Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
This year and last have been especially good for local indie folk darling Sarah Jaffe, who was born in Red Oak, found her audience in Dallas and perfected her craft in Denton. It's been a steady climb, but one that took a steep upward turn following the April 2010 release of her sophomore album, Suburban Nature, which found the performer earning praise from outlets as wide-ranging and varied as Paste and USA Today. Front to back, it's a strong, revealing release from the 25-year-old, but the album's unquestioned highlight is "Clementine," a song that Jaffe says she wrote as something of a throwaway — a means to fill out her once rather short live performance set. These days,"Clementine" has become about as unavoidable as a local song can be; it's in frequent rotation on KKXT-FM 91.7 KXT, as well as in Starbucks coffeehouses around the country. That much is understandable enough; "Clementine" is a really pretty song. But it becomes an especially impressive track when heard repeatedly. That's when Jaffe's rather self-loathing lyrical content shines through. "I wish my name was Clementine," she sings in the song's chorus, claiming that such a name would afford her the chance to be "a little more delicate." It's a song about being self-aware, about growing up and choosing to accept or reject the person that you've become. As she performs it, Jaffe seems uncertain that she's becoming the person she wants to be. On the listeners, it has the opposite effect. To them, it's clear that Jaffe's just fine exactly as she is.
With government support of the arts disappearing, public support of live theater is going strong at Dallas Theater Center. The 2010-'11 season, starting with Shakespeare's Henry IV and ending with The Wiz, was 51-year-old DTC's biggest-ever box office year. Patrons packed the house for Arsenic and Old Lace (performed at Kalita Humphreys Theater, DTC's first home). Cabaret, which reconfigured the 600-seat Wyly into a massive Berlin nightclub, had waiting lists for tickets. Artistic director Kevin Moriarty isn't afraid to challenge actors and audience, coming up with new shapes for the stage and seating for each new show at the Wyly. DTC also is a friend to theater students at SMU and Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, casting them in plays and creating internship programs in all areas of the company. Using more local talent every year, DTC again is the theater young and old Dallas actors aspire to work in and theatergoers count on for top-tier entertainment.
No one views Dallas in a better resolution than YouPlusDallas. Their videos are big, and they're gorgeous. They scroll right off the screen; often they crash our minuscule, puttering Observer HQ servers. Masters of the art of slow-motion and time-lapse, the cinematographers of YPD have found the newest way to make Dallas look badass. It's why blogs, like, ahem, ours, constantly feature their beautiful work. But that ain't the half of it. YouPlusDallas.com, which by the way is the most comprehensive new-media site on the subject of Dallas art and music (and is new enough to still be beta testing), has got enough great content to blow any blog out of the water. The best part? It's easy to navigate. No crap, this is important. From tabs breaking down Dallas neighborhoods to their completely fun "Videopinions" (where you can watch and add a response to the conversation) they know how to make a city look pretty and be smart about it.
@FakeSteveBlow would win this even if all the Twitter account did was establish #beansandwich as a trending hash tag in Dallas (which it did following Actual Steve Blow's reminiscence on the food item in his Dallas Morning News column). That said, the tech-savvy version of the saccharine columnist's personality that is @FakeSteveBlow is so very entertaining, if only because we like to think Fake Blow's tweets are the ones Actual Blow would post if he could. Some of our favorites: "Fuck this, what's it take to get a g-d Orange Julius around here?" (December 2010); "Jackie just showed me how to set up my Google alerts. I'll start with 'claptrap' and 'baloney.'" (December 2010); "See, the real answer's as plain and simple as a #beansandwich" (January); "Shit used to be cheap when I was a kid. Shit is expensive now and I am old. Roller coasters. [link]" (February); "Herpadurp. Derpaherpadurpy. Herp derp. Derp a merp. Merpy derperton. Dumpa doopa derp. Doopa herp. Derpahoop. Herpadurp." (March) "If you ask me, this government's been shut down since 1956!" (April); "Craig Watkins, 'diva DA.' Diva! Because he is prissy! My stars, I know how to coin a phrase. [link]" (July); "Jesus Christ, Gold Bond just turns to paste in this heat. Maybe it's time to try boxers." (August). We don't actually know who's behind the account, but if we did we'd rather eat a #beansandwich than expose them.
This year the Nasher's been home to modern neon sculptures, bulbous fiberglass works and approximately 9,000 golden balloons. Yes, it's been quite the year for the young museum with recent exhibitions including Statuesque, which featured sculptures from Aaron Curry, Rebecca Warren and Thomas Houseago, among other artists, and Sightings: Martin Creed, which was a mesmerizing display of thousands of balloons squished into one gallery space. The current exhibition, Tony Cragg: Seeing Things, features about 30 of the artist's most influential pieces from the past two decades and marks the first time the sculptor has shown his work in the United States since 1992. We love the intimacy of the Nasher and its garden spaces, plus it makes a great spot for a lunch date.
Last year, Meadows Museum announced a three-year collaboration with The Prado Museum in Madrid, and as part of the partnership SMU receives three important works from the Spanish museum. Earlier this year, El Greco's "Pentecost" was on display at Meadows, and currently the museum is hosting Jusepe de Ribera's "Mary Magdalene," curated by The Prado's Dr. Gabriele Findali. The partnership has also created a fellowship and symposium that are only furthering Meadows' reputation as a mecca of Spanish art. There's no better place to see the most prolific works of Spain's Golden Age of Art, not to mention a few cute sorority girls.