituting them with variously patterned porcelain curves evoking her Chinese ancestry. Transfixed by this work, its clarity and specific personal perspective, we link it as the curators did to common threads in all the other artists’ works.

    nstallation view, Michael Anthony García, "Los
    Installation view, Michael Anthony García, “Los Pasos Del Ser Nébula (The Nebulous Being),” 2018, at DORF. Photo by Ryan Thayer Davis.

    García, the justifiably ubiquitous performance artist, object-maker, curator, educator (How many descriptors can he have? Point taken.) made a new work for the show. From an ongoing series, “Los Pasos Del Ser Nébula (The Nebulous Being)” is a meditation on identity that questions assumptions based on appearances. Don’t judge a book by its cover, this evocative assemblage seems to pun. It requires careful looking and thinking — a simple table or domestic vignette turns out to hold a deeply affecting silkscreened image of his sheerly sheathed legs, generic educational world nation posters, and a colorful stack of well-worn hardcover books whose spines are turned away from view. García invites us to parse our own meanings from these layers; his richly nuanced work confounds classifications by race, role, ethnicity, gender, and every other categorization system that limits possibilities.

    Not surprisingly, one of the most ambitious works in the show is by the curator herself, Sara Vanderbeek. The project was to make a portrait painting of her and Eric’s daughter over the course of the West Austin Studio Tour, working only during open hours, exposing the very private creative process to public view. Durationally and logistically, that’s a challenge. And witness the photograph from which the painting is derived, taken at a Partial Shade/Co-Lab Projects outdoor exhibition, which of course turned into an evening of chase-the-child: Florida is captured here with her absolute fullness of spirit apparent to all.

    Sara Vanderbeek
    Installation view Sara Vanderbeek’s work-in-progress “Florida at Glissman,” 2019, oil on canvas. Photo by Ryan Thayer Davis.

    But what of the parent who has set herself another mighty goal? The familiar parental feeling of full immersion, distraction, exhaustion, pride, love and frustration leaves little space for self-reflection. So when an artist/curator/producer/partner/mom considers how to represent her self, it’s only a small surprise that painting the child, who is of her body, whose rhythms have become her own, who embodies all hopes and dreams, might be the fitting self to portray.

    And because DORF exists, the show becomes the deadline, the excuse and opportunity, to make art from love. As much if not more than any other object in the show, Vanderbeek’s (double) performance of creation in “Self-Portraits” blurs the lines between body and self, seen and sensed. And it sets the stage for more complex DORF projects to come.


    José Martínez: Music from things that shouldn’t be together, but are

      Composer José Martínez

      José Martínez is an Austin-based percussionist and a composer whose main musical interest is, as he describes it, “the idiosyncratic synthesis of timbral examination, Latin American vernacular music and technology.”

      For Martínez, technology is an artistic tool, and the music he creates often occupies a liminal place between electronic and acoustic.

      Recently, Martínez composed the score for “Misread Signs,” a three-channel video installation by artist Yuliya Lanina on view at Grayduck Gallery. And his multimedia piece “39 Inside,” was featured at the University of Texas’ Cohen New Works Festival.

      New Music Mixer, 5 to 7 p.m. May 21. Composer conversation at 6 p.m. Friends & Allies Brewing, 979 Springdale Road. Free; $1 off pints

      Martínez is the featured composer at the New Music Mixer on May 21. The free, casual monthly event, produced by KMFA 89.5 and co-sponsored by Sightlines, features emerging composers in conversation about their work.

      Recipient of numerous awards, Martínez has written for noted ensembles such as Alarm Will Sound, Spanish ensemble Taller Sonoro and Grammy Award-winning quartet Third Coast Percussion, among others.

      Martínez holds a degree from Universidad Nacional de Colombia in both percussion and composition, and a master’s in composition at the University of Missouri. He is currently pursuing a doctorate in composition at University of Texas Butler School of Music.

      Sightlines: You were born and raised in Colombia, but as you’ve said in previous interviews, when you were growing up, you avoided Colombian popular music. Why?
      José Martínez: It’s the typical syndrome of missing something once you don’t have it close to you. I was bombarded and over exposed to this traditional music and at that time, I wasn’t to fond of it. I was more interesting in finding what was happening in other areas of the music in the world. That made me explore classical music, jazz, heavy metal, and others.

      Also, being a drummer always made me lean towards the more rhythmic and percussive side of music, that always kept me in that side of the rock influence. Once I moved away, many questions were asked, and the traditional and popular music that I had rejected, became a part of what have helped to develop as a musician and performer.

      S: Here in the U.S., or now that you’re away from Latin America, do you feel more pressure to have your music reflect your Colombian/Latino heritage?
      JM: I wouldn’t call it pressure, I would call it contribution or an act of sharing. For many, Latin America is this colorful and exotic land that has been told in fantastic stories (i.e. magical realism), or that people see in photos and videos on social media. But that’s only one side of the story.

