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August 19, 2018
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Graham Reynolds’ Water Science

    Though widely known for his narrative-based music — sweeping scores for films, theater and ballets, or the jewel-like chamber opera “Pancho Villa From a Safe Distance” — Graham Reynolds finds abundant inspiration in the sciences.

    “Water Music: A Workshop Performance,” 8 p.m. Aug. 20 & 27, Dive Bar, 1703 Guadalupe St. Free. Info here

    This fall in New York, under the aegis of his Golden Hornet organization, Reynolds will present “The Sound of Science,” a multi-national project involving eight new pieces of music by seven celebrated composers each of whom paired with a scientis to ceate music reflective of the that scientist’s life and practice. All the pieces are written for amplified cello and electronics will be performed by renowned cellist Jeffrey Zeigler, long time member of Kronos Quartet. “The Sound of Science” will premiere at New York’s National Sawdust Nov. 10, followed by performances in Austin, Mexico City and beyond.

    Currently, here in Austin, Reynolds is shaping “Water Music,” a suite based on his work with Forklift Danceworks. Reynolds is workshopping the piece in a series of free concerts this month at Dive Bar.

    Also in Austin, on Sept. 22, Fast Forward Austin will present a free concert of Reynolds’ “The Difference Engine,” his 2010 suite for chamber ensemble that charts the story of 19th-century inventor and mathematician Charles Babbage who originated — but never realized — the concept of a digital programmable computer.

    Sightlines: Can you tell us about “Water Music” and what you’re working towards with it?
    Graham Reynolds: In classical music there’s a tradition of taking a score written to support another medium, like dance or theater, and turning it into a suite for concert music performance, minus the other medium.This is the start of what “Water Music” is. I’ve been composing for a three part collaboration between Forklift Danceworks and the Austin Aquatics Department. “Water Music” takes pieces that we used for that series, that were composed for it but went unused, and new music I’m working on and puts them together into a music only performance. I’ve been meeting with people whose lives revolve around music, from a Texas water rights expert to a jellyfish author, to gain insight and inspiration.

    SL: You have a deep interest in science. Where does it come from?
    GR: Growing up, my interests always stayed in parallel with the teachers I found most inspiring. My seventh grade Earth Science teacher, Mr. Meusel, was one of those inspiring figures. For better or worse, I refocused on music and never found a science teacher as compelling. Now I’ve been getting back in touch with that passion that’s laid dormant for decades.

    SL: Why try out new compositions in front of an audience? What do you learn from trying out new work in public?
    GR: Music can function as a solitary experience, with only the listener and a pair of nice headphones. But most music experiences are communal and the music is meant to be a dialogue. I like to try material out to discover what works best in conversation with an audience and pursue those ideas. I also find myself stretching myself in unexpected directions with an audience so studio time and live performance time both help in the development of a new piece.


    The Weekly Line-up: 8.19.18

    Angry Cloud

    The list of what’s good and what’s new in Austin and beyond for the week of Aug. 19, 2018

    Beach Blanket Cabaret
    Natalie George Productions stages another of its brilliant cabaret evenings, this time featuring singers Hannah Rose, Veronica Williams and Paul Sanchez. Cocktails and bites available.
    Doors at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m. Aug. 19-20, Ironwood Hall, 505 E. Fifth St. nataliegeorgeproductions.com/cabaret

    “Water Music: A Workshop Performance”
    Graham Reynolds loves science and “Water Music” is his new suite that explores water in in all its roles from the geopolitics of water rights to the element’s role in jellyfish propulsion. Reynolds will premiere “Water Music” in 2019, but in the meantime the Austin composer is trying it out in a free workshop performance.
    8 p.m. Aug. 20 & 27, Dive Bar, 1703 Guadalupe St. Free. facebook.com/events/406616839853444/

    Art From the Streets
    Troy Campa of CAMIBAart Gallery curates this exhibit of art made by people who are struggling with homelessnes via the longtime volunteer-run program Art From The Streets.
    Opening: 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 22. Exhibit continues through Oct. 14. Austin Central Library, 701 W. Cesar Chavez St. Info

    “Ed Ruscha: Archaeology and Romance”
    Ed Ruscha’s wry and deadpan representations of the vernacular of the last 50 years of American West distill the imagery of popular culture into a language of cinematic and typographical codes that are as accessible as they are profound. “Archaeology and Romance” is first major exhibition drawn from the Ransom Center’s Edward Ruscha Papers and Art Collection, a body of archival materials — selected by the artist and acquired by the Ransom Center in 2013 — focused especially on Ruscha’s artist’s books.
    Continues through Jan. 19, 2019. Harry Ransom Center, UT campus. Free. hrc.utexas.edu

    Return of the Litvak: Angry Cloud + Descnd
    Austin street artist Angry Cloud takes over the DORF’s house gallery and surrounds grounds with an immersive installation featuring his signature angry clouds — is a cathartic expression for him that reclaims public spaces from pervasive, bland development
    Opening weekend happenings: 7 to 10 p.m Aug. 24; 4 to 7 p.m. Aug. 25 Live T-shirt screen printing: $5, bring your own shirt. Beto O’Rourke fundraiser and voter registration. On Aug. 24, Angry Cloud will be live painting. Exhibit continues 1 to 5 p.m. Saturdays through Sept. 15 (and by appointment). Info

