The Dallas Observer 2011 MasterMind Awards

The winners of our second annual art awards delve into the past and personal loss to bring new visions to Dallas

Similarly, he is interested in pinhole photography, which, depending on the conditions surrounding the shoot, often creates landscapes with the ephemeral images of passersby, like a fog of spiritual visitors, giving them an almost palpable sense of movement. Surprisingly, Lopez has recently taken to using his iPhone — and color — to capture unexpected and occasionally surreptitious shots. Unlike the considerable setup required for his atavistic wet-plate or pinhole equipment, the iPhone affords him a more subtle, fly-on-the-wall observer's view through which he captures candid moments of life in progress.

That is Lopez's unquestionable modus operandi. Rather than focusing on controversial or polemical subjects, he gravitates toward a poetic open-narrative, occasionally lighthearted but often Kafkaesque. In fact, that's the perfect word to describe his series from Prague, which includes a stunning shot looking out to the brightly lit street from within the Franz Kafka Cafe. A lover of buildings and architecture, Lopez deftly catches mere rust stains on a bridge as if they were purposely placed to highlight the structure's unusual beauty. He captures Big Tex in mid-assembly, head rolling about the grass like a toppled Goliath. His sense of mystery intrigues a viewer from first look.

Lopez developed this skill traveling internationally and becoming "lost" in remote countries, often unable to speak the native language. He prefers this, he says, because an interpreter, or perhaps even language itself, loses the "essence of communication." By communicating primarily through gestures and body language, and by using vintage cameras that suggest his goal is art, rather than a political or some other nefarious purpose, he says he feels as though he helps return a democratization to photography. These language-free sessions become more of a deliberate, collaborative process in which his subjects take a leap of faith in him as an artist. He first realized this possibility in Vietnam while photographing the baby blue car that Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc took to Saigon before immolating himself in 1963. Pilgrims happened into the shot, but rather than waiting for them to clear, Lopez envisioned a moment of symbolic human interaction, spanning cultural barriers and time itself.

Katie Toohill returned to dance to work through her grief after her father’s death.
Katie Toohill returned to dance to work through her grief after her father’s death.
“One of my friends calls me a ‘freelance
go-getter.’ I really love that description.”
“One of my friends calls me a ‘freelance go-getter.’ I really love that description.”

International travel has been so significant to Lopez's personal development, and has so acutely informed his self-identity as an artist, that he says if money were no object, he would form a foundation to fund similar trips for students in less affluent schools. As an educator, he believes this type of cultural immersion through art and imagery teaches students to become citizens of the world, no longer mere users, but also contributors. More modestly, he hopes to buy equipment for a bigger camera that he is refurbishing and more glass to continue his ambrotypes, in addition to offering a workshop for underserved students. While teaching can be draining at times, he says he will likely never stop. "If the work's important to you, if you're passionate, you'll find time for it," he says. And Lopez always finds time to get a new shot.

Katie Toohil

Dancer, performance artist and freelance go-getter

"I'll help you do yours," Katie Toohil says when somebody asks about her long, sandy-colored dreadlocks. "Dreading hair is kind of something I'm into."

We meet up with Toohil, a 27-year-old Oak Cliff girl, at the all-vegan Spiral Diner while she's on her lunch break from her job in creative advertising. Anyone who has seen photos from her recent production, Grieve, could recognize her in a heartbeat. From stretched earlobes to studs in each nostril, Toohil stands out in all of the right ways.

"One of my friends calls me a 'freelance go-getter.' I really love that description," she says about the dreading, just one of her eclectic pursuits. Go-getter she is. As part of her healing process following the unexpected death of her father last January, Toohil thrust herself into her first original dance production, Grieve, a combination of dance modalities from carefully planned choreography to ecstatic movement, all set to the indie-rock playlist that Toohil had assembled in the days following his death. For Toohil, the music is where dance begins, and she chose songs based on images that formed organically, and sometimes unexpectedly, in her mind. "The songs in Grieve were ones that caused me to have to pull over while driving because I was suddenly crying. Or songs that made me feel angry or lost or hopeful."

Toohil listened to the songs repeatedly and in different ways — sometimes with headphones, sometimes on a car stereo and other times at home. After hearing the songs so many times, she says she started picking out rhythms that weren't immediately obvious, and in uncovering those hidden beats she began sketching unexpected, dynamic movements. A dancer since she was a child, Toohil had always planned on someday returning to her passion and perhaps even producing a show of her own, but she'd never taken the opportunity. For many would-be dancers, the art form becomes a body-breaking, endless search for perfection, all-consuming and destructive. Many people don't have the "right" body for it, and those who do often wind up losing their passion in grueling training.

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La Reunion. This is very interesting. When I was a boy we would play on the railroad tracks that are east of the property. I hope the City of Dallas builds the Chalk Hill Trail through there so that the folks on the South Side of the Trinity can have a place to enjoy bike rides and the outdoors.

Bill Holston
Bill Holston

great idea, great choices. La Reunion is really a special place, well worth checking out.