Arts & Culture News

Merkin-Clad Commies Want to Sell You Art, Maybe Make Lasagna

Back off, McCarthy - by "Commies" we mean the folks at the Shamrock Hotel Studios, a dynamic little pop-up artists' colony at 4312 ½ Elm. On account of the Shamrock's history as a former brothel, they figured it would be a perfect place to toss their own damned art fair this weekend - the first annual Fallas Dart Air - and they sent along one of the most amusing press releases we've seen since grade school. Piqued, we exchanged emails, and were told that everyone involved was "sworn to confidentiality" regarding the author's identity.

Mystery. Intrigue. A secret cabal?

Well, okay.

Whomever penned the release did a far better job describing the community than we ever could, so we've posted large sections verbatim - as well as our conversation with Peter Ligon, the group's primary organizer - after the jump.

But, if you haven't the time to hear about merkins, lasagna, and artists in their natural habitat, just remember Fallas Dart Air's ballsy motto:

Open studios are dead. Art fairs are dead. Art is dead. Long live rock.

Since 1996, the Shamrock studios has been an active and vibrant small community of rotating artists and poets working and/or sleeping in undersized studios that would even make New Yorkers shudder. What holds the place together is mastermind Peter Ligon, who has emphasized a community atmosphere and offers himself as both artist and host. Imagine David Koresh stockpiling not arms, but romaine lettuce. It's not a compound per se, but a place where his fellow artists/inmates are willing to drop everything for a lecture on lettuce. The Shamrock is both private club and social hall, a place to break bread. The creations in the small community kitchen seem to link the members of the Shamrock together far more than their individual art practices.

[Mai Koetjecacov of Mai Koetjecacov Editions] met Mr. Ligon during the first day of Occupy Dallas. Mr. Ligon was finishing architectural pen and ink studies, wondering why there were all of these people suddenly blocking his view, and Mr. Koetjecacov, always trying to find new talent for his gallery, was looking for the next Tracy Emin. Both falling a bit short, Mr.Ligon immediately befriended Mr. Koetjecacov when he overheard him say "what a wash" in the distance.

That night, Mr. Koetjecacov was privy to an "insider" dinner of both Shamrock residents and local artists, where plans were being discussed for an open studios exhibition, a semi-annual event where friends and the local art community are invited to peruse the adorned common spaces and private studios. This one though would have a twist; the residents would no longer use the main spaces to extend their studio spaces but invite artists from the community at large to bear the brunt of this burden. Some would still allow access to their studios, opting for the full vanity benefits in a more "natural'" setting. Rumors were circulating that the residents were perhaps using the invited artists to exhibit their wares in the common space, functioning somewhat as a retail outlet, in order to draw the anticipated eighteen hundred collectors expected to attend into their private studios, offering "studio prices" for similar product. Lasagna and wine flowed at an irreverent pace. Drawings were made. A cigarette was smoked outside.

Mr. Koetjacacov sensed urgency in the group and a communist to his left. He offered suggestions that were readily mocked by the keen wit of a closet anthropologist. One artist of considerable height threatened him with a crayon. The evening ended with a resounding thug.

But, a man of resolve and wherewithal, Koetjacacov then broached the idea of an art fair, and the Shamrock crew figured they could work it out. We asked about Fallas Dart Air's mission and expectations - after all, what an ambitious weekend to proclaim that "art is dead."

He replied, "There are no concrete expectations from our end, though ... I suppose the Shamrock hopes to see a variety of human beings in many shapes and sizes. I can't speak for the individual artists involved. It's far too easy these days to assume that most artists are after the same thing(s), if any thing at all. With all art fairs, there's a good chance you'll walk away with something great, perhaps even after purchasing it."

He tells us that sometimes "the best 'vision' is a bit myopic," and that he is thrilled to be working with the Shamrock just to see what happens.

Peter Ligon had some great things to say as well, though he was modest enough to suggest that his answers could possibly be boring. Unlikely. We asked, and we're thinking he didn't take us entirely seriously. Well, could you?

Mixmaster: Ambitious weekend to hold an opening. Are you hoping to attract many of the same patrons who will be at that other event, or is the Fallas Dart Air geared toward a more underground set? Ligon: Do you know any international collectors and writers of major arts publications we can friend on FB and invite? The underground set sounds intriguing. Yes, we want the underground set!

Is the name meant to be simply lighthearted, or to make a bigger point about the state of Dallas arts? Probably both. The Shamrock residents decided rather than have an open studio we would invite former residents or artists who've have had some association with the place to do something in our exhibition space. The name was conceived as a result of conversations and drawings inspired during a lasagna dinner held for the invited artists. I don't know that there's a consensus on the meaning.

According to the release, you met Mr. Koetjecacov fortuitously, if unintentionally, at Occupy Dallas. Does that movement play a role in the show (philosophically, tangentially, literally?). Our live in resident informed me that he had to move out temporarily because the bathroom was Occupied. Also, a collaborative project under development by Lizzy Wetzel and some of the other guests was inspired by the Occupy Dallas Library and will be represented via performance, text and objects.

What's it like living at the Shamrock? It's similar to a residency in that artists have the opportunity to interact with others who have similar interests and be inspired, supported and critiqued by people for whom they have professional respect. At the same time people work individually in their studios without much contact with other residents. It gets really hot in the summer.

Anything especially great we should anticipate? We have a sign. And some paintings and drawings and digital images. There will be strangers performing in colorful attire made Sunny Sliger and Marianne Newsom. There will be branches and merkins.

They had us at merkins. The Fallas Dart Air features work by Kristen Cochran, Lanie Delay, Vince Jones, Kirsten Macy, Margaret Meehan, Edward Setina, Ludwig Schwarz, Marjorie Schwarz, Lizzy Wetzel and open studios with Lily Hanson, Peter Ligon, Marianne Newsom, Brian Ryden, Noah Simblist, Sunny Sliger and Saul Waranch. Join 'em for an opening reception on Saturday, April 14 from 5-9 p.m. at the Shamrock Hotel Studios, or catch what they're throwing on Saturdays from noon to 5:00 p.m. (and by appointment) through April 28.

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Brentney Hamilton