    Works Progress Austin: “Casta” by Adrienne Dawes
    A staged reading of Adrienne Dawes’ new play “Casta,” inspired by a series of casta paintings by Miguel Cabrera, an 18th-century mixed-race painter from Oaxaca. Casta paintings were a unique form of Mexican colonial portraiture that depicted different racial mixtures arranged according to a hierarchy defined by Spanish elites. Dawes’ lyrical, expressive play uses puppets and an original score by Graham Reynolds.
    7:30 p.m. Aug. 24, 4 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. Aug. 25, Austin Presbyterian Theological, Seminary, 100 E 27th St. $5, salvagevanguard.org/tickets

    “Revolving Catastrophes and Myths of a Beautiful World”
    Mixing visual references from science fiction, mythology and art history Mexico City artist Cristobal Garcia trains his eye on Galveston Island and its history of devastating storms, rebuilding, tourism and immigration to investigate the cycles of catastrophe and the subsequent myths created as coping mechanisms.
    Opening: 6 to 9 p.m. Aug. 25 with a 7 p.m. gallery talk with Garcia and exhibit curator Leslie Moody Castro. On view through Nov. 3. Galveston Artist Residency and Gallery, 2521 Ships Mechanic Row, Galveston galvestonartistresidency.org

    Cristobal Garcia

    Dreaming of Our Abuelitos: “YLA 23” at Mexic-Arte Museum Explores Border Identity

      Abel Saucedo, "Tunnel Runner," 2017. Mixed media assemblage, steel with acrylic panels and migrant shoes. Photo: Lindsey Reynolds.

      Growing up on the border of any two countries leads to early political awareness. That’s what the artists in the newest iteration of the annual “Young Latinx Artists” show at Mexic-Arte Museum would tell you.

      “Young Latinx Artists 23: Beyond Walls, Between Gates, Under Bridges” is on view at Mexic-Arte Museum through August 26.

      Now in its 23rd season, YLA gathers a group of emerging Latinx artists at the helm of a guest curator to unpack a theme relevant to Latinx experience. This year’s show, “Beyond Walls, Between Gates, Under Bridges,” features 11 artists who hail from both the U.S. and Mexico sides of the border, a wholly hybrid environment that engenders an acute understanding of the differences between each side that make it — physically and perceptually — difficult to breach.

      The imperative of this show creates a groundbreaking ethnography: There’s a multitude of identities and attitudes surrounding border life.

      Some accounts are highly personal. Jose Villanueva presents a vignette of his family life in the installation and video piece, “Wake.” He situates a rummage-sale floral couch in front of squat square television monitors looping clips of family gatherings on Catholic holidays. With lace doilies draped over particle board cabinets, it’s the vision of anyone’s grandmother’s house, yet the framed photos of Villanueva’s own relatives remind the gallery visitor that they are the guest in this home.

      Jose Villanueva, “Wake,” 2018. Video installation. Photo: Lindsey Reynolds

      As I sat and sank into the sofa (with permission), I recalled being transfixed as a child in front of my grandparents’ TV while adults talked about adult things. Perhaps that’s the memory Villanueva is evoking. He was smuggled across the border into the U.S. at age three. “Wake” feels like a child’s way of clinging to memories of family and Mexico, while adapting to an eked-out existence in an entirely new place.

      Detail: Lisette Chavez, “Three Hail Marys, Two Our Fathers,” 2014-2018. Mixed media installation. Photo: Lindsey Reynolds.

      Another of the show’s installation pieces, “Three Hail Marys, Two Our Fathers” by Lisette Chavez, is a later adolescent’s take on Catholic culture in Texas/Mexico. The interior walls of a rudimentary shrine, painted a shocking hot pink, exude the angst of someone wronged by the older generation’s blind devotion to tradition. Railing against those norms in tiny cynical epitaphs and bedazzled busts of Jesus is a form of sacred sacrilege.

      Much of the work in this show utilizes satire to prod the underlying sense of marginalization that comes with growing up on the fringes of mainstream American culture. Guest curator Gil Rocha-Rochelli in his statement about the exhibition says, “Embedded into our beings are the dreams of our parents and abuelitos. We are their living aspirations, their yearning hours of devotion for a creative opportunity.” These young artists are simultaneously aware that their parents’ sacrifices allow for their stability that supports their creative practices but are also not beholden to submit to the powers that produced those hardships in the first place.

      In “Home Is Where My Papers Are,” Natalia Rocafuerte constructs a similar environment to Villanueva’s “Wake.” The basic trimmings of a home office, each piece of furniture stamped with photocopied images of Rocafuerte’s U.S. residency documentation. This home is filled with reminders that Rocafuerte’s sense of security and contentment is not up to her. Someone else is in control.

      Rocha-Rochelli, an artist himself from Laredo, participated this year in the “Transborder Biennial,” a collaborative exhibition held between El Paso Museum of Art and Museo de Arte de Ciudad Juárez, which comparably showcases contemporary artists from both sides of the border. As an artist and as a curator, Rocha-Rochelli thinks beyond a physical boundary of land affected by goings-on at the border. In curating “YLA” he selected artists who have had the border loom large at one point in their lives, though they may not live or work in that setting now. Villanueva, for example, grew up in Dallas, but crossed the border at a young age.

      Raul Gonzalez, “Push It,” acrylic, house paint, inkjet photo, graphite, concrete, 2017. Photo: Courtesy the artist.

      Raul Gonzalez was born and raised in inner city Houston, miles away from what one would characteristically consider border country. Yet, his work deals with the effects of generational poverty and the roles Mexican-Americans are allowed to play in society as a result of their crossing.

      Some references to the act of crossing are confrontational and purely political. Abel Saucedo, in “Tunnel Runner,” assumes an activist’s and documentarian’s perspective by mounting on the wall battered shoes he traded with migrants at the border in exchange for new ones. Each pair of shoes represents a person’s unsuccessful attempt to cross, and the broken dreams for a better future that went along with them.

