Arts and Culture
Posted September 20, 2006 by Weekly Staff in Best Of
Outdoor Cultural Event
Readers’ choice: Main Street Arts Festival
Staff choice: Taming of the Shrew, Latin Arts Alliance
On several evenings last May, the Latin Arts Alliance produced a bilingual version of the Bard’s Taming of the Shrew. Cleverly using the space adjacent to the historic Rose Marine Theater, director Yvonne DuQue created multiple environments for her cast of talented actors. The language shifted seamlessly between English and Spanish. The audience sat in lawn chairs and lay on quilts on the grass (making many of us nostalgic for the late, lamented Shakespeare in the Park productions). Children ran about, old folks chatted comfortably. And as if free admission weren’t enough, happy volunteers dished up two kinds of enchiladas and offered glasses of wine. This was urban culture at its best.
Gallery Art Show of Last 12 Months
Readers’ choice: Arts Goggle
Staff choice: Organic Edge, Gallery 414, 414 Templeton Dr, FW
For a decidedly minimalist show, Organic Edge was original, inspired, and utterly bereft of pretension. Featuring Brad Ford Smith, Erik Totsen, Jessica McCambly, Charlotte Smith, and Jen Rose, this huge exhibit wasn’t exactly “edgy,” from a technical standpoint. Blobs, beads, and furry-looking surfaces dominated, conjuring plants, micro-organisms, and other simple life forms. Talk about a contemporary update on naturalism.
Museum Art Show of Last 12 Months
Readers’ choice: Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
Staff choice: In the American West: Photographs by Richard Avedon, Amon Carter
Though we appreciate the Modern’s regionalist leanings, as long as curator Michael Auping and company continue highlighting mediocre art from mediocre artists, the Amon Carter will be the art mausoleum to beat. The Carter’s ostensibly non-artful, purely historical shows almost always have a progressive edge; beneath the surface of many of the arty exhibits are usually intense layers of subtext, like with this black-and-white Avedon masterstroke. Commissioned by the museum 20 years ago, In the American West pissed off a lot of people upon its international debut here. From Cowtown to California, locals complained that by training his focus on victims of Progress, such as coal miners, drifters, and carnies, that damn Yankee merely exploited our underbelly. But understand: Even if Avedon, a fashion photog by trade, had included religious leaders, oil barons, and other success stories endemic to the West, he could have made them look as evil as he made his soot-covered “suckers” look majestic, saintly even. The exhibit was brought back to celebrate its 20th anniversary. Avedon’s documents of the proletariat are as probing as ever. Fashions may change, but a filthy coverall beneath bewildered eyes will always be a filthy coverall beneath bewildered eyes.
Performing Arts Organization
Readers’ choice: Texas Ballet Theater
Staff choice: Amphibian Productions
What do Fort Worth’s theatergoers do when they’re looking for something that isn’t the umpteenth performance of Oklahoma! or Annie? If they’re savvy, they seek out the plays presented by this sophisticated troupe out of TCU, which puts on thought-provoking avant-garde drama without Hip Pocket’s comfy insular vibe.
Art Experience For Kids
Readers’ choice: Van Grow Studio, 3434 W 7th St, FW
Staff choice: “Imagine Peace” exterior mural, Arts Fifth Avenue, 1628 Fifth Av, FW
Jo Dufo, a Fort Worth school district art teacher who offers private classes at Arts Fifth Avenue, put paintbrushes in the hands of her students this summer and took them outside. The result is a gift to the neighborhood and a delight for passing motorists. A large mural in bright primary colors shows kids doing kid stuff in safe surroundings – reading, drawing, holding hands, giggling – with lots of blue sky, flowers, and green grass. The scenes decorate the south wall of the funky music, dance, yoga, and art center that has become a gathering place for the multi-cultural denizens of the old and the new South Side. The painting of the mural, a community arts project called Kids Painting the Neighborhood Safe, was funded by Samuel’s Heart Auction, the Safe Cities program, and the Leadership Class at TCU. The three-week painting process became a neighborhood event with volunteers mixing paints, keeping the kids fed and watered, and organizing cleanup crews. It’s graffiti at its best.
