Art and anarchy have a history of conjoining, and the burgeoning Fort Worth-based House of Iconoclasts is a prime example of these forces at play. Founded last year by visual artist Natalie Price, the intention of the collective revolves around destroying the image, “image” being a placeholder for whatever the artist wants it to be.
It was “out of frustration” that the collective came to be, as Price reflects. Frustration with the exclusivity of the art world, the banality of the general population’s view of it and with the community’s lack of artistic care.
Price didn’t realize she could make a career in the arts until she attended the Texas Arts Project as a child.
“I’ve been an artist most of my life — but on the back burner for a long time because I didn’t know you could do it full time,” she says. She first pursued a career in cosmetology and, for a few years, worked in a haunted house as a makeup and special effects artist. There, she honed her talents for the dark arts and began creating haunting portraits of pupil-less faces, sometimes of people, other times of mere ideas of people.
On one of Price's most notable pieces, the words “FUCK YOUR ART DEGREE” have been painted across impulsively, in response to how lucrative she finds the art to have become.
“You have to put yourself in this elite, prestigious club,” Price says. “I don’t think someone’s artwork is more important than someone else’s just because they have a degree.”
Most of the members of the group don’t have art degrees, or are pursuing art on the side while studying non-related fields. For instance, Kari Drummer, a founding member of the group, is currently majoring in chemistry but has a strong interest in animation.
“I’m using this as my expression of artistic freedom,” she says of House of Iconoclasts. “Our goal with these shows is to destroy the niches and make everybody feel that their art is valid.”
Price consulted the group on the title, and everyone agreed it should be the name of their first show. An “iconoclast,” as stated on their website, is “1. a person who attacks cherished beliefs or institutions. 2. a destroyer of images used in religious worship.”
Their last show, dubbed FUCK YOUR ART DEGREE, happened to be of the exact same sentiment. Through a combination of social media and word of mouth, FYAD accrued over 80 artists and non-artists alike. Although it was easy to get artists on board for the show, finding a location was a different story. Price notes that one location was willing to donate their hallway space for the show, unless they were able to “bring in money, like a band.”
This turned into the idea to simply ask friends if they wanted to play the show. Namely, Dallas’ resident goth rock sensation, Rosegarden Funeral Party. But it turned out that the interest garnered through the concept alone was enough to bring hundreds to the show, which motivated the collective to copy the model and do it bigger than before.
The collective's next show, REBEL REBEL, is an exploration on what it means to be independent in the United States today, “celebrating the freedom to be true to yourself and your individuality,” as quoted on the website. The art's subjects range from the female body to the demise of institutions and themes of injustice and justice alike. This sort of emphasis on the alternative is one of the big ways in which House of Iconoclasts is seeking to change the narrative of art show culture.
As with any rebellion, the changes are most effective when starting from the roots and, in the case of an art show, those roots are in the form of submissions. House of Iconoclasts shows aren’t interested in credentials or experience, and there’s zero entrance fee for those wanting to participate. This, as those outside the art world might not realize, is a rarity.
“$30 per art show starts to add up,” Price notes. The constant entrance fees for a mere chance at inclusion into a gallery is daunting — especially for young people, or those who don't deem themselves “full-time” artists. It’s an unfortunate reality for artists of all mediums and can be even a bit prohibitive to pursuing art at all.
The upcoming show will again feature live music, performances, installations, food trucks and a DJ, and will be held at Shipping & Receiving Bar in Fort Worth. The name, REBEL REBEL, is “a tongue-in-cheek look into the disenfranchised feeling we’re all experiencing,” says Jessica Beatty, one of the resident members of the collective.
Beatty’s medium of choice is now glitter after finding inspiration in Buddhist sand art. She often uses the material to create pop-art style mixed media portraits of those who inspire her. “What a better way to work with those feelings through however you choose to make your art,” she says.
The House of Iconoclasts is for the outcasts, the experts and the hobbyists. While they stay true to their name, they are contributing much more than an “attack” on beliefs. They are shifting the meaning of what an artist can do in North Texas.
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