Best Visual Artist (2002)

David Bates

To get Clintonian for a moment, what, exactly, is a "visual" artist? One can argue that this must mean movies or video or even performance, since the other folks--your painters and your sculptors and your bits-of-confetti-on-the-museum-floor types--work with physical materials and thus should be labeled plastic artists. But movies and video aren't "art" forms at all, not 95 percent of the time, anyway. But where does that leave photography, which is a "visual" art? And what about actors, and dancers, and their art-world cousins, the "happenings" folks? You can argue that the poor lost souls who never got over Fluxus are the only true "visual" artists, again to the extent that they are artists at all. Don't even get us started on the possible meanings of "best." So here's what we're going to do. We're going to define "best" to mean the critic's favorite, and "visual" to mean "plastic" (also the critic's favorite), and we're going to read "contemporary Texas" into the specs. We're not going to limit the candidates to folks who have had a show in the last year. And now that we've defined things just so, the choice is David Bates, the Dallas painter and sculptor who is far and away the best living Texas artist. Honorable mention goes to an up-and-comer, Longview's delightfully off-plumb Celia Eberle.


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