Kid critic
As the staff of the Florence Art Gallery sat down to read the article "Kid Cubist" by Christina Rees [June 4], we were amazed, to say the least. The Dallas Observer is truly fortunate to have augmented its staff with a writer of such diverse talents. Not only has Ms. Rees, one of the Observer's most recent acquisitions, proven herself a valuable staff member through her abilities in art and film criticism, but she also looks to have proven herself to be of inestimable value as art consultant, broker, and investment advisor.

That Ms. Rees was gracious enough to offer free investment advice proves her loyalty to the visual art world and her hopes for its betterment.

Dallas art buyers take heed. Before you fall in love with a work of art to the extent that you may rashly offer to trade currency for the honor of living with the piece and allowing it to continue to enhance your life for years to come, slow down. Take the advice of Dallas' newest expert--Ms. Rees--and ask yourself: Value? Investment? Love?

So you find Stella drab and Rauschenberg fussy. According to Ms. Rees, you are wrong. Walk out of your local art gallery and give Sotheby's a call.

To be fair, Ms. Rees' beef with artist Alexandra Nechita does reflect some greater trends in the current art world, however with other artists. Today, there is a lack of respect for talent in the medium of oil on canvas, and some also believe that accessibility is to be equated with ignorance.

Running and operating an art gallery has provided us with the opportunity to view an extensive sampling of current art. Artists walk in the door, portfolio in hand; professional representatives call; and our mailbox is bombarded with photographs and artists' biographies on a daily basis. With such a basis of comparison, we feel secure on the occasions that internationally recognized talent walks in our door.

Without broaching the question of the subjectivity of beauty, it is unquestionable that Alexandra Nechita has a gifted eye for composition and an uncommon talent for creating harmony through color. That the media has embraced the tag line "Petite Picasso" is an element of hype. Fragmentation of the human form does not a Cubist make, and we would have expected that Christina Rees, educated critic that she is, would not jump on the bandwagon. Unfortunately, we were wrong.

At the request of many, Alexandra expressed her motivation for the large canvas The Magic of the Tooth Fairy during the opening reception last month. She innocently described her 12-year-old vision of what the Tooth Fairy might look like. While Ms. Rees felt it necessary to eloquently misquote Alexandra in "Valley girl-ese," what the spectators were allowed to experience was an artist unencumbered by the past pressures of university art instructors asking, "But what is the deeper meaning?" Refreshingly, Alexandra Nechita paints what she thinks and feels, without the smog of pretense that thickens the air at many Dallas art openings and divides "those who know" from those who simply wish to experience art. Nechita's works show up on the walls of galleries across the world on the basis of her unique vision and technical skill in the art of painting. The public falls in love with Alexandra Nechita's work for its honesty.

Alexandra's recent invitation from the world-renowned Mourlot Imprimeurs of Paris, France, is rare and exceptional--for Mourlot Imprimeurs is selective in nature. This is a description of prodigy, for as Webster's Dictionary describes, a prodigy is one who demonstrates exceptional talents--an act or event so extraordinary or rare as to inspire wonder. In all, Alexandra's works obviously aroused "wonder" in Ms. Rees; otherwise she would never have walked into the gallery to feed her curiosity.

Florence Art Gallery

I teach programming. The technique I use is to start with examples of good working code and have students modify and reshape it.

I think journalism and criticism are taught the same way. (Or, that's the way they were taught 40 years ago when it was possible to find good examples of journalism and criticism. It's harder to use this technique now, since journalists and critics spend more time consulting Marx than consulting Strunk & White, but that's another topic.)

Anyway, why make fun of someone who is learning to be an artist the same way the "critic" is learning to be a critic? Almost everything of significance created by someone under the age of 25 is essentially an imitation of the work of some adult the child admired.

Of course, the critic might argue that the criticism is directed toward those who take the work of a child seriously. I might listen to such an argument if I thought the author was also critical of adults who waste time and money on similarly derivative works by young reporters and critics. I doubt if that is true, though.  

John H.
Via e-mail

Does Christina Rees like anything? Sometimes I think she's so far up her own arse I wonder if she can see out of her nostrils.

Jez Dean
Via e-mail

Formula for clean skivvies
Wow! I've got skidmarks in my skivvies! But seriously, beyond the fact that products containing Olestra give you the squirts ["Getting fat off non-fat," June 25] and cramping, and rob you of nutrition, who are the idiots eating this stuff?

The poor, overweight, sheepish public can't seem to get a handle on what it takes to be healthy. fen-phen, Redux, and any of the other lose-weight-fast-without-actually-working-at-it magic bullets must sound too good to pass up.

Psssst...I have this secret formula for all you Olean chip-munching ninnies: Eat right and get off your fat asses and exercise. Eat a few real chips (instead of the whole bag), and then eat something good for you. Walk for 15 minutes a day. Take the stairs for a change. You'll feel so much better inside and out. Plus, you can keep buying white underwear with confidence.

S. Morris
Via e-mail

Not a mellow fellow
Your backing of Mr. Price's political career by trying to plant seeds of mellowing in the minds of Dallas residents won't work ["Mr. Mellow," June 18]. There has been too much damage done and too many enemies made. When will the black community wake up and realize that people like [Republican U.S. Representative from Oklahoma] J.C. Watts are real leaders and are to be looked up to and emulated?

Education and personal responsibility through love of God and country are the only ways that the black community will achieve full equality. Leaders like Mr. Watts are desperately needed in the black community. If Mr. Price wants to be a real leader in Dallas, he has to do more that mellow out. He has to begin backing the education and personal responsibility platforms of the conservative movement. For without these two most important attributes, the black citizens in this country have no chance for equality.