      Latin American heritage is one that comes with struggle but overall, persistence. I am happy to share in my music both aspects of that heritage. My music is populated with reinterpretations of ideas from one style onto another — things that shouldn’t be together are put against each other and react.

      How would you define your own musical style and how might we hear your influences in your music?
      JM: I like to think of myself as being able to jump around multiple music genres. I like to use whatever I have at hand whether tonal, atonal, beat oriented, experimental. I take what I need. In my music you can hear salsa music in many places, but also influence from Latin American literature, as well as modern approaches to orchestral instruments. For example, to me the Fania All Stars is equally important than Boulez, et al. And yes, they belong to two different worlds, but I belong to both of them.

      What are you working on and what do you have coming up next? Do you have dream project you hope to compose someday?
      Right now, I am revising a recent multimedia piece that was recently performed during the Cohen New Works Festival at UT. The piece is titled “39 Inside” and deals with the complicated topic of undocumented migration across the U.S.-Mexico border. The piece tells an imagined story of an actual event that happened in San Antonio during the summer of 2017 when a truck was found with 39 undocumented migrants inside. It’s a collaboration for chamber ensemble, electronics, video, and dance.

      The dream project is a one-man solo show that I am currently working on that will feature me as composer, performer, and programmer. This one-hour long show looks to put together music with Afro-Caribbean influences, technology, dance, and contemporary music.


      NEA awards Texas arts groups $2.1 million in latest round of grants

      Museum of Human Achievement
      The Museum of Human Achievement, a multi-disciplinary arts in East Austin

      In its second major grant announcement of fiscal year 2019, the National Endowment for the Arts announces $80.4 million for 1,114 new awards located in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and four U.S. jurisdictions.

      Texas received 45 grants totaling $2,117,500. Of that $1,027,500 goes to the Texas Commission on the Arts to support its arts programs, services, and activities associated with carrying out the agency’s National Endowment for the Arts-approved strategic plan.

      The NEA grants recipients in Central Texas are:

      • Austin Chamber Music Center: $35,000 to support year-round chamber music instruction
      • Austin Classical Guitar: $72,000 to support a classical guitar education program
      • Austin Film Society: $30,000 to support artistic and professional development programs for independent media makers
      • Austin Opera: $15,000 to support performances of “Everest” by composer Joby Talbot and librettist Gene Scheer
      • Austin Symphony Orchestra: $20,000 to support Connecting with Music, an educational initiative for school students
      • Big Medium: $25,000 to support the Texas Biennial
      • Collide Arts: $40,000 to support “Sound Garden,” a season of performances, workshops, and interactive installations that explore the connection between native plants and sound
      • Conspirare: $35,000 to support a recording project of music for chorus and guitars
      • The Contemporary Austin: $30,000 to support the exhibition “The Sorcerer’s Burden,” and an accompanying catalogue.
      • Forklift Danceworks: $15,000 to support “Watershed Dances,” an artistic residency with the City of Austin Watershed Protection Department
      • Mindpop: $48,000 to support professional development and career opportunities for emerging and practicing teaching artists.
      • Mindpop: $20,000 to support a study examining relationships between schools and arts partners participating in a collective impact arts education project.
      • Museum of Human Achievement: $10,000, to support a film series, a concert series, and arts workshops
      • Texas Folklife Resource: $30,000, to support Stories from “Deep in the Heart,” a folklore and media education and distribution program
      • Texas State University – San Marcos: $10,000 to support the Texas State University Black and Latino Playwrights Conference

      For an entire


      Navigating Yuliya Lanina’s “Misread Signs”

        Yuyliya Lanina's
        Installation view of Yuyliya Lanina's "Misread Signs" at Grayduck Gallery. Photo byScott David Gordon, courtesy the artist and Grayduck Gallery.


        Russian-born, Austin-based artist Yuliya Lanina (profiled previously in Sightlines) is known for her surreal multimedia works, including paintings, installations, and performances. For her new solo show “Misread Signs,” she’s transformed Austin’s Grayduck Gallery into a kind of warped circus.

        Yuliya Lanina performs alongside “Misread Signs” 7 p.m. May 17 & May 18; 3 p.m. May 19. The exhibition continues through June 2.

        In the gallery’s main room, a series of paintings form a menagerie of part-human part-animal chimeras: a bird’s head and wings with the body of a woman; a big cat with its arms folded in front of its chest; a skeletal torso whose head is not a skull, but a blooming bouquet of eyes. The gaze is a common theme: not only are eyes themselves a frequent motif, but these creatures stare outwards. Their focus on the spectator or the fourth wall feels shocking, reminiscent of Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty.

