If you strolled down Main Street Saturday night, you may have seen an elephant plodding in place in the window of a deserted building. No doubt it caused many a double take, or momentary lingering. But a few curious souls, and those of us with a map, ventured inside for a stop on the most notable Deep Ellum Windows exhibitions on record this year.
The project, created by Apophenia Underground, is by nature site-specific. In collaboration with real estate company Deep Ellum 42, artists take over vacant spaces throughout Deep Ellum transforming them into pop-up galleries. For many of the invited artists, these installation shows are a chance to curate new work alongside old, or create something entirely site-specific. On Saturday, it was a combination of both, but even the art created without the space in mind seemed fortuitously in situ.
Emily Peacock's show, which contains a portraiture series, as well as a video installation, although created before seeing the space seemed made for the vacant space. She took photographs of both herself and her sister, a near replica of wide-eyed Peacock. The distinctions between the two became blurred the more you looked at the images, creating an indirect statement about the reflective nature of sibling relationships and identity formation. Just when you thought you'd figured out which sister had tattoos or bangs, it seemed to switch, as though their proximity refracted their differences.
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If the subject matter weren't enough to think about, the context in which they were presented added additional layers of meaning. These intimate sister portraits, framed with round white space alluded to vintage portraits, or keepsake images used in lockets. Displayed on the rotting wood paneled walls, these lovely, occasionally violent, explorations of sisterhood, though newly printed, seemed left behind from decades past, as though they were forgotten family relics.
Down the street, the elephant was the centerpiece of 60 Second Steinbecks by James Michael Starr, a video installation during which whimsical music played in the background and the elephant trudged along on the screen, alternating with quick hit English lessons. Here, the elephant in the room politely reminded viewers of the linguistic and grammar mistakes you often ignore. But it also transformed into an interesting comment on the way passersby chose to ignore or engage with the art itself. To ignore the very large thing everyone wants to discuss is to sweep the metaphorical animal under the rug, or sit on your hands instead of pointing to it. But to walk by these art projects without stopping in, is to deny the fulfillment of your curiosity. In a way, the Windows project is a comment on the way we talk about "the arts" in Dallas. We're quick to discuss the huge new spaces, the money being used to fund the art (or lack thereof...), but we often walk breeze right by the artists actually creating.
Deep Ellum Windows is not an act of commerce and to a certain extent, I'm probably merely postulating that there is some grandiose statement being made. At its core, it's just artists showing their work in spaces that lack pretense. Next time you see an elephant walking down Main Street, you'd be wise not to ignore it.
The elephant has walked on, but catch Peacock's exhibit (2810 Main St.), Pierre Krause's What R U Waiting 4 Me 2 Say (2626 Main St.), Jesse Morgan Barnett's Turbomeca ( 2604 Main St.) and Randy Guthmiller's Shape mural (2647 Main St.) this Saturday during the Deep Ellum Gallery Walk, noon - 8 p.m.