The mothers of invention

It was Richard Franck who actually wrote, "Art imitates Nature" in his Northern Memoirs, printed in 1694; whoever revised it to "art imitates life," though, nailed a concept that crystallized 1999 on the Dallas-Fort Worth visual art scene. Take tragedy and misfortune, for example; in life, some people wallow in their troubles, never recover, and die sad and embittered. In art, there's the initial wallowing, then a Baywatch-worthy least, usually. Take the Dallas Visual Art Center, which found itself virtually homeless in December 1998, when its renovated warehouse at 2917 Swiss Avenue had to be vacated, save for the office staff. The Meadows Foundation quite literally saved the day: Just barely a year later, DVAC's back on track in very stylish, state-of-the-art-gallery digs at Swiss and Texas. Another bounce back from disaster came in the form of the Talley Dunn/Gerald Peters/Ted Pillsbury saga, which Blink has covered like body hair; it's painful to try to rehash the goings-on, even in an end-of-the-year recap. Just know that out of a desperate scenario that could have lost Dallas a very significant gallery, we got two new galleries: Dunn Brown Contemporary and Pillsbury and Peters Fine Art.

One tragedy in the art world remains unresolved as we practice writing "2000": the death of Fort Worth's Contemporary Art Center. After a lengthy struggle, the CAC succumbed to an apparently terminal illness, summarized by insiders as an unrelenting power struggle between the suits and the sandals. Artists, some say, killed the CAC by refusing to work with the business leaders. And the business folk, others say, killed the CAC by investing in a too-pricey downtown space, too many hokey special events, and assorted gimmicky attempts to raise money. Sad, too, was the inability of Texas Christian University to save the Contemporary by taking over its operation. TCU's Ronald Watson gave it the old college try, but the cost of operating the CAC in Sundance Square proved unworkable.

Another couple of end-of-the-year obits: Dallas lost State Street Gallery in March, as owner Kristi Chapman-Hopkins called it a day, citing a lack of real support (that is, money) from the community. Board president Dain Dunston announced the end of Dallas' Playwrights Project, a grassroots organization that began in 1990. Dunston said the project would bow out last April because of lack of interest, support, and volunteer leadership. With its passing, Dallas lost an average of six staged readings of new plays each year, a fall theater-crawl event, and an annual festival of 10-minute plays. Maybe loss was more of a theme this year than recovery, come to think of it. Maybe "art imitates death" was more like it for 1999.

Annabelle Massey Helber


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