        Yuliya Lanina, “Momento Mori,” 2018. Acrylic and collage on paper.Photo by Philip Rogers, courtesy the artist and Grayduck Gallery.

        The figures sometimes hold a single object, and many of them are adorned with Día de los Muertos-esque skeletal and floral motifs. These symbolism-laden visual themes, combined with the heavily spiritual valence of many the paintings’ titles (“Mystic”; “Black Cloak”; “Wise Woman”), suggest that one might read the figures as a hall of ancestors, called up for consultation or celebration, and not just as a Surrealist deep-dive into the unconscious mind. In these paintings, Lanina’s figures are mostly suspended in voids of thick white paint, creating a sense of depthlessness; the place they speak from is not a place at all.

        “Misread Signs'” big top attraction is an eponymous 3-channel animation on a 12-minute loop, with an immersive stereo soundtrack from Austin-based composer José Martinez. “Misread Signs” was shown earlier this year at the Blanton Museum of Art’s SoundSpace event.

        In the video, a meadow of flowers blooms from the gallery floor and produces eyes, which begin to cry; a pair of photorealistic eyes weep in the center of a painted face; the world is born, grows crowded, and then wilts again. Lanina’s video stretches across three walls at oblique angles. Rather than playing with split-screen effects among the three screens, torqueing the viewer’s attention, Lanina uses the space to create an immersive (but never claustrophobic) panoramic effect.

        Yuliya Lanina, "Misread Signs,"
        Installation view of Yuliya Lanina, “Misread Signs,” 2019. Three-channel video. Photo byScott David Gordon, courtesy the artist and Grayduck Gallery.

        The animation is populated by the figures from the paintings in the main hall, but here they’re set in motion: the bird from “Mystic” prances across the screen, and the leather-clad creature in “Mistress” moves its heavily-lipsticked mouth. For these sequences, Grayduck owner and director Jill Schroeder told me, Lanina scanned in the paintings and then digitally animated them, creating a smooth, keyframed effect. Other elements of the animation have a low frame rate, stop-motion aesthetic, creating a pleasing contrast between analog and digital collage.

        “Misread Signs” has more of an emotional arc than a plot, per se. Between sequences the film goes completely dark, like a curtain call between acts in a black-box theater, enhancing the stage-like quality of the exhibit even in the absence of Lanina’s performance.

        Installation view of Yuliya Lanina, “Misread Signs,” 2019. Three-channel video. Photo byScott David Gordon, courtesy the artist and Grayduck Gallery.

        Martinez’s soundtrack is gorgeous and haunting. Hearing it from the gallery’s main room, with the film hidden behind (and much of the audio’s intricate high-end muffled by) a dark curtain, permeates the entire show with an unsettling sonic ambience. In the show’s second room, the score enhances (but never speaks over) the film’s themes of the unintelligibility of language, the anxiety of touching and being touched, and rebirth and resurrection.

        I particularly loved the percussive elements that flirted with, but never latched onto, melodies, as well as the fragments of speech in the soundtrack: “There’s something I want to tell you,” “Give up control.” This language hovers between exposition and dialogue, resonating emotionally and generating suspense without directing the viewer to any specific or narrow interpretations of their meaning. Notions of secrecy and control, understanding and being understood, and navigating pain are all elevated here and imbued with a moving existential urgency.

        Facing the animation, a series of small shelves hold seven sculptures (“Grackle,” 2019). These, too, are chimeric, their bodies the skeletons of birds and their heads human baby dolls ringed around the neck with vulture-like tufts of feathers. In the flickering light of “Misread Signs,” several of their eyes glow with steady LED light.

        In Lanina’s performance at the Blanton, she communed with these sculptures, bringing them into the context of the film’s emotional narrative. Here, though, they have a slightly bathetic quality, like the creepy-cute dolls’-headed animatronic spider from “Toy Story.” Next to the film’s wealth of images, carefully intertwined with sounds, the “Grackle” figures held my interest less as sculptures than as objects of potential interaction, closed-off from that possibility by the absence of the artist herself.

        Yuliya Lanina, "Revenge,"
        Yuliya Lanina, “Revenge,” 2018. Acrylic and collage on paper. Photo by Philip Rogers, courtesy the artist and Grayduck Gallery.

        The exhibition’s layout forces visitors to view the paintings a second time when exiting Lanina’s theater. For me, this produced an unexpected surprise. After seeing the figures animated, the paintings seemed unnaturally still — dead, almost — as if the zoo’s gift shop offered taxidermy. To feel a painting transformed from a still-life or portrait into a living being frozen in time was uncanny, and deeply moving.

        I also noticed new aspects to the paintings: what previously had seemed like insignificant lines were suddenly apparent as hinges for stop-motion animation, seams physically cut through the characters. Nothing underscores the exhibition’s themes of trauma and recovery more for me than these seams. Just as a bone must sometimes be broken again in order to heal correctly, Lanina violently severed these creatures’ bodies in order to bring them to life.