      A piece like “Tunnel Runner” is almost expected in an exhibition about the border, because it garners sympathy. If you can’t relate to the fear of leaving your home country or the anxiety of being surveilled as an immigrant, then here are the artifacts of that process for you to reflect upon.

      Amidst the hyperfocus on the past and family and struggle, the show makes clear that there are attempts here to forge new traditions. Reserved until the end of the visitor’s journey through the galleries are several works by artists from immigrant families who don’t explicitly touch on what that experience is like.

      Evelyn Contreras, “Untitled,” 2016. Acrylic, silkscreen, mirrored acrylic, wood, LED, and 3-D print. Photo: Lindsey Reynolds.

      Instead, they experiment with the forms and ideas of contemporary art in a global sense: Andrew Ordonez’s brutalist and conceptual concrete sculpture, for example, and Evelyn Contreras’ wall installation made of LED lights and 3-D printed elements.

      This isn’t to say that this is the point to which artists should be evolving but the inclusion of these works rounds out the picture.

      The story of growing up on the border, as the child of immigrants, isn’t completely sad, or completely joyful. It’s nuanced. Reckoning with that past leaves room for future development.

      Since You Asked: Icosa Collective’s “Are You Doing Your Part/In Your Life?”

        Leon Alesi, “Monolith.” Photo courtesy the artist.

        “Are you doing your part/In your life?“

        These are the words that greet you from a small photo on the wall, one of a pair taken in an abandoned institutional space somewhere on the outskirts of Austin. The words are written on a black board and strung up around the room on banners, left there perhaps by the last teacher to hold class. Now memorialized in evocative documentary images, the words frame the objects and images that surround them.

        The artist is Amy Bench and the space is Icosa Collective’s new gallery in the Canopy complex on Springdale Road. The exhibition, named for Bench’s photo, features the work of the collective’s 11 new members: Leon Alesi, Amy Bench, Darcie Book, Rachelle Diaz, Sarah Hirneisen, Mark Johnson, Dameon Lester, Tammie Rubin, Lana Waldrep-Appl, and collaborative duo Carlos Carillo/Yevgenia Davidoff.

        Amy Bench, “Are you doing your part/In your life?“ Photo courtesy the artist.

        On the hot night in July when the exhibit opens, Bench herself stands in the middle of the room laughing with friends and colleagues at the ridiculous level of effort required to do her part, in her life.

        In his notes, exhibit curator Sean Redmond asks “what it means to enshrine something and strip it of its practical value, devoid of functionality yet imbued with creative power.” He also writes of the “personal and communal responsibility in the context of artistic pursuit.”

        Tammie Rubin, “Salaam,” Photo courtesy the artist.

        And that provokes questions about the roles we as citizens or artists are called to play. Must our work directly address the chaos of these times? Must we bear witness? Or may we mesmerize and delight?

        Tammie Rubin’s lush and whimsical sculptures “Salaam” and “A Joyous Ripening” hold the center of the room. Her small, porcelain, many-colored globes and oblong spheres are stacked on top of each other at tilty angles and covered with ever smaller, pointier color detail. One stack — covered in tiny, hand-built patches of what might best be described as googly eyes  —  also sports a pair of ears.

        Nearby are four household objects, familiar yet not: a hand mixer with drill bits where beaters should be, a drill with beaters where drill bits go; a fiber glass, child-sized seat on an elevated platform covered in old Butterick dress patterns; and a sort-of lawnmower whose parts are oddly dissembled and then reassembled at a familiar lawnmower slant and height, in an unlawnmower-like frame, topped with a lead seat.

        These are Sarah Hirneisen’s reworked references to suburban domestic efficiency, roughly crafted of paper, cardboard, tissue paper and other every day materials.

        Sarah Hirneisen, “Build Bake.” Photo: Gretchen Stoeltje.

        Meanwhile, a handful of filmmakers who have come to the exhibit opening stand talking about the balancing act of earning and creating, and the difficulty of its solution: fundraising. One talks of working to beat the pregnancy clock while launching a crowdfunding campaign and hosting a work-in-progress screening, a requirement of a grant award. Another notes that a grant she recently applied for demanded such a time commitment that she would have to quit her job in order to fulfill it.

        On the wall behind them are Darcie Book’s thickly layered and brightly colored acrylic-on-canvas painting/sculptures, abstract to begin with and scrunched up in a wad, paint as thick as cake icing stuck together at the folds. Delicious.

        Nearby are two small and one large format oil paintings by Lana Waldrep-Appl. Her close-ups of plain, industrial exterior walls are rich in the thousand, generally unloved but beautiful shades of neutral they are painted in.

        At the opening, an architect and a woodworker commiserate about difficult clients and the tensions of doing creative work in building business. The two men stand next to a shoulder-high wooden sculpture by Leon Alessi entitled “Ancestor 1, circa 1939,” a cedar support used in pier-and-beam construction and unearthed in 2018. Its knot holes are hooded eyes and rusted nails poke out at odd angles.

        Carlos Carrillo and Yevgenia Davidoff’, “Adios Austin,” mixed media. Photo: Gretchen Stoeltje.

        Behind them on the wall are Dameon Lester’s three-piece set called “Calving Sequence Deconstructed (c1, c3, c5).” The deceptively simple black pastel lines on white cold pressed watercolor paper make irregular geometrical shapes, evoking the one-dimensional beginnings of a 3D schematic — a welcome relief from the nuances and dark complexities of the mind or the body politic that a more complicated piece might provoke. Yet they point to those complexities just outside their own borders.