Example of Art Altruism
Staff choice: The Kimbell Art Museum’s return of Glaucus and Scylla
Painted in 1841 by British artist J.M.W. Turner, the magnificent canvas of swirling, brilliant colors on wood was the museum’s only Turner and had been a centerpiece of its permanent collection since 1966 when it was purchased by the museum’s first director, Richard Brown. But the work carried a horrific secret: It had been owned by Jewish art collectors John and Anna Jaffe and confiscated by the Nazis in occupied France in 1942. This June, after Jaffe heirs proved beyond any doubt that Glaucus and Scylla had belonged to their ancestors, Kimbell director Timothy Potts graciously returned the painting to the family. Even though the Kimbell has no insurance to cover the loss of a painting under such circumstances, Potts feels good about it. He told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “All Holocaust claims need to be dealt with responsibly.” Founders Kay and Velma Kimbell, who created a world-class museum to freely share their own collection with the public, would have been proud.
Readers’ choice: ArtSpace 111, 111 Hampton St, FW
Staff choice: UNT-Artspace FW, 3400 Camp Bowie Blvd, FW
The appearance over the past year of UNT’s satellite gallery here has been one of the best things to happen to the Fort Worth art community in years. We haven’t seen as much progressive contemporary stuff since the days of Four Walls, on the North Side. For every miss, this small Cultural District gem delivers several hits. One of its best was its inaugural show, featuring Cultural District employees, all UNT alumni and successful artists, including Robert McAn, Brian Fridge, and Patrick Young.
Readers’ choice: Nancy Lamb
Staff choice: Christopher Blay
Aside from being an insightful photographer, the 38-year-old Blay is also a thoughtful, aggressive installation artist and culture jammer. His last solo show, a visual interpretation of the philosophy of Vilém Flusser, was apparently too progressive for the gallery establishment. As a result, states of things was displayed in an abandoned Southside warehouse and was up for only a couple of days. As an ironist nonpareil, Blay also holds an annual thrift art auction. On the block are the cheesiest, campiest pieces of forgotten art that Blay is able to unearth from local thrift stores. The event questions how something with no material value, like a painting, can be worth millions of dollars, especially when many of our brothers and sisters are sleeping on the streets and starving.
Readers’ choice: Frances Lea Dancers
Staff choice: Texas Ballet Theater, Metropolitan Classical Ballet, Bruce Wood Dance Company
Ranking any of these companies above the others is impossible. TBT brings us Royal Ballet-inspired big budget productions, MCB excels in the Russian and Balanchine repertory, and BWDC gives us modern dance filtered through the talent of its namesake. Each is a pillar of the local dance scene, and we would be the poorer for the absence of any of them.
Readers’ choice: Four-Day Weekend
Staff Choice: Amphibian Productions
Readers’ choice: Michael Johnson, Box Theatre
Staff choice: (tie) Michael Muller, Evan Mueller, Jonathan Fielding, Below the Belt, Amphibian Productions
We could’ve picked any one of this trio of actors who terrifically evoked the wounded masculine ego, but together in this play, Muller, Mueller, and Fielding represented a kind of tag team of heterosexual male dysfunction masquerading as camaraderie within the claustrophobic hothouse of office politics. It didn’t seem proper to single out any of their performances, since each seemed to offer different tragic stages of the same “team player”: Fielding as the baby-faced new arrival all too eager to stand there and repeatedly take the blows; Mueller as the cynical pugilist who secretly dreams of reconnecting with the world outside his workplace; and Muller as the veteran factory man who long ago lost hope of any human connection beyond a cynical, burlesque version of water cooler friendships with his underlings. Their ensemble work was hilarious, disturbing, and oddly sobering in this age in which Americans are working a lot more for a much smaller return.