        Rudes Mechs procure new headquarters

        Rude Mechs Crashbox
        The Rude Mechs new space — called the Crashbox — is at the Bolm Studios complex at 5305 Bolm Road.

        Two years after Austin theater collective Rude Mechs was forced out of its long-time East Austin home, the Off Center, the celebrated group announced today that it has found a new, if much smaller, headquarters — at least for the next three years.

        The Rudes have signed a three-year lease on a 1500-square-foot studio space at 5305 Bolm Road. They are now the tenants in one the studio bays in the light industrial building known as Bolm Studios and the original home of visual arts organization Big Medium.

        Earlier this year, Big Medium ceased to oversee the studio rentals at the Bolm Road property. (Big Medium manages the studios at its current home, the Canopy complex on Springdale Road). There are several individual artists studios at the Bolm Road complex as well as indie art spaces Magic the Gallery and Fancy Fancy.

        The Rudes plan to use the new-to-them raw warehouse space — which they’ve dubbed the Crashbox — as a classroom for its teen programs, a rehearsal studio and a micro venue for small shows. They’re in the process of fixing it up, installing HVAC and improving the floors, and once it’s ready, they’ll make available to others too.

        “The plan is to make the space available to the community at truly affordable rates for rehearsals, small performances, meetings, craftworks — you name it,” the Rudes write in a release.

        There’s a community drop-in event 5 to 7 p.m. June 14. Then on June 15 and June 22, at 5 p.m., there’s a staged reading of “Fixing the Last Henry,” the latest from the Kirk Lynn’s Fixing Shakespeare project.

        For more information see rudemechs.com



        The Weekly Line-up: 5.12.19

        LEFT: Felipe Reyes, "Figure with Black Dress Looking Inward," 1988, pastel. Mexic-Arte Museum permanent collection. From the exhibit "Crossing the Line: Drawings from the Mexic-Arte Museum Permanent Collection." RIGHT: Pecos Pryor, "A Mile of Lines II," 2018, stone lithograph on Kitikata paper. Courtesy the artist and Texas Arthouse Gallery.


        A short and selected list of what’s good and what’s new the week of May 12, 2019.

        Book launch: Fernando A. Flores’ “Tears of the Trufflepig”
        We’ve been waiting for this. Flores’ debut novel is set in fictional near-future where organized crime on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border is a surreal business of involving genetic manipulation of extinct animals and ancient Olmec artifacts. The Austin-based author presents an original, absurdist take on life along the border.
        7 p.m. May 14. Malvern Books, 613 W. 29th St. malvernbooks.com/event

        Read: “Always Changing: Fernando A. Flores On Writing Fiction That’s Totally Fictive”

        Making Space, Preserving Place: A Conversation at the Intersection of Art, Community and Preservation
        Space has enormous power to bring people together or keep them apart. What role can historic places and space play in providing spaces for making and exhibiting art? How can new types of spaces and places for art develop. Panelists: Miriam Conner, community engagement coordinator, Forklift Danceworks; City of Austin African American Resource Advisory Commission member. Oliver Franklin, site director, Elisabet Ney Museum. Kim McKnight, Environmental Conservation Program Manager, PARD. Sara Vanderbeek; artist and gallerist South Austin garage gallery, DORF. Moderator: Jeanne Claire van Ryzin A program of the West Austin Studio Tour. Co-hosted by Sightlines, Big Medium, Preservation Austin and the Elisabet Ney Museum
        6 p.m. May 15, Elisabet New Museum,

        Artists in Conversation: Nicole Awai and Vincent Valdez
        Awai and Valdez are two of the artists who have contributed to “New Monuments New Cities” the exhibition of proposal for what a public monument could be in the 21st century. Last year, Valdez garnered considerable attention for his large-scale painting “The City,” a potent criticism of America’s lack of historicism. 
        6 p.m. May 16. Free; registration required. Refreshments will be available. Waller Creek Conservancy, 1111 Red River St. Event info

        Read: A Haunting Call to Action: Vincent Valdez’s “The City”

        Composite Landscapes: Early Film Special Effects
        Film historian Leslie DeLassus examines obscure yet historically significant early special effects cinematographer, Norman O. Dawn and his groundbreaking work, including the pioneering “glass shot,” a live-action scene shot through a large plate of painted glass.
        7 p.m. May 16. Ransom Center, 300 W. 21st St. Free. Event info

        Pop-Up Exhibition: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
        The Blanton’s monthly pop-up show from its outstanding print collection, this month feature modern representations of varied modes of transportation, from the underground to the skies.
        5:30-8:30 p.m. May 16; 5 to 8 p.m. May 17, Julia Wilkinson Center for Prints and Drawings, Blanton Museum of Art

        Ralph Goings (1928 – ), “Camper,” from “Documenta: The Super-Realists” 1972, five-color lithograph. From “Pop-Up Exhibition: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles,” Blanton Museum of Art.