        In the corner shine Carlos Carrillo’s and Yevgenia Davidoff’s potted light bulb cacti (“Adios Austin”), smallish incandescent light bulbs and other electrical elements sprouting up from beds of artificial moss in terracotta pots. These small, humble pots fill several wall-mounted shelves like books in a student apartment, evoking the subtle magic of ordinary materials combined in extraordinary ways.

        Next to them on the wall hang Mark Johnson’s mixed media pieces. “LOOSENOOSE” is a traditional picture frame spray-painted gold AND silver. It frames layers of glass and paint and tape and something else hazy and indistinct far in the background and just out of focus. “BACKSTROKEOUTTOSEA my family” frames itself with rope in the shape of a house that contain 3D letters that spell out the title, and the word “trophy” floating in the top right corner. The letter “X” dangles at the end of a wire protruding from the canvas, and almost all of it is sprayed gold.

        The conversational noise at that opening is abuzz and a filmmaker and a feminist archivist stand near the back of Icosa’s gallery discussing the sustainability of their crafts. The archivist, also a musician, announces that once she finishes organizing the memorabilia of her late band-mate — an act of historical and cultural preservation (and possibly revolution, depending on how you read the gender politics of Austin’s guitar-guy music scene) —  she may be leaving town. She is doing her part, in her life.

        Near the gallery’s back entry are Alesi’s photos of his South Austin neighborhood in transition: a 1930’s wooden bungalow just loaded onto the trailer that will haul it away to make way for something bigger and better (“Bouldin Creek Bungalow, circa 1939, Austin, Texas”), and the massive concrete foundation of a building-to-be, (“Monolith”) – almost as tall as the two story house it dwarfs on the next lot – its stair steps leading nowhere.

        Leon Alesi, installation view of “Bouldin Creek Bungalow, circa 1939, Austin, Texas” (left), “Monolith” (right) and “Ancestor 1, circa 1939″ (foreground. Photo courtesy the artist.

        If you happen by Icosa Gallery at night, you might see Rachelle Diaz’s “Scream for 2018,” a generative, single channel video glowing in the front window. The split screen loop is torn down the middle by a jagged video artifact in a permanent freeze frame. On the left is a 1960s housewife in cat-eye glasses, surprised by the camera and caught for posterity in a forever scream as she stand at her kitchen counter. On the right, multi-colored layers of a makeup model ‘s perfect face float next to the words “Making an asset of your shortcomings.”

        Rachelle Diaz, “Tide,” digital print

        A tiny digital print to the left, “Tide” captures a 1950s mom standing next to a washing machine, just at the moment that a white swirl of Tide detergent begins to erase her right out of existence.

        Whether you believe artists have a responsibility to a community or the community to the artist, you might agree that these artists are doing their parts.

        Disrupting Practice: To Make a New Series of Sculpture, Tammie Rubin Makes Her Art-Making Public

          On an already hot Texas summer morning, Tammie Rubin sets about mixing porcelain slip in her temporary ceramics studio.

          Rubin’s artistic work space is actually a rusted wire enclosure atop a 20-foot trailer parked in the back parking lot of the Canopy arts complex in East Austin. Dubbed Cage Match, the cage trailer is a project space run by Ryan Hawk and Zac Traeger of the Museum of Human Achievement.

          Typically, Cage Match hosts installations or pop-up performances. But for her residency, which launched in July and ends Sept. 9, Rubin opted to use the small, outdoor and very odd space as her studio.

          “Everything about this is outside my comfort zone,” says Rubin, who typically works in a commodious — and air-conditioned — studio at St. Edward’s University where she is on the art faculty.

          “And what I’m doing is not performative. I’m here working.”

          When the Cage Match Project opportunity came up, Rubin’s priority was preparing a body of sculpture for several upcoming exhibits. So rather than just hustle something together to fill the cage trailer, Rubin challenged herself to work in the makeshift outdoor studio in the Texas summer. (The cage has temporary cover to offer shade and is outfitted with several big fans.)

          Rubin’s residency, as it were, is designed to raise questions.

          “What do we think of when we think of an artist’s studio? What does it look like to make art?” she asks. “Nobody really has a sense of the length of time it takes to make art either. Art is labor.”

          Yes, the act of art-making is significantly less dramatic than imagined. It’s comprised of lots of mundane tasks. It’s often terribly slow-going, filled with mistake-making and dead-end tangents.

          “A studio and a practice as much a mental space as anything else,” Rubin says.

          She has had many studios in her career. One of her first, in her native Chicago, she found in a cooperative studio space after college, working late into the night after finishing a day job. Graduate school at the University of Washington came with a campus studio. Ditto at the University of Illinois where she taught before joining the St. Edward’s faculty in 2015.

          At Cage Match, Rubin posts a schedule of her work hours on her Instagram, though it’s not necessarily an invitation to hang out and chat her up.

          “Ultimately, my practice is solitary,” she says.

          Tammie Rubin at work in the Cage Match Project space. Photo by Ryan Hawk.

          Regulars at the Canopy complex say hello and offer to bring her cold drinks. A passing FedEx deliveryman has so far been the only to ask specifically why Rubin is in a cage. Other passersby have asked if she’s OK.

          And if seeing an African American woman in a cage makes people uncomfortable — good.

          “It should be uncomfortable to see anybody in a cage, no matter the circumstances,” Rubin says.

          At the opening of Tammie Rubin’s Cage Match project, “Round Vlll: This is Everything.” Photo by Ryan Hawk.

          This fall, Rubin will have work in “Craft2018” at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, and in a group show at Austin’s Dimension Gallery. However her solo exhibit, “Everything You Ever” at Women & Their Work November 17 through January 10, fully debuts her latest ceramic sculpture series.

