Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order. When Karen Weiner opened the Reading Room in Dallas, she turned a new page for the gallery scene, creating a project space unlike anything else that exists here. Her snug little spot in Exposition Park hosts everything from book swaps to art exhibitions to readings, with topics running the gamut from history to the current exhibition that makes a case for the mailman with clever, hand drawn post cards.
Weiner's background is in bookmaking and photography, and she spent years running the UTD artist residency program with Rick Brettel, which was originally in the South Side at Lamar building. (Now the residency program is known as CentralTrak and is right down the street.) Both Weiner and her Reading Room are two staples on the Dallas arts scene, equally charming and intellectually stimulating. Words and art collide regularly, but with the Reading Room, Weiner found a way to collapse them - to frame them.
How would you describe what goes on at the Reading Room? Gallery exhibitions? Literary events? Projects.
What was your initial inspiration? To find/found a venue part library/living room/stage/gallery to experiment with text and image. small, publication/archive driven spaces in other cities were my model.
This keen interest in art that relates to text is not just about words in paintings, right? Why is it important for you to incorporate language into your space? Well, text can be: captions, titles, content, instructions, dialogue, research, lyrics, Ebay trades,voicemail, and in one case, a weather report....so many things. For me, it stems from an interest in conceptual art for which language is important. It is also an interest in language as material and conversation about art as a necessity. Text can be a painting but usually isn't. It isn'tabout creating an illusion but about information, ideas. It engages something ephemeral, sometimes performative, and often disrupts assumptions. It often requires time and patience that our current situation does not easily allow. we are an image driven culture, so perhaps I'm fighting back...or just woefully behind.
Humor is important as well. Materials involved over the past 5 years have included: ice, mushrooms, thread from India, a parachute, a urinal door partition, LFE soundtracks, soap, an apple pie baked in a briefcase, a worm farm, maps, cross stitch, diamonds (very tiny ones).
Do you have any events that stand out to you as a sort of epitome of what's going on at the Reading Room? Over the past 5 years, there have been 42 exhibitions/performances/programs. The current exhibition of postcards by Jennie Ottinger is mail art, an example that has its roots in conceptual art, and pokes fun at social media. Having Kenneth Goldsmith read the Dallas piece from Seven American Deaths and Disasters was a great honor as well as the performance of a Robert Ashley composition by Nicolas and Andrew Miller (that involved the repetition of the word titanically) and showing a historic 3-panel text piece by Douglas MacWithey. The installation of 300 index cards from Vincent Falsetta's archive was also sublime. Bookswap is an annual event that gets people talking about books and features 5 minute readings. Each exhibition/program is an exploration into new territory; hopefully, this keeps it fresh.
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You studied bookmaking, and have been involved in the arts scene in Dallas for years, do you have a perspective on the intersection or lack there of between a literary and visual art scene in Dallas? I'm excited that Dallas now has an independent book store (The Wild Detectives) and Will Evan's translation enterprise. The non-profit Wordspace has been around for a long time. We are fortunate to have the semigloss journal and pastelegram out of Austin. Text in visual art pops up from time to time, as it always has. recently, Patrick Romeo's sound work at Beefhaus intrigued me (like a poet locked in the bathroom) and the current installation of John Wilcox text work curated by Leigh Arnold is around the corner from TRR. Billboards are popping up as part of Janeil Engelstad's MAP project. The Nasher presented Sculpture in So Many Words. The Art Foundation organized the collaborative book Fountainhead. Carolyn Sortor organizes a reading group, Art As Social Wormhole that is social sculpture. Bring it on!
What are we likely to find you reading in your spare time? At the moment I'm reading Anne Carson whose poems started out as titles to drawings, got longer and more complicated and eventually the drawings disappeared altogether.
What else should we know about you? I like lists and am a paper freak.
100 Creatives: 100. Theater Mastermind Matt Posey 99. Comedy Queen Amanda Austin 98. Deep Ellum Enterpriser Brandon Castillo 97. Humanitarian Artist Willie Baronet 96. Funny Man Paul Varghese 95. Painting Provocateur Art Peña 94. Magic Man Trigg Watson 93. Enigmatic Musician George Quartz 92. Artistic Luminary Joshua King 91. Inventive Director Rene Moreno 90. Color Mavens Marianne Newsom and Sunny Sliger 89. Literary Lion Thea Temple 88. Movie Maestro Eric Steele 87. Storytelling Dynamo Nicole Stewart 86. Collaborative Artist Ryder Richards 85. Party Planning Print maker Raymond Butler 84. Avant-gardist Publisher Javier Valadez 83. Movie Nerd James Wallace 82. Artistic Tastemakers Elissa & Erin Stafford 81. Pioneering Arts Advocates Mark Lowry & Michael Warner 80. Imaginative Director Jeremy Bartel 79. Behind-the-Scenes Teacher Rachel Hull 78. Kaleidoscopic Artist Taylor "Effin" Cleveland 77. Filmmaker & Environmentalist Michael Cain 76. Music Activist Salim Nourallah 75. Underground Entrepreneur Daniel Yanez 74. Original Talent Celia Eberle 73. Comic Artist Aaron Aryanpur 72. Classical Thespian Raphael Parry 71. Dance Captain Valerie Shelton Tabor 70. Underground Culture Mainstay Karen X. Minzer 69. Effervescent Gallerist Brandy Michele Adams 68. Birthday Party Enthusiast Paige Chenault 67. Community Architect Monica Diodati 66. Intrepid Publisher Will Evans 65. Writerly Wit Noa Gavin 64. Maverick Artist Roberto Munguia 63. Fresh Perspective Kelsey Leigh Ervi 62. Virtuosic Violinist Nathan Olson 61. Open Classical's Dynamic Duo Mark Landson & Patricia Yakesch 60. Rising Talent Michelle Rawlings 59. Adventurous Filmmaker Toby Halbrooks 58. Man of Mystery Edward Ruiz 57. Inquisitive Sculptor Val Curry 56. Offbeat Intellect Thomas Riccio 55. Doers and Makers Shannon Driscoll & Kayli House Cusick 54. Performance Pioneer Katherine Owens 53. Experimental Filmmaker and Video Artist Mike Morris 52. Flowering Fashioner Lucy Dang 51. Insightful Artist Stephen Lapthisophon 50. Dallas Arts District 49. Farmer's Market Localvore Sarah Perry 48. Technological Painter John Pomara 47. Progressive Playmakers Christopher Carlos & Tina Parker 46. Purposive Chef Chad Houser 45. Absorbing Artist Jeff Gibbons 44. Artistic Integrator Erica Felicella 43. Multi-talented Director Tre Garrett 42. Anachronistic Musician Matt Tolentino 41. Emerging Veteran Actor Van Quattro 40. Festival Orchestrator Anna Sophia van Zweden