By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Connally built People I Know from the inside out. The core group of 12 panels includes a self-portrait, wherein the artist gives herself a wild-eyed Stockard Channing look; her immediate and extended family; and very close friends. Acquaintances and virtual strangers surround the intimate center, many of whom are well-known players in the Dallas-Fort Worth art game. A gentle, elegant likeness of Patricia Meadows, noted Dallas art patron, hangs near the angular face of Terri Thornton, director of education for Fort Worth's Museum of Modern Art. Connally painted fellow artists, including art stars Pamela Nelson and Annette Lawrence; gallery owners, including Craighead, Steve Green, and Houston's Betty Moody; art leaders, such as Katherine Wagner, former director of the Dallas Visual Art Center; and the grande dame of Dallas gallerists, Edith Baker.
Connally threw in a couple of local art writers you might recognize, too, along with her film processor, her son's teacher, her mail carrier, a banker, a lawyer, a pilot, and a cowboy. "It really is a reflection of a community," she says, noting a mix of ethnicity and ages from newborn to her father, who was 77 when he died in July 2000. One of her subjects, Dallas floral designer Don Hathorn, died after Connally completed his portrait. In it, Hathorn is painfully thin, smoking, and solemn, with pale, nearly gray skin and a palpable sadness.
Even if you don't know each person's story, or the emotional investment of the artist, you'll take this work at more than face value. You may not like the way Connally sees the people she knows--with noses that seem a little too big, exaggerated expressions, jutting jaws, scowling aspects, prissy attitudes, pouty lips. Of these faces, a few seem familiar, a few are off-putting; some attract or repel you instantly, some require study. The installation itself--90 panels hanging edge-to-edge in enforced and unnatural closeness--creates a sense of community and chaos at the same time. It's a wall of mirrors in a sense, daring you to see yourself as others might.