Production Staged by a Local Theater
Readers’ choice: Taming of the Shrew, Latin Arts Alliance
Staff choice: Blues for an Alabama Sky, Jubilee Theatre
Readers’ choice: Anne-Lynn Kettles
Staff choice: Evette Perry-Buchanan, Blues for an Alabama Sky, Jubilee Theatre
While Jubilee Theatre has always been an African-American theater troupe (and proudly so), the last decade or so has seen their reputation transcend racial tags to become one of the finest purveyors in Texas of the so-called “well-made play.” A “well-made play” – the term was coined in 19th-century Europe – is just exactly what it sounds like: a drama whose plot, character development, theme, and setting are so inextricably woven that the ticketbuyer can’t help but enjoy the fullest satisfaction of catharsis by curtain time. Pearl Cleage’s Blues for an Alabama Sky, directed by Sharon Benge, was the latest in Jubilee’s rich canon; it explored the crumbling of the Harlem Renaissance as the Great Depression approached. Audiences watched the travails of a family doctor who provides abortions to desperate women, a social worker attempting to open Harlem’s first family planning clinic, a gay costume designer who dreams of dressing Josephine Baker in Paris, and a corn-swilling nightclub singer who must have a man in her life at all times. The latter was embodied with sensual fragility by Evette Perry-Buchanan, whose character Angel, left alone in her apartment at the play’s fadeout, sipping champagne and surrounded by the debris of her own bad choices, was still haunting audience members when they hit Main Street after the show.
Show at Bass Hall in the Last 12 Months
Readers’ choice: 1964 Beatles
Staff choice: 3 Redneck Tenors
If you think the Paris Opera House is in Paris, Texas, you might be one of the 3 Redneck Tenors. Matthew Lord’s show about good ol’ boys who can sing like Pavarotti stopped in Cowtown last November and raised a lot of laughs, proving that the trailer park and Carnegie Hall aren’t that far from each other. Treading the same boards as the real opera companies, these classically trained singers in trucker caps deserve a rousing rendition of “La donna é mobile home.”
Readers’ choice: Magical Symphony Tour
Staff choice: Guest conductor Gunther Herbig with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.
With only a couple of rehearsals, Herbig transformed the FWSO sound into a gossamer lightness that allowed the music of Mozart, Schubert, and Beethoven to float with ethereal ease in the wonderful acoustics of Bass Performance Hall. The early Viennese school has rarely been better served, anywhere.
Book By Texas Author Published In Last 12 Months
Staff choice: Noah’s Ride, a collaborative novel, TCU Press
A book written by a baker’s dozen of Texas authors, each responsible for one chapter, ought to wind up on a worst, not best, list. But these collaborators – Elmer Kelton, Judy Alter, Carlton Stowers, Phyllis Allen, James Reasoner, Mary Rogers, Mike Cochran, Mike Blackman, Jane Wood, James Lee, Carole Douglas, Jeff Guinn, and Mary Dittoe Kelly – have turned in a rollicking good page-turner, following the adventures of a runaway slave in Mississippi at the end of the Civil War. Noah, a slave with no last name, tries to stay one step ahead of one of the meanest-drawn characters in fiction, slave catcher Quint, with a “milky eye.” Each author’s job is to further the story where his/her predecessor ends a chapter – and keep the suspense alive as they do it. This collaborative effort was the brainchild of former Fort Worth Star-Telegram book editor Jerry Flemmons. A basic plot was chosen, and the writers were turned loose. Not only is the tale a good one, it is obvious from the writing that these wordsmiths were having a helluva good time
Staff choice: The Blue Saloon
The first openly gay film made here had its world premiere this spring at the seventh annual Q Film Festival. Even as The Blue Saloon flips off Christian fundamentalists, Dave Stovall’s barroom dramedy manages to find a sweet spot, somewhere between humor and seriousness, profundity and pedantry. His 90-minute work should hit the festival circuit soon.
Place to See Art Films
Reader’s Choice: Magnolia at the Modern
Dance Performance (Solo)
Readers’ choice: Angela Guthmiller
Staff choice: Julie Gumbinner
Ballerina Julie Gumbinner came of age dancing the title role in Ben Stevenson’s Romeo and Juliet for Texas Ballet Theater. While previous appearances here showed her as one-dimensional and aloof, she blossomed into a promising dancer and actress as the doomed Shakespearean heroine.
Dance Performance (Ensemble)
Readers’ choice: Frances Lea Dancers
Staff choice: Olga Pavlova and Alexander Vetrov, “Bonjour Brel”
Metropolitan Classical Ballet revived Eddy Toussaint’s extended duet, created for company co-director Alexander Vetrov and the incomparable Olga Pavlova. It was Vetrov’s performing swan song, and he was in remarkable form. He and Pavlova brought style and finesse to this Apache-like Parisian love story. In another era, MGM might have filmed it with Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse, and these two seemed just as noteworthy.
