When you walk up the secret staircase at the front of the lobby of the Texas Theatre, you'll be taken up to a room with a simple, small window and a strange looking safe. This is The Safe Room. At different times throughout the year, it is made to look like a scene out of Twin Peaks, but when David Lynch moves out, the space is a contemporary art gallery.
Lauren Gray runs one of the coolest galleries that you've probably never been to. But what's stopping you? It's inside the infamous Texas Theatre, a venue that shows movies on 35mm film, hosts rad concerts behind the screen, is a stomping ground for George Quartz and his merry band of misfits. And this weekend, tucked away up the secret staircase, you'll find the work of artist Melissa Dickenson in an exhibition titled, Portal.
"I'd been thinking about renting a store front window somewhere to showcase art, and had an idea to ask the Texas Theatre if they would let me curate some shows. The room [that is now The Safe Room] was vacant and so it just so happened to fall in place...I'm very grateful that the guys at the theatre are letting me use the space. It's been a great crossover of venues."
Gray has cleverly taken the milieu of the Texas Theatre, channeling it through the visual arts. Each show there lives a little on the side of the absurd, has a sense of humor, and leaves the viewer thinking about what they just saw long after they have left the work. That desire is part of the motivation behind how Gray schedules the artists and exhibitions. "It excites me when the artists get as free as they want to with the space and show work that ironically, is not 'safe,' even for The Safe Room."
The first show was on April 20, 2013, and now that she has passed the one-year mark, she is turning over the curatorial reins to Lauren Fulton, a researcher and curator living in Chicago. This is the first time that Gray is giving this role over to someone else, but as the gallery grows, so must the modes of programming. Fulton knew of artist Melissa Dickenson, and approached Gray about her work.
Dickenson is a painter living and working in San Francisco. Originally from New Mexico, she studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art and received her MFA from California College of the Arts in 2012. She has exhibited widely in California, Maryland, and New York and has completed residencies in the U.S., Tokyo, Barcelona, and Tarnow, Poland. Her paintings are based on the idea that time and history, no matter how we may resist it, continue along a defined trajectory. Wrestling with this fact, Dickenson's canvases collapse these records, offering glimpses of one's reflection on and perceptions of time.
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"I think the aesthetic of this work she's showing will simply look great in the space. There's also going to be a sound piece that sounds wonderful in the space, it's hauntingly appropriate," says Gray on Dickenson's show, portal: new work by Melissa Dickenson, her first solo exhibition in Dallas. The paintings to be presented explore transitional states and the "in-between," evident through compilations of various surfaces, which often present themselves through deceiving facades.
The Safe Room is just like a Dickenson painting. Always in flux, always under a different facade, and always living in the "in-between." But always ready for whatever is next. The unknown is welcomed, making it the a good fit for Dickenson's "Spinning," a piece created during her residency at San Francisco's Alter Space. Confined to working within a jail cell for three months, the work's production functioned as a way to offset loneliness and reflect on isolation. Relating to her practice in general, Dickenson describes the documentation as a record of an abundance of listless energy and distractions, which play a necessary role for her progression in the studio.
portal, seems to be the definitive exhibition at The Safe Room as it moves into its second year. The gallery has worked as a gateway for both Gray and the artists who have shown in there previously, and the space has been a door into another world for anyone who enters the Texas Theatre. It will be interesting to see what trajectory The Safe Room takes next.
portal: new work by Melissa Dickenson opens at 6 p.m. Saturday, August 2 at The Safe Room inside the Texas Theatre, 231 W. Jefferson Blvd. The exhibition runs through September 3. The show will be open to view from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, or by appointment.