Arts & Culture News

[email protected]#K Brain Cancer, Indeed: Before He Got Sick, Artist Patrick Short Gave Himself to Dallas, so Dallas is Giving Back

Patrick Short didn't run off to the Yale School of Architecture because he felt compelled to reinvent a skyline or establish a high-end construction project. "He went into architecture so he could learn how to make better sculptures," says his friend and fellow Boston University alum, Joshua Goode. "He wanted to learn how to make things."

That driven, inquisitive nature was the whirling force behind many of Short's Dallas accomplishments, and it led to him to create the non-profit artspace Guerrilla Arts, which D Magazine christened Best New Gallery of 2011. The passion project wasn't an easy one. Squatters had to be shooed out, trash needed shoveling, and the work he chose to show was oftentimes unsellable. "He did a lot of installation work, which NOBODY was doing," says Susan Roth Romans, co-partner and owner of Ro2 Art. "And that's what he wanted to do."

"But really, he started it all."

After wrapping up his undergrad in Boston, Short bounced around -- New York, Austin -- but eventually he returned to his Dallas roots. "He saw a big need in the arts community here," recalls Goode. "There's so much potential and so much going on, but [these artists] needed a place to experiment, grow a little, but also show work that, especially at that time, didn't have a venue."

So he gave every bit of himself -- laboring in the donated, ramshackle building and visiting local artists in their studios to offer guidance and direction. His words, at age 23, proved invaluable. And the evidence of that legacy hangs on every wall of Ro2 Art's Downtown Project Space in a show dedicated, ever so lovingly, to easing Short's current load: At age 26, he was recently diagnosed with Stage Three Anapalastic Oligodendroglioma, an aggressive, and terminal, form of brain cancer.

Short knew something was wrong at Yale. He couldn't understand why he was having so much trouble focusing during summer session, a semi-voluntary program to help prep new students entering the graduate architecture program. Focusing had never been a problem.

"He applied to the five top architecture schools," laughs Goode, whom Short used as an admission reference. "I'm thinking 'Patrick is crazy; he's not going to get into these places." He smiles, then sighs. "He got into all of them."

But Yale was the dream. The goal. And it turned out to be "the one that treated him horribly," Goode says. Short started pulling late nights in the studio, cramming information that would normally have flowed willingly. The teachers noticed. He was dropped from the program before he could officially enter the fall semester.

The double-vision started quickly after that.

The CT scan and MRI revealed a tumor the size of a tangerine. Surgery began immediately. Then, they learned more: The cancer was of an especially insidious origin and couldn't be entirely removed. Crushingly painful treatments would follow, minimizing its growth for as long as possible, but this malicious strain of disease is incurable. Without the student insurance provided by Yale, and with Short incapacitated for work, his health became only one of his concerns.

He's on disability and defaulted on his student loans. He needs a place to live, food to eat and a way to spend time with his mother, who's traveling monthly to visit, between treatments.

When he went back to Yale to ask for help -- it was the medical condition that was responsible for his removal, after all -- they explained that the summer session he'd enrolled in was a voluntary one. He was never, officially, on the books

"They said that he could re-enroll next year, maybe?" says Goode. "They would 'consider' his application."

Not likely. Doctors say Short has about three years to live, depending on the rate of deterioration.

And yet, in a situation cast with so much darkness, the lives he's touched have illuminated. Every artist whose studio Short has visited, every teacher who spent time with him in Boston, have come together for a group showcase unmatched in Dallas, for one giant silent auction called [email protected]#K Brain Cancer.

"Artists are still asking if they can submit," says Goode, looking around Ro2 Arts last night. "But we've run out of space."

The collection will be available for bidding on Friday night, December 14, and features the best work available by dozens of local and national artists. It's all happening at the downtown Ro2 Gallery from 7 to 9 p.m.

Rest assured, this is no pity party. It's a collector's dream, as prestigious pieces from Boston, Dallas and New York artists will be up for bid, beginning at a sliver of their estimated value. We know, because we forced ourselves upon the installation for an advance look at some of the work up for grabs.

Here are a few for your Downright Amazing file. (I apologize in advance for the cruel iPhone photography. You'll need to experience them in the flesh to properly appreciate the work.)

A stunning lithograph and woodcut screen print hangs in one of the showroom's corners. It carries a primitive, almost folkloric tone, washed in rich reddish pigments. Its detailed underworking glows through in layered bliss. It was made and given by two-time Fulbright winner and Director of the School of Visual Arts at Boston University Lynne Allen, and it's positively stunning.

It's easy to see why her work has been collected by the Whitney, the New York Public Library and the Minneapolis Museum of Art, to name a few. Here, it will probably sell for a fraction of its actual value, but that fraction could stave off a month or two of rent and/or grocery bills, cab rides to chemotherapy procedures or vulturous student loan collectors.

There's a painting on the back wall that feels oddly at home, as though it were designed intuitively for this Dallas-centric moment. It gives a split-level interpretation of the Rachofsky House -- as remembered by a dreamy out-of-towner. It's a little voyeuristic, and puts the viewer in an interesting position of both familiarity and utter stranger danger distance.

The artist behind the piece, Dana Clancy, is an Assistant Professor of Art at BU and a one-time visitor to the famous piece of Dallas architecture. She had the opportunity to walk the property when in town for the 2008 CAA conference, and it seems the experience stuck. The work bridges geography, presenting both iconic Dallas with Bostonian friendship. It's beautiful.

One of the most interesting works on display is also one of the least tangible. The entire corner of the room has been remodeled to resemble a kitschy take on a grandmother's sitting room, so that performance and conceptual artist Leah Foster can present her own contribution. She'll sit you down for storytime (milk and cookies provided, naturally) and read aloud from a hand-painted book about a little boy and his goldfish. There's more to it than that, but we can't give all of the secrets away. Up for auction are both the book itself and a documented list of instructions so that you too may perform the piece of art.

But the shining jewel, the one that might be gobbled up in the greediest fashion, is sly, charming and created by the Head of Underground Painting at Boston University, Richard Ryan. Its subjects are resin-based, captured from a rear-view silhouette, and retold in a controlled explosion of very orderly paint. They've got a repetitive pop bent, a cooling tone and a freshly spectacular feel. This one, says Susan, would retail for $7,000. Bidding will start at a whittled-down price of $1,500 to $2,000.

Don't be intimidated if that's deeper than your pockets sag; work will also start off at the $50 or $100 price point, so your bidding and possible purchase might evolve into a holiday gift for yourself, as well as a phone bill, an Internet payment or a co-pay for Patrick Short. Considering the number of lives he's touched, prepare to bid aggressively for the honor.

Ro2 Art's Downtown Project Space is located at 110 N. Akard. Silent auction begin on Friday night at 7 p.m. and ends at 9 p.m.

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Jamie Laughlin
Contact: Jamie Laughlin