Via e-mail

Stewing in his own juice
Many years ago, before I saw the error of my ways and was still half-Yankee, I commuted regularly between Dallas and New York. On one of those trips, I had the occasion to take a visitor to dinner at a Manhattan steak house. This was a young lady with an indifferent Dallas high school education who had never been out of Texas before.

In the course of demolishing her dinner of prime rib au jus, she beckoned to the waiter and asked him, politely, if she might have "another cup of au jus." The waiter, who was young, almost collapsed with laughter, as did his colleagues, to each of whom he repeated this. When the proper opportunity came along, I gave the waiter a gentle lecture on the virtues of professionalism, the evils of parochialism, and on regional variations in language.

To my puzzled guest, I later explained that although her use of "au jus" as a noun is common in Texas, it is uncommon elsewhere, particularly in New York. The French words "au jus" are an adjective meaning, roughly, "in [its own] juice," and asking for "more au jus" is like eating squid in its own ink and asking for "more in-its-own-ink," or eating pie a la mode and asking for "more a la mode."

All this was brought to mind by your May 21 Dish review ["Service with a frown"], which contains the following: "The slices were...dry and chewy, making that cup of au jus work awfully hard."

Mr. Stuertz knows better. I can't figure out if he was being jocular, writing down to his audience (a mortal sin), or just being lazy. But now that the Observer is online, and therefore more easily accessible nationally, this is the kind of thing we ought to avoid. Phil Gramm and Dick Armey provide enough harm to our national reputation without adding to that by exposing regional naivete.

Bob Martin
Granbury, Texas

Rhyme without reason
I could not agree more with Keven McAlester and his article "Pieces of crap" [June 11]. The state in which poetry is right now is pathetic, and Jewel is a perfect example of it. I am currently attending an art institute, and in that place poetry has become a very trendy thing. I think it's great, except for one big and important factor: All the poetry looks exactly the same.

At the same time, half of my school listens to Jewel, and they all are crazy about her for her so-called creativity and poetic talent. The fact is that her poetry is no different from anybody else's. No wonder that those 10 people couldn't tell Jewel's poetry apart from Auden's or Bukowski's.  

For some reason, I am fascinated with the phenomenon of different people writing exactly the same thing over and over and claiming it to be their own unique expression of their soul. How exactly can you express your true self by using a bunch of other people's cliches and overused metaphors?

In addition to the poetry that those people write, we also have to hear their never-ending complaints about how nobody cares about poetry nowadays. Come on everybody--how many times can we hear birds, wind, water, fire, trees, and grass metaphors? How many times can we find references to drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes during the a.m. hours to be deep and emotional? I, for one, am getting pretty sick of it.

The poetry world, however, still goes on, and it is no surprise that Jewel is on top of it. PC aside, all her fans are blinded by her physique and that extremely attractive face of hers, two things that made her famous. If you have any doubts, just go to any poetry reading and see which poets get the most attention, and figure out for yourself if poetry really matters there.

Via e-mail

Wilson envy
I just wondered if Mr. [Robert] Wilonsky maybe got his promo copy of the new Ringo Starr atrocity mixed up with Brian Wilson's Imagination [Out There, June 11]. I ask only because of the seemingly universal praise being heaped on the record by his media counterparts. Sure, there are a few exceptions, although even these rate the album mediocre and acknowledge some standout tracks--not unlistenable, as Mr. Wilonsky would have us believe in his oddly vicious attack.

In addition, the suggestion that perhaps Wilson was "overrated" to begin with should never have made its way past any editor's desk and into print in a legitimate publication. I would be interested to know what Mr. Wilonsky's background is--for example, is he a musician himself? The reason I ask is that one would be hard-pressed to find any legitimate popular-music artist who would not acknowledge a major debt to "Mr. Overrated." I'm sure Mr. Wilonsky's credentials are superior to, say, Sir Paul McCartney, who (among many others) has long acknowledged publicly the genius of Brian Wilson. Lastly, I find it hard to imagine (no pun intended) anyone with a pulse not being instantly grabbed by the chorus and brilliant changes contained in the first single, "Imagination."

Are we sure Mr. Wilonsky is still breathing? Many critics tend to be frustrated musicians, getting some strange form of enjoyment from criticizing what they wish they could do. Is this perhaps a case of Mr. Wilonsky suffering a bit of "Salieri" disease?

Via e-mail

I have to say I loved Christina Rees' review of The Killdares' Broken with a Word [Out Here, June 11]. I was flattered to read that we were capable of "swirling melancholy" and "pensive acoustic guitar" as well as an "electric ax onslaught." Fantastic! I would just like to make the following observations:

As far as I know, no member of the Killdares owns a Metallica record.
The "flat, forced drama" of our vocals deals with their unusual qualities of being clear, in tune, and sung with a bit of conviction.

The bombastic Stratocaster is prominently featured on "The Wounded Foot March," not the "purist twang" of the mandolin or acoustic guitar.

We are all well aware of the dangers of being trampled by a dwarf.

Well, that was a first. Peter Rainer, in his review of The Truman Show ["Camera ready," June 4], gave away the ending--to Bulworth! If I had known that reading his review of Truman would ruin Bulworth, I would have waited until afterward to read the Truman Show review. Of course, we're not supposed to worry that a review of one new movie might ruin another for us. Maybe we should start anticipating that from now on--at least from Peter Rainer.

Via e-mail

Last great rock-and-roll band
I really enjoyed your review of the South Philly band Marah [Music listings, June 11], which recently played the Gypsy Tea Room. This band is one of the most incredible live bands I have seen and is absolutely the most refreshing rock-and-roll band to surface in years. They remind me, too, of early Replacements with a little splash of the boss. America should get ready, 'cause these guys are for real and they are the last great American rock-and-roll band!  

Darin Murphy
Via e-mail

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