          Rubin is literally building this new work atop the provocative shapes of her previous series, “Always & Forever (ever ever).”  Though the “Always & Forever” sculpture immediately evoke Ku Klux Klan hoods, Rubin has always maintained that the conical shapes with eyelike slits are a more diffuse symbol, conjuring a dunce’s cap, a sorcerer’s hat, or Renaissance clerical headwear.

          Tammie Rubin, “Always & Forever (forever ever ever) No. 2” (detail). Slipcast and handbuilt porcelain, underglaze, pigmented clay. 2016. Photo courtesy the artist.

          Mundane mass-produced consumer objects are Rubin’s chief creative source. She recreates their forms in delicate yet color-saturated porcelain, the surfaces highly decorated with hair-thin piping or tiny dots and spikes. The intricate motifs on Rubin’s sculpture often serve as a kind of artistic hieroglyphic. On her “Always & Forever” series Rubin marked out routes of the Great Migration, a movement beginning in the 1910s of approximately 6 million African Americans from the rural South to the cities of the North.

          Recently, however, Rubin found a new fascination with ball moss, that ubiquitous bromeliad which grows on Texas trees and is commonly misunderstood to be a parasite, responsible for strangling a tree. Ball moss, however, actually derives its nutrients from air and rain using the tree just as its structural support.

          On the St. Edward’s campus are enormous live oaks, some centuries old, long limbs dotted with ball moss.

          Rubin collected bushels of ball moss and in her Cage Match studio she is carefully dipping them in porcelain slip, then attaching them to a conical head form, the wispy slip-covered moss balls forming a Medusa-like crown. When fired, the ceramic sculptures will be in varying shades of brown, the slit-eyed heads peeking out just enough to be seen.

          Continuing the issues raised in “Always & Forever,” these new pieces confirm the roots of racism and oppression go deep. It’s the centuries-old tree that’s sick, not the ball moss that’s grown along it.

          “Our gift and our curse as Americans is that we believe that everything is new,” Rubin says.

          Take the nation’s current political and racial divisiveness. “None of it is new,” Rubin says. “And yet everybody acts like it’s something that just suddenly happened since the last election.”

          “We’ll keep repeating the same thing as long as there’s no acknowledgement of our history.”


          Selfie Art Playgrounds to Pop-up in Austin

          Austin is about to get two Instagram-ready attractions designed for the selfie-crazed and hashtag-obsessed.

          Earlier this summer, FOMO Factory announced that it would set up “Austin’s first immersive selfie space” at Red River and E. Seventh streets in the heart of the live music district beginning Sept. 14 and run for a month.

          Now, the Art of Ice Cream Experience just announced that it will plop down in East Austin near Saltillo Plaza. It will open Sept. 19 and run for three months.

          Unsurprisingly, both attractions will overlap with the two-weekend Austin City Limits Music Festival (Oc,t 5-7 and Oct 12-14).

          The ticketed pop-up exhibits charge $23 to $25 for about an hour’s access to the touch-everything, visually-overloaded themed rooms. As FOMO (an acronym for “Fear Of Missing Out”) put it, the rooms are designed “to inspire you to take top notch selfies.”

          In FOMO’s music-themed room, for example, visitors are issued retro portable cassette players and sit in swings made of ersatz oversized audio tape. Over at the Art of Ice Cream rooms are themed around, well, different kinds of frozen treats.

          Temporary Instagram-optimized arty funhouses — Museum of Ice Cream, The Egg HouseDream Machine29Rooms — have been a solid trend in major cities like New York and Los Angeles and many now send iterations to other markets, like Austin. Bloomberg’s The Quint reports that the Museum of Ice Cream — which first popped up in 2016 across the street from New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art — this year attracted over one million visitors across its various locations and brokered a nationwide merchandising deal with Target to sell Museum of Ice Cream-­branded clothes.

          Invariably whenever the selfie attractions pop-up so does discussion — and hang-wringing — about whether they are art or entertainment. After all, these days art museums, galleries and public art presenters attract visitors by engineering immersive art installations — and encouraging social media. (On Instagram #art was the fifth most popular hashtag  last year.)

          When Yayoi Kusama’s internet-breaking “Infinity Mirrors” went on exhibit earlier this year at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the museum provided cellphone chargers in the exhibit hall as well as a “selfie podium” where people could upload their images.

          For the creators of the very ironically — or perhaps very un-ironically —  named FOMO, retail is the goal however. FOMO Factory describes itself as a “multi-sensory wonderland where you are invited… to marvel at larger-than-life retail displays, and shop in a whole new way.”

          Dennis Nance Makes It Present: Curating in Galveston, Practicing Art Everywhere

            Dennis Nance on the Strand in Galveston. Photo by Leslie Moody Castro.

            My first visit to Galveston happened one year ago on the invitation of Dennis Nance, the newly hired curator at the Galveston Arts Center. Over the course of the year I have watched Dennis grow into his position at the center, and his role on the island, while maintaining his own practice as an artist. In his short year at GAC, Dennis has stepped into the shoes of Clint Willour — GAC’s previous curator of 25 years — and has brought a fresh new perspective to the organization while holding a deep respect for its past. Over the course of that year our relationship changed from professional colleagues to dear friends, and we recently had the chance to sit and talk about his time here in Galveston and his own practice.

            Leslie Moody Castro: You came to the Galveston Arts Center from the Lawndale Art Center in Houston. What are some of the bigger differences you noticed by the move? Tell me a little bit about curating for a smaller institution and a smaller place in general.
            Dennis Nance: I was at Lawndale almost nine years and had such great coworkers, was able to work with so many great artists, and met so many people. The organization was always very nurturing for me both as an employee and an artist.