        Time and Lines: Pecos Pryor
        Common labor, the passing of time, hand tools, simple art-making materials — Pecos Prior translates the ordinary into the sublimes. He scribed into a lithograph stone an actual, complete mile of fine lines to make “A Mile of Lines.” And a neat pile of two years worth of pencil shavings becomes his quiet monument to artistic diligence.
        Opening 5 to 7 p.m. May 18 with an artist talk at 6 p.m. Exhibit continues through June 29. Texas Arthouse,  105 N. Nugent Ave., Johnson City, texasarthouse.com

        Crossing the Line: Drawings from the Mexic-Arte Museum Permanent Collection
        The majority of artists featured in “Crossing the Line” hail from Texas and include well-know names such as Sam Z. Coronado, Fídencío Durán, Luis Jimenez, Celia Alvarez Muñoz and Paloma Mayorga. The exhibit continues through June. 2.
        1 p.m. May 19, artist talk with Felipe Reyes, founding member of the first Chicano art group in Texas, El Grupo in 1967. Mexic-Arte Museum, 419 Congress Ave. mexic-artemuseum.org


        City Council approves new site for Dougherty Arts Center

        The Dougherty Arts Center, on Barton Springs Road, is housed in a 1947 building originally built as U.S. Navy and Marine Reserve research and education center. Photo courtesy: City of Austin.

        The Austin City Council has approved the move of the Dougherty Arts Center.

        At their May 9 regular meeting, council members voted 8-2 to approve the plan presented by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, which oversees the city-owned Dougherty, from its current location on Barton Springs Road to a parkland site on Toomey Road next to Zach Theatre.

        District 6 Council Member Jimmy Flannigan and District 3 Council Member Sabino “Pio” Renteria voted against; District 4 Council Member Greg Casar was off the dais. Three city advisory boards — the Planning Commission, Arts Commission and Design Commission — had already recommended that council members approve the proposal.

        “There’s probably not another building in this city that needs to be moved on more than the Dougherty — it’s literally falling apart,” said Mayor Steve Adler.

        However, Adler added, with the Austin Independent School District slated to announce the closure of some its schools in August, considering those sites for the new Dougherty should remain a possibility.

        “I’m going to vote for this, but if there’s something that comes out of (AISD’s closed schools) I would engage in that,” the mayor said.

        Council Member Renteria also said he was disappointed that the city did not wait to consider the possibility of available AISD sites. He specifically mentioned Zavala Elementary School in his East Austin district.

        “I think we should wait and postpone this until after August,” Renteria.


        Butler Shores site plan for new Dougherty Arts Center
        The current conceptual plans of the new site of the Dougherty Arts Center. Rendering courtesy: City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department/RVi Planning + Landscape Architecture/Studio8

        District 5 Council Member Ann Kitchen, who represents the area where the Dougherty would be rebuilt, introduced an amendment requiring the city staff to come back to council after the schematic design phase and prior to beginning construction. At that time, the council could address any concerns raised by neighborhood residents and community members about traffic and parking.

        Traffic in the Toomey Road area is already greatly impacted by the many festivals and events at nearby Zilker Park such as the ACL Festival.

        Austin voters approved bonds in November and in 2012 for the $28.5 million needed to relocate and build the arts center. Zach Theatre also sits on city parkland and was built with $10.8 million of voter-approved city bond money.

        The preliminary plan calls for the current Toomey Road site to be reconfigured to create two new acres of parkland in addition to the new Dougherty facility. Two AISD ballfields currently located on the parkland would be moved closer to Barton Creek. A 200-space parking garage would be built between Zach Theatre and the new Dougherty.


        A conceptual rendering at the new Dougherty Arts Center
        A conceptual rendering of the new Dougherty Arts Center building from the west, with the Toomey Road entry on the right. Rendering courtesy: City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department/RVi Planning + Landscape Architecture/Studio8

        The conceptual designs for the new arts center show a 40,000-square-foot building  which is roughly 50 percent larger than the current facility. The plans were created by planning firm RVi and Austin architects Studio8.

        The current center is housed in a former U.S. Navy and Marine reserve facility built in 1947. The aging, flood-prone building now has a theater, a lobby gallery and classrooms and studios for art programs. Rebuilding is not option because the site sits on landfill and within the 25-year flood plain. Currently, part of the center is closed for repairs due to water damage from a leaky roof.

        City staff report that in 2017 the Dougherty had 66,000 visitors and generated over $640,000 from class fees and rental fees, making it among the Parks and Recreation Department’s top revenue sites.