Readers’ choice: “Briefcase Man”
Staff choice: “Leaves Imagination,” Brad Bell
OK, so it’s at the Dallas Arboretum, and it’s more architecture than art, but it was designed by a UTA prof, and it’s really cool. “Leaves Imagination” was one of 55 entries, all submitted by local architects, in the juried exhibit Ultimate Tree Houses. Bell’s was one of 13 chosen. Spread across the arboretum’s 66 acres, the structures will be on view until the end of the year. Designed with help from HNTB Architecture, “Leaves Imagination” could be confused with four separate gray tents in various states of deflation. That the minimalist, organic-looking canopies manage to complement rather than overpower the sylvan surroundings is its greatest achievement.
Readers’ choice: (tie) Fa$ci$t Watch; Q Cinema
Staff choice: Great Movies You Haven’t Heard of Yet
The annual late-September weekend at the Modern organized by the Star-Telegram’s Christopher Kelly has become Fort Worth’s version of the Toronto Film Festival, a gathering of small festival films headlined by one or two contenders for the Oscars. Previous years brought us The Motorcycle Diaries and Pride & Prejudice, and this year we can look forward to The Last King of Scotland, starring Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin, and Stephen Frears’ docudrama The Queen.
Staff choice: Vera Turbeville Edelbrock
People outside the Fort Worth area haven’t taken much notice, but local art collectors are quickly discovering Edelbrock’s modernist paintings of still-life topics and local architecture, and noting her unique place in local history. After graduating from TCU in 1930, she became the school’s first student to obtain a master’s in art education, in 1946. She taught art in Fort Worth public schools for more than 35 years, spreading her knowledge and passion for art to generations. The Fort Worth native studied for more than 20 years under one of the city’s best artists, Bror Utter, and his style permeates her paintings, which she signed simply “Vera” or “Vera E.” After her death in 2004, Edelbrock’s paintings began surfacing, drawing attention to her keen sense of color and composition. Clifton art dealers Vic and Ethan Roper purchased much of her estate, mostly watercolors, and have been selling them on eBay under the user name bosquecrossing.
Staff choice: Danny Owens
The definition of outsider artist is no longer limited to mentally disturbed people with no formal art training. The term now also applies to relatively normal folk with no formal art training: tattoo artists, watercolor society members, and former captains of industry. Several years ago, Danny Owens quit his job as national sales manager for a publishing company to begin working full-time on his art – small, shimmering, metallic tableaux of beauty, in the best sense of the word. Owens proves that “contemporary” doesn’t have to equal “brutal.”
So Your Mother Threw Away Your Baseball Cards. Get Over It – Buy Texas Art.
Many a kid who developed a passion for collecting sports cards saw that harmless hobby ruined during the 1990s, when greed and overproduction led to the equivalent of the 1929 Wall Street collapse. Cards began as fun little mementos stuck inside cigarette or bubble gum packs. Most were thrown away, and eventually the remaining ones became valuable. This attracted investors, and the prices zoomed upward. By the late 1980s, collectors/ investors were storing cards in chemically safe plastic sleeves for protection. This and overproduction by manufacturers doomed the hobby: When millions of cards are made and everyone protects them like Van Goghs, the demand seldom surpasses supply.
But another hobby has come along that provides everything that sports card collecting once offered – history, art, scarcity, the thrill of the chase, and the pride of ownership, yet without the overproduction or the inherent shame attached to middle-aged men collecting little cards intended for children. (Or middle-aged women squirreling away never-unwrapped Beanie Babies, because they “might be worth something someday.”)
Early Texas art includes any works by Lone Star painters and sculptors done more than 40 years prior to today. Hundreds of documented and listed artists from 1900 to 1960 created thousands of great artworks, yet the sum total doesn’t come close to matching a single year’s production of sports cards. Paintings and sculptures display much better and have proven over the long run to be sound investments. Monticello Fine Arts Gallery and Dow Art Galleries are just a couple of local spots to find these early artworks that are growing in desirability among baby boomers with disposable income and a taste for cultural wall candy.