The Ego and the Ecstasy

Sculptor Raffaele Martini Pandozy wages a one-man war to revolutionize Dallas' aesthetic from inside his South Dallas fortress

"I think a lot of the artists of my vintage thought it was a nice idea, but it probably wouldn't fly," he adds.

The premise for the museum itself was somewhat vague. A 1993 newsletter explaining the museum's concept was long on abstractions and short on concrete goals. The mission of the new museum would be to "establish art's social, philosophical, and moral responsibilities, expand individual artistic consciousness and the artist's intellectual horizon, and to advance and promote mainstream contemporary art in Dallas."

The strategies set forth to do this were equally grandiloquent, equally nebulous. Pandozy listed exhibitions, discussions, experimental artist-public interfaces, a research program, even a local and international art registry. Yet there was no talk of a space for these exhibits, nor talk of how much it would cost to get the program started. The museum would not be a museum in the traditional sense--meaning a space to show art, Pandozy wrote. It would exist "to stimulate intellectual growth and the production of better art."

Others saw the museum as another effort by Pandozy to draw attention to himself.

"It was the Raffaele Museum, and people generally weren't too interested in that," says the university director who wishes not to be named.

Pandozy laughs at the references to his ego. Of course he has an ego, he says; all artists do. But it is the type of ego that makes a difference, he explains. There is an ego that does things to make you look good, and there is a transcendental ego--one that lets you see things happening even when others can't.

"They call them people of vision," he says dreamily. "All people of vision have a transcendental ego. You can't put one guy with vision and a beer drinker in the same room and have them have the same kind of talk."

People just couldn't grasp Pandozy's vision.
"I was terribly disappointed," he says. "I said to myself, 'Why do this? Nobody appreciates it. People look at you as if you are doing this for your own ego.'"

A recent day found Pandozy in full rant. He had just been in Deep Ellum and had seen the "art" being installed beside Good-Latimer Expressway. He hated it.

"It is so tacky!" he says. "When an artist puts himself out there at that level, he is supposed to make a social statement. That is just fool cool. If that is the future of art, then we are in big trouble."

Dallas still doesn't get it, he laments. Monumental art, public art, is not supposed to be temporal or of the moment. It is supposed to be timeless. It is supposed to be concerned with human values.

"After three days, that should be wiped out," Pandozy says. "Those pieces should go. They are making a statement that is no statement, and it defeats the purpose of public art."

It isn't often that he gets so worked up about local art. Pandozy usually isn't here to see it these days. He spends most of his time away from Dallas, venturing here only to check on his rental studios. He also works on his book in Dallas, though he no longer sculpts here. It is too difficult to create sculptures here and then ship them to New York or Milan, he says. He is, by his own admission, completely cut off from the community around him in Dallas.

So why is he still here? Habit. "I own this building," he says. "I cannot sell it. Look where it is."

He has chosen his exile, and he will endure the misunderstanding. It is his lot, a mantle he wears with some pride.

"You have to be a free, uninhibited researcher," he says. "The artist takes on a thematic, explores the idea, and once he feels it is explored, he goes to the next one. If he stays with that idea all his life--and you can see that with some artists who have done the same thing all their lives--they are nuts.

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