        The Dougherty Arts Center opened in 1978 after attorney Chrys Dougherty purchased the building and donated it to the city, naming the center in honor of his wife, Mary Ireland Graves Dougherty.


        Blanton receives $2 million for endowed curatorship in art of the Spanish Americas

        Installation View of Art of the Spanish Americas galleries
        Installation view of Art of the Spanish Americas galleries, Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin

        The Blanton Museum of Art has received a $2 million donation from the Thoma Foundation to endow a curatorial position devoted to art of the Spanish Americas.

        The curatorship — the Marilynn Thoma Associate Curator, Art of the Spanish Americas — is only the second such endowed curatorial position for Spanish American art in the United States. The position is currently held Rosario I. Granados, a recognized expert in the field who joined the Blanton staff in 2016.

        Carl and Marilynn Thoma and their Chicago-based foundation have been involved with the Blanton for more than a decade and are members of the Blanton National Leadership Board.

        In 2008, the Blanton presented the exhibition “The Virgin, Saints, and Angels: South American Paintings 1600-1825 from the Carl and Marilynn Thoma Collection.”  Then in 2016, the foundation made a long-term loan of works from its esteemed collection and gave the Blanton a three-year grant to support scholarly research in art of the Spanish Americas.

        “The Blanton has demonstrated meaningful and sustained commitment to the study of the history of art of Latin America,” said Marilynn Thoma in a statemen. “Carl and I are proud to grow our relationship with the museum by endowing this position. Rosario is a devoted scholar, and we look forward to following her continued contributions to the field.”

        Since joining the Blanton, Granados has organized several exhibitions including the upcoming Mapping Memory: Space and History in 16th-century Mexico, featuring maps from the 16th century drawn from the Benson Collection. “Mapping Memory” will be on view at the Blanton June 29 to August 25. Also forthcoming is “Painted Cloth: Fashion and Ritual in Colonial Latin America” which examines the social role of textiles and their visual representations in different media produced in Bolivia, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela during the 1600s and 1700s.

        “The artistic production of the Spanish Americas is both culturally complex and extraordinarily beautiful; it demonstrates the melding of visual cultures during a time of change and flux,” said Granados in a statement.

        The Blanton was one of the first museums in North America to collect modern and contemporary Latin American art when it began to do so in 1963. And in 1988, the Blanton became the first museum in the United States to establish a curatorial position devoted to modern and contemporary Latin American art.

        In recent years, Blanton expanded its Latin American holdings and attentions. In addition the Thoma Foundation’s long-term loan, the museum received a gift of 83 works from colonial-era Venezuela from the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros in 2017 and earlier this year announced purchase of the Huber Collection of 119 works from the Spanish and Portuguese colonial era in the Americas.


        Katy McCarthy explores the ways that women are remembered by history — or not

          Detail image of Specimen, Katy McCarthy
          Detail image of "Specimen," Katy McCarthy, hand-assembled rug made with wool yarn hand-dyed with botanicals, 2019. Photography by Sandy Carson.


          After a long day of collecting plant specimens in West Texas, Mary Sophie Young hitched up her burros and sat down, as she did every evening, to write in her journal. In 1912 she had become the first curator of the University of Texas at Austin’s new herbarium. These trips out west would help her to expand the collection by more than 13,000 specimens before her early death at age 46 in 1919.

          One hundred years later, Young’s journals are revived in Katy McCarthy’s new exhibition “Such Lonely Country” at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. McCarthy’s video, sculpture, and textile works use historical research and autobiographical reflection to explore new territory between connection and loneliness in the Texas landscape.

          Originally from California and now based in New York City, McCarthy is the inaugural fellow of the St. Elmo Arts Residency, a joint program between UT’s Department of Art and Art History and the Wildflower Center, which joined the University of Texas system in 2006. The nine month residency awards one recent MFA graduate with a $30,000 stipend, housing and studio space, as well as teaching opportunities at UT and the Wildflower Center.

          The project culminates with a solo exhibition of the fellow’s work at the McDermott Learning Center, a restored 19th-century carriage house at the Wildflower Center. The residency is a significant move towards integrating the two institutions’ missions and audiences through a melding of science and art.

          Katy McCarthy video installation
          Katy McCarthy, “Supply,” 2:40 minute digital video, foam, plastic, epoxy, rubber, MacBook, USB drive, USB extension cable, MacBook charger; 2019. Photography by Sandy Carson.