            GAC’s regional focus and size is very similar to Lawndale. I also see some similarities in how these two organizations came into being. Both had a core group of artists who were at the center of the organization’s early activities in the late 70s/early 80s and both continue to have artists at the center of their mission. Both are also housed in repurposed historic buildings.

            Galveston Arts Center augmented with installation work by The Color Collection as part of the 2018 exhibition “Premium Quality.” Photo courtesy Galveston Arts Center.

            The main differences I notice between the organizations are that Lawndale works with a Programming Committee and an open-call proposal process to program their exhibitions. GAC employs a curator to determine the exhibition program. Moving into this role has offered me more autonomy in selecting exhibitions. It’s a real privilege to be given this responsibility and I don’t take it lightly. I’ve always tried to be aware of what’s happening in our region and beyond, and feel it is central to my position at GAC.

            I also don’t do my job totally alone. I feel lucky to have had the chance to serve on a few juries for different awards or shows this year that have given me insights into different communities. Leslie, even your blog chronicling your adventures around the state in the lead up to the Texas Biennial has been a great resource!

            Lawndale has a studio program (I miss that part of my job most!), while GAC has great neighbors at the Galveston Artist Residency who offer a truly unique residency experience. GAR has done a lot to draw attention to Galveston for their unique way of working with artists. They offer a distinct “edginess” that seasoned art-goers crave.

            My goal is for GAC to continue attracting the regular Houston art audiences and supporters, but the organization is unique in that the majority of our audience are visitors who wander in during a visit to the Strand.

            Galveston is also pretty eccentric and I’ve noticed people are very open to engaging and experiencing the work we are sharing.

            LMC: You’re filling the shoes of Clint Willour, who was the curator at GAC for a number of years. What was it like to step into his shoes, what were some of the challenges, and what has it been like in retrospect after your first year?
            It’s really an honor to step into this role following Clint’s 25-year tenure. He worked with so many well-respected artists and solidified GAC’s role as an important venues. He is responsible for collecting and donating a huge amount of work, many from artists working in Houston and the region, to the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (you can see a sampling of it on view now in an exhibition at the MFAH). That’s a really big deal for an artist and something I think that is very unique to Clint’s position in the community.

            In the early days he would travel across the state to pick up work. On a recent round trip to Dallas to pick up work for a show I asked myself numerous times, “How did Clint do this!?” GAC turns over three galleries on one week, eight times a year.

            During all my time at Lawndale, Clint was a constant supporter and advocate for artists working in the region. Clint’s experience and network goes very deep though, so my goal is to not loose these individuals in the transition. Clint has also been very supportive of me during the transition.

            I joined the organization a year after they returned to their original building following a renovation spurred by damages cause during Hurricane Ike. Much of the focus of the organization was on raising capital funds for this work, so there are some growing pains to shift this support to the activities of the organization and the artists we work with. One of my primary goals is to increase support for exhibiting artists in the immediate future.

            LMC: You don’t live in Galveston, and keeping your residence in Houston was a deliberate decision. Why did you decide to share the job in such a way?
            I’m following in Clint’s footsteps in the decision to work between Houston and Galveston. This arrangement was actually part of the job when I was hired. I think it’s important for me to be active on the mainland to keep GAC visible off the island and keep the arts center engaged in a larger dialog. For me it’s more important to be out visiting with artists and seeing shows around the state. In this way, the more mobile I can be the better work I can do. Of course, it would be really dreamy to wake up and take a walk on the beach some days instead of fighting the traffic on I-45.

            Galveston has a small, tight-knit arts community and I am committed to collaborating and engaging with organizations and artists who live on the island. The island is rich in history.

            LMC: We’ve had a lot of conversations in the past about how we are always the face of something, and about our role in the public sphere in general. Tell me more about being the public face of GAC, or your public role as the curator and the balance that requires personally.
            I think this comes with the territory of working in arts non-profits, as well as being an artist. I share this responsibility with everyone I work with and we all intersect with different circles. Of course as an artist, you need to be in the studio and that time is pretty sacred. Working in arts non-profits, you have to put in some desk time, but there is a lot to be gained by being present and out in the community. I realized this when I worked at Lawndale and the conversations are very similar now that I work at GAC. People always want to hear about what’s going on with your organization. Most of my conversations lately start with “How’s Galveston?”  There’s a lot to be said about that opportunity to tell someone about what you’re working on face-to-face.

            For Galveston specifically, the causeway creates a physical, as well a sort of psychological/mental barrier between the island and the mainland. Being able to disconnect is part of the joy of the island. I totally respect that division, but there is a need for GAC to maintain a strong connection to the region it represents and is supported by. Having artists from across the state and region exhibit their work in Galveston is my primary focus but being present and active in artist communities throughout the region is equally important.

            I’ve also been really fortunate over the past two years to have the opportunity to serve on a few panels. In the past two years I’ve served on review panels for Texas Commission on the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Houston Arts Alliance, to name a few. I’ve juried student exhibitions at Texas A&M International University in Laredo, Texas Tech in Lubbock, Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, and the University of Houston at Clear Lake. This was also my first year to review portfolios at the FotoFest Meeting Place. There was also the recent Tito’s Prize for Big Medium and a few others.

            Dennis Nance in his “Snail” costume. Image courtesy the artist.

            LMC: You also have your own practice as an artist. How do you balance the two, and what do you have upcoming that you’re really excited about?
            I’ve always tried to find a way to maintain some type of artist practice. It’s ultimately why I got into working in arts organizations in the first place and is very important to me. There are definite peaks and lulls in production based my work schedule. At times it can be like having two full time jobs, but these worlds always have points of intersection.

