By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
A poetic public place
The story on the Prince of Peace Catholic Community's experience in building their church and school ["From Bauhaus to God's house," October 26] is a very telling piece, for the following reasons: in one simple parable, the crisis of American culture and environment is made clear.
Art and architecture (an artificial division of words for the purposes of this letter) are the physical projections into this world of a culture's beliefs, values, and structures. An individual work, representing a single strong, clear vision, is one of many which, together, paint a portrait of ourselves. As an artistic act of making, architecture is and always has been inherently undemocratic. In this century, however, architects have been continuously called upon in our democratic society to reconcile the demands of program, site, budget, and codes through a process of "design by committee," to achieve what hopefully will be a place of meaning and beauty in our world.
Such a place is a miracle, and in America there are precious few of them. One may think of Grand Central Station or the Golden Gate as centers of our natural consciousness. In Dallas and Fort Worth, we are fortunate to experience the examples of the Meyerson Symphony Center and the Kimbell Art Museum as much more local and contemplative places. Through their simplicity and beauty, they touch our souls.
Perhaps the most bitterly controversial architecture of this century, Maya Lin's Vietnam War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., is a place of profound power, emotion, and beauty. For the most part, however, we are faced with a decimated environment--our human environment, as well as our natural environment. The world is designed around our machines and our computers. If the world we built no longer fits our needs, we tear it down and leave behind vast wastelands to park our cars in. The interventions on one property consistently ignore the circumstances of the next, and the spaces in between are empty, wasted, chaotic, and lonely. Signs competing for our consumer dollars dwarf the spaces people actually occupy beneath them. Those who have no background in design (and in notions of proportion, efficiencies, details, and elegance) are marching across the prairies with awkward, sometimes vulgar, often shoddy interpretations of the American dwelling. Regardless of faults in detail, the program and overall composition of Prince of Peace Church provides the most meaningful and poetic public space in all of Plano.
This, then, is the face of the culture of America--of democracy, of individualism in the extreme, of money (and the pursuit thereof, of who has it and who does not), of 98 channels of cable TV and nothing to watch. We may not know much about art, but we know what we like. This should concern us if, by definition, art is about the unknowable. Thus, if the parishioners in Plano have rejected Gary Cunningham's plea for a humble spirit in conservatively simple materials and methods, then perhaps they have told us more about themselves than they realize. For ourselves, we may say a prayer, for we must live in the home that we have built.
Who cares ?
So D Magazine called the Observer a "tiresome tabloid." It is also shrill, long-winded, and self-conscious. The decibel level of your features is way too high. Your stories are too long.
The stories that really turn me off are your "exposŽs" of Ray Hunt and the city council. How many ways are you going to say the council is full of idiots and Ray Hunt is a rich man with influence? Duh! We live in Dallas. Don't we expect that? It could be worse.
I don't give a flying frig about the Mavericks' new arena. These things have been going on forever in Dallas, and it's not new and it's not the worst thing that can happen.
I wish you had more stories on regular people who are doing things we'd never know about--artists or eccentrics or people who have novel views about life in Dallas. You writers also need some humility--that Laura Miller is too much. She is so shocked about what goes on in City Hall. It's obvious she's not from here.
A stage play first
P.B. Miller's mind must have snapped when they switched Darrins on "Bewitched." How else to explain such a mind-numbing recitation of the virtues of the movie On Golden Pond when a review of the staged version at the Bath House Cultural Center was expected ["Sea of sap," October 26]?
Like Robert Conrad would say, "Count how many times the phrase 'in the movie' was used. Go ahead. I dare you."
On top of that, in talking about the inclusion of a black character, Miller opined about how this is "a departure from the movie." Hey, Miller: it was a stage play first. In many ways, the movie was a departure from the play. Furthermore, since when is a movie the defining take on a particular work? Many of our best American plays have been butchered on the screen.
Now, don't get me wrong. I don't mind reading negative reviews. I'd just like to see a review of the production at hand. This was largely missing, and in its place was part Cliffs Notes of On Golden Pond and stilted opinions about the movie. If lumped together in their entirety, Miller's comments about the actual play would barely go three paragraphs. Thanks for nothing.