          McCarthy’s work explores the ways that women are remembered by history — or not. While her previous pieces have been based on Mary Todd Lincoln and Nina De Villard, in “Supply” (2019)  the artist foregrounds her own labor and body. The white, life-sized bust of McCarthy’s nude torso resembles the sculptures of Elisabet Ney, another trailblazing Austin woman from the early 20th century. The viewer must get close to the sculpture, leaning over the figure’s shoulder to see the laptop screen cradled in her arms. There, a compilation of the McCarthy’s past videos stream from her lactating breasts via 3D animated milk ducts. Intimate and unsettling, “Supply” provokes questions about where art comes from, and its ability to nourish and transform.

          installation view
          An installation view of the exhibition “Such Lonely Country.” At the foreground, Katy McCarthy’s “Specimen”; in the background (from left to right): “Supply,” “Such Lonely Country,” and “Vasculum,” 2019. Photography by Sandy Carson.

          “Vasculum 1” (2019) features two videos playing inside a metal box that has been mounted on the legs of a wooden rocking horse. One video shows the Wildflower Center’s curator Minnette Marr collecting seeds from a black-eyed Susan, while the other shows McCarthy mimicking the botanist’s motions by shaking baby rattles. Again the artist raises the question of women’s work, but this time caretaking expands to nature itself. Marr is the curator of the Wildflower Center’s seed bank, and the box is a vasculum that botanists use to collect plant samples in the field. The conservation process that McCarthy’s piece captures is an essential tool in the global fight to protect biodiversity in the face of climate change, natural disasters, disease, and war, but filtered through the artist’s personal struggles with her own reproductive health.

          In the video “Such Lonely Country” (2019), we see the artist move between Austin and West Texas as she reads from journal entries by Young and herself. At times McCarthy’s reflections about adapting to her new environment overlap word for word with Young’s distant mirages and jumping jackrabbits. Both women experience “the suggestion of human life with the conviction of its absence.”

          But there are also opportunities for wonder and discovery in these moments of loneliness, what Young describes (through McCarthy’s voice) as the “uncanny feeling of the consciousness of inanimate things.” For McCarthy, writing opens up a point of contact with someone across time and space. As she blurs the line between investigation and impersonation, McCarthy talks with and about Young as much as she talks with and about herself. In Young she’s found a parallel, even a partner.

          “Specimen” (2019) is a large wool floor rug that is hand dyed with plants that McCarthy collected from the Wildflower Center and its surroundings. Harvesting, dyeing, and rug making was a way for the artist to insert her physical hand into the work, and she describes rugs as a part of a domestic landscape. Indeed, the piece was dyed with a number of local plants including acacia, yaupon, sumac, wax myrtle, prickly poppy, Indian paintbrush, and more. The names encompasses an entire Texas landscape, conjuring passages in Young’s journals where she describes sweeping vistas through the scores of plants they contain.

          Detail image of Specimen, Katy McCarthy
          Detail image of “Specimen,” Katy McCarthy, hand-assembled rug made with wool yarn hand-dyed with botanicals, 2019. Photography by Sandy Carson.

          The rug is modeled after botanical specimen papers from UT’s herbarium, but the softness and thickness of its wool fibers render its figures and text almost unreadable until closer inspection. The act of moving in and out of focus, of scanning a whole space for a single detail, mirrors the work of the botanist in the field, as well as the artist in the studio.


          Detail image of Specimen, Katy McCarthy
          Detail image of “Specimen,” by Katy McCarthy, hand-assembled rug made with wool yarn hand-dyed with botanicals, 2019. Photography by Sandy Carson.

          During her residency McCarthy taught Transmedia courses at UT, encouraging students to engage with new media and technology in relation to the human body. She curated an exhibition of student work at her studio in the fall, and will curate another this month as part of the West Austin Studio Tour. In her time between UT and southwest Austin, between teaching and making, McCarthy has formed real bonds with the city. Luckily for us, she will return this fall as a professor at UT and continue to bring a her sensitive, poignant voice to our Texan landscape.

          The Wildflower Center is located in what used to be mostly brush country. I grew up nearby, at the end of a dusty road that’s now a major thoroughfare. My own memories of the area are the stuff of Young’s journals, filled with tall grass, big oaks, prickly cactus, wild blackberries and even the stray jackrabbit. Now the Wildflower Center is an island of green in an ever-expanding sea of suburbs.

          If spread is inevitable and so is the change that comes with it, then the St. Elmo Arts Residency is a positive direction for linking botany and art, center and periphery, campus and country.

          “Such Lonely Country” is on view at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center through May 19.


          The Contemporary Austin welcomes new Moody Pavilions at Laguna Gloria

            Laguna Gloria entrance
            The new Moody Pavilions at the Contemporary Austin - Laguna Gloria Photo by Alexa Johnson

            The Contemporary Austin is celebrating the Moody Pavilions, the first stage of a multi-year project to make its historic Laguna Gloria site more accessible.

            The Moody Pavilions — so named in honor of a $3 million grant from the Moody Foundation —  offer a new entrance to the 14-acres of lakeside sculpture gardens with the new pavilions structures offering amenities long unavailable at the site. A new site-specific sculpture by Jessica Stockholder is also prominently sited near the newly opened up front gate.

