Cheers and tallyho

Your devoted columnist -- the little ingrate -- sails off into the sunset

And I shot from the hip. Not always straight, apparently, but at least honestly. I might have found myself on a first-name basis with artists, dealers, and curators, but I strove like hell not to let politics muddy my writing. I'm not a failed or bitter visual artist. If something smelled rotten or looked suspect, I called it out. And if it thrilled me -- which more often than not it did -- I said so, loudly and clearly. And the Observer gave me the room to stretch and fumble, like an indulgent parent who lets his 3-year-old tear her clothes off at the beach and run around.

I'd like to say I've seen nothing but progress in the local art scene these last couple of years. I have, mostly. Suzanne Weaver and Charlie Wylie have brought nothing but amazing contemporary art to the previously muddled Dallas Museum of Art. The McKinney Avenue Contemporary finally found its footing. Talley Dunn started her own gallery. The Modern in Fort Worth is readying itself for a grand new era in a new building. Denton's Good/Bad Art Collective now boasts a thriving New York satellite. The Arlington Museum of Art gave new meaning to the term "suburban venue." Fewer artists are compelled to leave the area, and, get this -- there are nine Texans in this year's Whitney Biennial.

But just as I sat down to write this farewell column, I received a sobering phone call: Turner and Runyon Gallery, always a first to bring national and international young art to these parts, is closing. Immediately. Too much overhead, too few sales. It's a reminder that in the art world, including wealthy and growing Dallas, the fragile dynamic between art and commerce doesn't always balance.

The one that stuck -- Erick Swenson's "Edgar" epitomizes the best of what I've seen these past two years.
The one that stuck -- Erick Swenson's "Edgar" epitomizes the best of what I've seen these past two years.

It's a dynamic that El Greco and Goya don't have to worry about anymore. But Tom Sale does, and Tony Schraufnagel does, and Patrick Faulhaber does. And I hope that in the two years I've been here I've helped smooth the crevices between the artistic impulse and audience (and their cash) and drafted new supporters to the scene. It's a good one. I'll miss it.

Now, after my two-year stint, I'm off to England to write a novel about transatlantic pop culture after the American Revolution or some such convoluted drivel. I'm compelled to do it, perhaps the way an artist is compelled to pick up a paintbrush.

So if -- as the door smacks my ass on the way out -- I hear a collective whisper, "What an ingrate," I don't blame you.

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