            In my current role as curator at GAC, I am also navigating the often-blurry line between being an artist and curator. In some ways, my artist practice helps me better understand and advocate for the needs of artists. I’m also always learning so much from the artists I work with. Granted, there is some cultural capital that comes with working in an arts organization. I am aware of the privileged platform that this position offers me and do my best to make some boundaries and distinctions between my role with the organization and my role as an individual artist.

            On the immediate horizon, I’m really excited about a collaboration I’m working on with the Education Department at the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston. Using my costumes as a starting point, I’m working with the organization to develop an interactive activity for the community in their Art Lab space that will be on view from October 2018 through March 2019. I’m also working on a small exhibition at the Wedge Space, a former waiting room turned into a gallery space at the Houston Community College Southeast Campus.

            LMC: Sewing is a critical element in your practice. Why did you decide to start sewing and when? Tell me the story (please 😉 ).
            My mother bought be a sewing machine for my birthday about 8 years ago. I had made some work from textiles in the past, but they were mainly hand sewn.

            Halloween of that year was really where the costumes all started. My friend and Lawndale co-worker, Emily Link, fueled a lot of this. We made it mandatory to wear costumes on Halloween at Lawndale and we tried to go over the top with it. Later that same year, Elaine Bradford had a Christmas party and we just kept the costume making going.

            The shirts I make aren’t necessarily “art” but became a way for me to have a “uniform” of sorts. I made one for my partner, James, soon after we started dating. He had a fun collection of what he called “Friday shirts”. We’re about the same size, so since then I’ve slowly transitioned to only wearing shirts that I make. They’re made from quilting fabrics, and occasionally we’ll print a custom print. There is a LOT of labor that goes into making one, but ultimately it gives me a few hours of manual labor at the machine and lets me disconnect a bit or think through something. It’s that “flow” feeling you get when you stuff envelopes or do a repetitive task. It’s frustrating, but sort of meditative once you get into it.

            Sewing and making wearables, in a way, comes from trying to find ways to make work that can be presented outside of the normal exhibition setting. I think the costumes are actually most effective outside of a gallery setting. I also really enjoy that people who may not be into art can enjoy them. They’re meant to be fun.

            Dennis Nance, “The Lambda Mission Space Suit.” Image courtesy the artist.

            LMC: You were awarded second place in the Alien Costume Contest in 2014 at the Roswell NM UFO Festival. I really want to know everything about it. What was your costume, why did you submit? How did you find out about the competition? This is the best…YOU are the best!
            I went on a road trip to New Mexico with my partner James in the summer of 2014. Around that time I had a few costumes I had made and brought them along with me in hopes of finding places to photograph them. One was a pink space suit I made for a project with BOX 13. On our way west, we stopped in Roswell and saw posters for their annual UFO Festival a few days later. We decided to time our return trip so we would pass back through Roswell and I’d enter the contest.

            The morning of the festival we sped from Albuquerque to make it on time. I didn’t realize you had to fax your entry form in before the actual contest and no one was answering the phones, so we just showed up. I was turned away at first, but then allowed to enter. We basically sat around in a really hot auditorium for a few hours, then paraded in front of the judges (made up residents from the Roswell Artist-in-Residence Program) and audience. The woman who won first prize apparently wins every year, and she totally deserved it! She had a giant costume made out of pool noodles that year.


            LMC: What is next on the horizon at the GAC?
            We’re opening 2 exhibitions on August 25th. In our second floor galleries, we’re presenting an exhibition titled Visual Pathology. The exhibition is the result of an ongoing collaboration with the Department of Pathology at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston (the oldest medical school in Texas). The exhibition centers around the university’s historic specimen collections, specifically a collection of pathological specimens dating from the early 1900s. Five artists have been working with a group of pathologists at the university to create work based on the collection and current research taking place at UTMB.

            In the main space downstairs, Jesse Morgan Barnett is presenting work based on his correspondence with Valery Spiridonov. Spiridonov was the first confirmed full head/body transplant patient. While the operation was canceled, it was a starting point for the work Jesse is making for the exhibition. I’m interested in how this exhibition will offer an alternative entry point to work being made about the body and diseases upstairs.

            On the horizon, in October GAC will present an exhibition by Buster Graybill of sculptures made from materials associated with outdoor leisure activities, alongside his lawn chair strap paintings. Jasmyne Graybill will show her small-scale sculptures made from intricately manipulated polymer clay to resemble mold cultures. Houston-based artist Bill Willis will present an exhibition of paintings based on images sourced from vintage recipe books.

            In late November, Kaneem Smith is working on an exhibition referencing local connections to trade (specifically of coffee and cotton) for the main gallery, along with work from Renata Lucia’s News vs. Nature series and Lina Dib’s interactive video piece Threshhold for the second floor galleries.

            In 2019, I’m excited to bring Miss Pussycat’s puppets and video work for our second-floor galleries, along with a sound installation using Quintron’s Drum Buddy in the second floor vault. Shows are also in the works featuring Camp Bosworth, Brad Tucker, Erin Curtis, and more!