            A free, public grand opening event takes place 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 11.

            All the new features are part of the first phase of a master plan that is aimed at enhancing the Laguna Gloria grounds to make it more accessible for displaying outside art works and for accomodating increased visitors. As part of the first phase, significant landscape restoration work as already been underway, including the removal of invasive species of shrubs, vines, and trees from throughout Laguna Gloria’s fourteen acres.

            Moody Pavilions at the Contemporary Austin - Laguna Gloria
            The new Moody Pavilions at the Contemporary Austin – Laguna Gloria. Photo by Alexa Johnson. 

            Housed inside the modern, steel and glass structures designed by Trahan Architects of New Orleans, are a visitor center, a museum shop, and an outdoor café. The new pavilion structures are arranged around the historic gatehouse which has been retrofitted to add a few museum offices and some much-needed new, modern restrooms and locker facilities for visitors.

            The café and shop are connected by a canopy-covered pathway and surrounded by lush landscaping designed by Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architects of Boston, the firm charged with overseeing the entire Laguna Gloria master plan.

            epicerie at the Contemporary
            The new Moody Pavilions feature the café épicerie at the Contemporary. Photo by Brian Fitzsimmons.

            Épicerie at The Contemporary is led by celebrated Austin chef and restaurateur Sarah McIntosh. It offers French-Cajun light to-go fare along with coffee, wine and desserts, and outdoor café seating is available.

            Laguna Shop
            The Shop at The Contemporary. The quote on the wall is from rapper Theophilus London. Photo by Colin Doyle

            A key component of the new Moody Pavilions, the Shop at The Contemporary features an interior designed as a singular sculptural installation, “Untitled,” 2019, by artist Liam Gillick (British, born 1964).

            Gillick’s architectural intervention functions as a fully operable museum gift shop. “Untitled,” is composed of modular shelves and cubes arranged around a circular desk and display case, all painted in cadmium red. Walls are painted a light gray.

            “This is a semi-autonomous artwork that is intended to operate in tension with my other work,” said Gillick in a statement. “It is a store — it is a display system — it is a constructed art object. With a lot of my artwork, it is not clear where the moment of significance might be located. It could be in a small book rather than a large sculpture. The same is true with this project.”

            A quote from rapper Theophilus London, fills one of the shop’s wall in Gillick’s signature font: “Shopping at any level is a bit of therapy for my medulla oblongata….”

            Laguna Gloria shop
            Artist Liam Gillick presents an architectural intervention that functions as a fully operable museum gift shop. Photo Colin Doyle

            Explained Gillick in a statement: “I am interested in the semiotics of the built world. Therefore, I have always tried to find a way to unsettle or intervene within existing structures.”

            Gillick’s sparse, semi-functional sculptural installations typically allude to conceptual conceits of midcentury modernist architects such as Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, as well as twentieth-century Minimalist sculptors including Donald Judd and Carl Andre.  His sleek “Raised Laguna Discussion Platform (Job #1073),” was one of the first new sculptural installations the museum exhibited when it launched the Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria in 2013. The museum acquired the artwork in 2014.

            Shop at the Contemporary Austin
            Liam Gillick, “Untitled, 2019.” Photo Colin Doyle

            With its new amenities museum is also launching new hours at Laguna Gloria:

            • 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday–Wednesday
            • 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday
            • 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday–Sunday

            Commissioned by the Contemporary Austin, Jessica Stockholder’s installation “Save on select landscape & outdoor lighting: Song to mind uncouples” sits prominently just inside the entrance of Laguna Gloria grounds. Assembled from prefabricated street lamps, grating, and bollards, the colorful installation is a viewing platform for visitors to explore.

            Jessica Stockholder installation
            Jessica Stockholder, “Save on select landscape & outdoor lighting: Song to mind uncouples,” 2019. Powder-coated aluminum lamp poles with LED heads, poured and painted green epoxy resin and acrylic urethane; fiberglass outgrowth; concrete bollards with poured pink epoxy resin; orange fiberglass grating, turquoise plastic lumber, steel joists; landscape. Dimensions variable. Installation view, The Contemporary Austin – Laguna Gloria, Austin, Texas, 2019. Artwork © Jessica Stockholder. Courtesy the artist; Kavi Gupta, Chicago; and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York. Image courtesy The Contemporary Austin. Photograph by Brian Fitzsimmons.

            In addition to the grant from The Moody Foundation, the recent project was funded through more than $3 million in total grants from the Still Water Foundation, Edward and Betty Marcus Foundation, The Meadows Foundation, Austin Community Foundation, and O’Shaughnessy-Rivers Fund, along with gifts from board Trustees Jeanne and Mickey Klein, Kathleen Irvin Loughlin and Chris Loughlin, and Jannette and Pat Keating.