Semigloss: Sparkling Prose
Fort Worth new media artist Bradly Brown has had the kind of “urban artsy” college-and-career trajectory that the twentysomething characters on an HBO show often enjoy. The El Paso native studied photography as an undergrad at UNT and then lived in New York City for 10 years as a self-taught graphic designer/art director for the indie music label Table of the Elements. He returned to Fort Worth in 2011 to pursue a master’s in sculpture at TCU and co-founded the North Texas art collective HOMECOMING! Committee. In the middle of all that happy creative chaos, he and Sally Glass, artist in residence at the University of Texas at Dallas, co-founded Semigloss, a quarterly publication of visual art and contemporary thought by local and national artists and writers. Glass (the editor-in-chief) and Brown (the art director) just released their fourth issue last month, with a glossy silver holographic paper cover laser-cut by artist Kris Pierce (also a member of HOMECOMING!).
Explaining the inspiration for Semigloss, Brown said that Glass “had spoken on a local panel about the state of the arts scene in Dallas. Someone made the comment that there aren’t any local publications [dedicated to the visual arts scene]. So [Glass] and I talked about it, and we thought, ‘Well, if something is missing, we need to put it out there.’ ”
Brown and Glass released four 9-by-12-inch issues of Semigloss last year, each with a different overarching theme. December’s issue was devoted to the future and included visual contributions from North Texas artists like Christopher Blay and Devon Nowlin as well folks from New York City, Berlin, and Mexico City. Articles in the magazine include an overview of a New York City interdisciplinary conference on the future of government surveillance, the criminal justice system, and the labor economy; a profile of two “queer” New York filmmakers who’ve created a feature-length lesbian porn film; and an interview with longtime Dallas artists Tom Orr and Frances Bagley. In between the stories are lots of minimalist, collage-like graphic artwork from Blay, Nowlin, and artists like Detroit native Jeff Gibbons and Mexico City’s Debora Delmar Corp. The mag, in short, is a grab-bag of different styles, approaches, and opinions organized under one broad umbrella theme and presented in a sleek, high-quality paper format. Brown describes Semigloss the publication as “a portable gallery space” and each issue a different exhibition of contemporary artists and writers. Brown and Glass’ ambitions for both the publication itself and the artists it serves have changed significantly since the first issue came out.
“The first and second issues were exclusively about North Texas artists,” Brown said. “That was the reason we started the magazine in the first place –– we wanted it to represent this particular scene. Then we started talking to artists and learning about things that were going on around the country. That’s when we decided that if we want North Texas artists to be on the same level as New York or Los Angeles artists, we needed to make the playing field level. We needed to group them together. So Semigloss has become a publication about international artists that’s coming out of North Texas and includes North Texas artists.”
Semigloss has met with a surprisingly warm reception among the big and small galleries and museum spaces in Dallas that have agreed to sell it, including the Nasher Sculpture Center, the Goss Michael Foundation, Conduit Gallery, and soon the Dallas Museum of Art. Despite the heavy presence of Fort Worth artists between and behind the pages, the magazine isn’t available anywhere in Fort Worth, a glaring omission that Brown said will be fixed this year.
Each issue has grown larger in page count and number of contributors while still managing to pay for itself through ad sales and donated talent. This year Glass and Brown will establish an online version, shrink the magazine’s physical dimensions, and experiment with publishing in various media, including (possibly) an all-audio issue made of downloadable MP3s and vinyl records. Brown credits his working chemistry with Glass for the relative ease with which Semigloss is planned and produced.
Glass, he said, “puts out the calls to the contributors and does all the communicating” with the artists and writers, he said. “My job is to take the content and figure out the most appropriate way to display pieces in the magazine. We talk about what we like and what we don’t like, but ultimately I have complete trust in her. I don’t mind when someone like [Glass] makes the important decisions because I have my toes in a lot of different projects now. I don’t want to be responsible for everything.”