            The Weekly Line-up: 8.12.18

            Handwritten calendar of historical events used by Elizabeth Crook while working on her novel "Promised Lands." In the exhibit "Literary Frontiers: Historical Fiction & the Creative Imagination," Wittliff Collection, Texas State Univ., San Marcos

            “Literary Frontiers: Historical Fiction & the Creative Imagination”
            Hand-written manuscripts, vintage maps, rare photographs, and artifacts that highlight authors’ sources of inspiration and track the creative process of sweeping historical novels like Elizabeth Crook’s “Promised Lands: A Novel of the Texas Rebellions.” Also featured in this exhibit is Jovita González’s “Caballero: A Historical Novel,” written in the 1930s but not published until 1996 and set during the U.S.-Mexico War and it is an eye-opening look at the lives of women in the ranchero culture of the time. Also featured is Ann Weisgarber’s “The Personal History of Rachel Dupree,” which tells of African American homesteaders.
            Exhibit hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 12 noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays, 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. Exhibit continues Dec. 14. Free. Wittliff Collections, Alkek Library, Texas State University, San Marcos. Free. thewittliffcollections.txstate.edu/collections.html

            Literary Libations: Texas Book Festival
            Partnering with Austin Film Society, American Short Fiction, and Chicon Street Poets in a three-part series of events, Texas Book Festival gears up for its Lit Crawl Austin, a night of irreverent literary programs.
            Aug. 12-14, texasbookfestival.org

            “Water Music: A Workshop Performance”
            Graham Reynolds loves science and “Water Music” is his new suite that explores water in in all its roles from the geopolitics of water rights to the element’s role in jellyfish propulsion. Reynold’s will premiere in in 2019, but in the meantime the Austin composer is trying it out in a free workshop performance.
            8 p.m. Aug. 13, Dive Bar, 1703 Guadalupe St. Free. facebook.com/events/406616839853444/

            New Music Mixer: Inversion Ensemble
            Austin’s Inversion Ensemble is a choral collective made up of composers and singers who perform innovative choral works and to encourage the creation of new music. Artistic director Trevor F. Shaw and composer Robbie LaBanca share the ensemble’s work. Co-sponsored with KMFA, 89.5.
            5 to 7 p.m. Program begins at 6 p.m. Free; $1 off pints. Friends & Allies, 979 Springdale Road

            Visionary Voices: Thoughtbarn
            Austin-based collective Thoughtbarn has created installations for Waller Creek’s “Creek Show” and the big yellow wristbands that mark the cycling trail along Lady Bird Lake. Thoughtbarn’s work has received awards by the American Institute of Architects and Public Art Network, among other national organizations.
            6 p.m. Aug. 14, Texas Society of Architects, 500 Chicon St. Free. austintexas.gov/page/visionary-voices-lecture-series

            Opening Line-up: New exhibits this week
            Terra Goolsby
            combines slick black porcelain with fur to create mysterious sculptural forms that are both primordial and sublime: 7 to 10 p.m. Aug. 16 at Dimension GalleryRachael Henson uses domestic material to reflect on her personal response to ideas of identity and transition recipient of MASS Gallery’s Hotbox Residency: 7 to 10 p.m. Aug. 17, St. Edwards Fine Arts Center.  Ana Esteve Llorens uses a loom attached to her body to create meticulously hand-woven image: 7 to 9 p.m Aug. 18 at Las Cruces. “Why Annual” is a group exhibit of 16 contemporary artists and designers that asks each participant “why?”: 6 to 9 p.m. Aug. 18 at Northern-Southern. Katie Maratta’s hyper-small landscape drawings are paired with Jill Lear’s large-scale paintings of magnificent trees: 5 to 8 p.m. Aug. 18 at Gallery Shoal Creek.

            “Up Around the Sun: Tim Kerr, Jerry Hagins, Ken Waldman”
            Visual artist and Texas Music Hall of Fame inductee Tim Kerr and his Up Around the Sun band mate Jerry Hagins will be joined by “Alaska’s Fiddling Poet” Ken Waldman for an evening of roots music, poetry and art.
            8 p.m. Aug. 18, Rollins Studio Theater, Long Center, $29. thelongcenter.org

            New Music Mixer: Innversion Ensemble

              Austin’s Inversion Ensemble is a choral collective made up of composers and singers who perform innovative choral works and to encourage the creation of new music.

              For the August New Music Mixer — co-sponsored with KMFA 89.5 — Inversion artistic director Trevor F. Shaw and composer Robbie LaBanca will share the ensemble’s work.

              5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 14, Program begins at 6 p.m.

              Free; $1 off pints
              Friends & Allies, 979 Springdale Road






              Nominations Sought for Texas State Artists, Poet Laureate

              Right: Beili Lui, "Airseed Mono," , Sumi ink on yupo paper; Left: Beverly Penn, "Genus," bronze, metal, mardboard, mica

              The Texas Commission on the Arts is seeking nominations for the positions of 2019 and 2020 State Poet Laureate, State Musician, State Artist two-dimensional media and State Artist three-dimensional media.

              All Texas citizens are encouraged to make nominations. Self-nominations are accepted and people can nominate more than one artist.

              The nomination form is available at arts.texas.gov/initiatives/texas-state-artist/. The deadline is Oct. 15, 2018.

              Nominees must be either native Texans or five-year residents of the state. Candidates must have received recognition for high levels of excellence and success in their respective disciplines. They also must have received critical reviews in state, regional or national publications.

              The current 2017 and 2018 appointments are musicians George Strait and Marcia Ball; poet laureates Carol Coffee Reposa and Jenny Browne; 2D artists Sedrick Huckaby and Kermit Oliver; and 3D artists Beverly Penn and Beili Liu.

              “We are fortunate to have many outstanding artists in Texas, and we anticipate receiving numerous qualified nominations,” said Gary Gibbs, executive director of TCA. “Being named a Texas State Artist is the Texas Legislature’s highest honor for an artist, and it brings new career opportunities and recognition from the arts community and the general public.”