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The DADA Gallery Walk: "Can I Show You My Vagina?"

Saturday reminded me once again of just how lucky we are in Dallas when it comes to art. Forty galleries, all leading members of DADA (Dallas Art Dealers Association) were open for the Annual Fall Gallery Walk in the Design District, Uptown, Downtown, Oak Cliff, Deep Ellum and on and on, even all the way to Arlington and Irving.

It was humanly impossible to hit them all. So I decided on the Design District for my excursion, since there is the greatest concentration of galleries there. There weren't that many people around at 4:15 p.m. when we got started. But people began trickling in as we meandered around.

We started at Craighead-Green where I was thrilled to see Heather Gorham's sculptures and paintings waiting for me the minute I walked into the door. Her work is both desperate and inspiring all at once. My favorite pieces include, "I'm Dreaming of Your Insomnia," "The Memory of Bees," and "Catch of the Day."

The gallery was also showing work by a number of other artists, including Jay Maggio. His small paintings are of lone trees or small groupings of trees in massive fields, painted in brilliant colors in a Pointillist fashion with dots or with dashes and swirls instead causing movement in the pieces. There's something three dimensional, juicy, and tactile about Maggio's work.

Work by Arturo Mallmann, thick acrylics and resin on wood with muted colors washing in and out of one another, was also on display. The pieces incorporate sprawling landscapes with water, as well as wandering figures.

First launch: Abhidnya Ghuge was also showing in the back of the gallery. Much of her work is crafted from paper plates painted and shaped and folded and put together in immense shapes to hang from the ceiling, slowly spinning, or to hang on the wall.

Samuel Lynne Gallery was showing Michael Kalish's Legends and Lone Stars. It's a little crafty for my taste. The faces of Beethoven, John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, the Beatles, Einstein, and others cut from license plates.

There's also the Mavericks logo and a Cowboys helmet, which is what shoves the work from art to craft for me. It does have an interesting kitsch factor and is very clever in terms of the handling of the materials.

JD Miller's 3D oils and Phillip Romano's massive canvases of bright abstracts flush with gobs of paint were there as welle. The work of both Miller and Romano is hugely scaled and brightly colored. Not my aesthetic. But they have an impressive following, I know.

Other artists, including Ray Phillips are showing work there now. Phillip's work boasts large graphic pieces, including his thought-provoking "Telly III."

You can find Mary Tomas' ethereal paintings in warm tones at the gallery bearing her name, as well as work by Charles Coldewey, whose work is as inviting as it is baffling. "Speaking in Tones" is a tall sculpture of a head, a nun's perhaps, with pursed lips and a curved stick coming out of the mouth as if being blown into existence. Birds line up on the stick as if alighting on a wire.

More birds can be found in his work "Topography of Flight," in which single squares, each with a whole in them, have a bird standing on them.

I was also particularly drawn in by his small sculptures with scoop-like openings perched on sticks, "Wanting," "Flow," "Straw," "Monk," and "Blue Iris." There is something sad and needy about the little bronze pieces. I had to stop myself from reaching out and stroking them as if cold metal could somehow benefit from human touch.

The show up in the Cohn Drennan Contemporary, steel: Fun with Guns and Pachinko Machines, was nearly colorless save for a neon "Open" sign and a Pachinko machine that you can hear but not see until you turn the corner.

The machine is part of a piece called "Pachinko Highway," which includes the Pachinko machine on an alter with all of the balls in a stadium or sanctuary lining up and praying to their God from either side. The piece, of course, is a commentary about the Japanese obsession with the game.

The work is Suguru Hiraide's, and it's unsettling and loudly political. He also shows "Property of the US" a steel box with 3 vials in it, one of red liquid, one of white liquid, and one of blue liquid, as well as a syringe in the middle of the piece filled with purple liquid. A metal Kewpie doll stands and smiles from the opposite end of the piece, like a creey, post-apocalyptic vision of birth that doesn't seem too far away. Remember Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale? This is equally creepy.

Margaret Evangeline's work is stainless steel and enamel on stainless with bullet holes shot into them with names like "Shotgun Wedding" and "Saint Sebastian." They are desperate and strange. I couldn't decide if they spoke to me in their hollowness or simply rang hollow.

The neon "Open" sign is part of a piece called "When They Were Closed" that speaks to the earthquake in Japan and how all of Pachinko parlors re-opened even when nothing else did. The sign goes on and off and shakes at certain pre-set intervals and stands opposite a second piece called "When They Were Open" with Pachinko balls surrounding the word "Open." (The balls apparently move around the word. But the motor was down when I was there.)

Gallerie Zuger is filled with the work of a variety of artists, Joan Miro litho prints, paintings by James Jensen, gorgeous portraits by Pino, and wild sculptures by Glen Tarnowski, including "Life of Riley." The piece is of a penguin serving a martini to a rhino wearing a smoking jacket. Nothing wrong with art that makes you laugh as long as the artist is laughing along with you -- which I believe Tarnowki most certainly is.

My favorite piece there was by Anke Schofield. The work portrayed a girl with wings and a house over her head making the windows her eyes. She frightened me a little but I also wanted to inquire of her, "Where are you going? Where have you been?"

The work of Tanner Lawley (some crafted from led lights and mirrors); Chris Judy (including "Less is More," a stark, creamy white canvas with broad brush strokes you can see in the light, a brown broken line, an orange splotch, and red and orange drips); and James Michalopolous (including "Sittin' Pretty," an off-kilter house, and "Blue Babe," a full canvas car) are showing at the Cameron Gallery.

But I think my favorite piece there is by George Jones. It's titled "Pelican Party" and shows a line-up of pelicans with beaks that look as if they are dripping down the front of the canvas. You can almost hear them squawking, "Mine. Mine. Mine" a la Finding Nemo.

We also stumbled into an interesting warehouse looking space called 1111 Dragon Studio, which is presenting a show called Our 30 in partnership with Fahari Arts Institute and Green Bandana Group. The pieces examine 30 years of AIDS and HIV in black Southern communities and were created by LGBT artists from the African Diaspora.

One piece bears these words:

I have spent nights at sorrow's door Nursing generational wounds Lived summers off of ancestral prayers And prayed for a balance
I was told that the space will also be used for shows. I look forward to checking it out. Something interesting is a afoot there. I can tell.

At Joel Cooner Gallery you'll find, as always, a wealth of art and artifacts from all around the world. And these aren't copies, these are the real deal, paintings and masks and sculptures, and you name it. "This isn't my job," Cooner says to me as he shows me around. "It's my lifestyle." When he asks what else I write about other than art, I mention my sex column and his eyes light up.

"Can I show you my vagina?" he asks. I'm scared. But somehow, "yes" still escapes my lips. It's a stone that a Native American tribe used as an arrow sharpener and it does indeed look like a vagina. Cooner is clearly tickled by the idea of men "straightening their arrows" rubbing them up and down this rock. The man is a hoot and a wealth of information. I could have stayed there all day.

We ended our tour at Jacques Lamy's gallery. Between his work and that intoxicating dialect, it's hard not to fall in love with the guy. He is showing a variety of artists as well as his own, always fantasticly intriguing, work, isolated houses with fabric backdrops reminiscent of Chanel jackets, tiny paintings of the Mediterranean seaside, which I adore, and collages filled with, among other things, belts and their buckles.

"I bought a building," Lamy tells me. "It was a belt factory. So I have crates and crates of belts." He says he knew he would use them one day somehow and here they are.

"I like whimsical things," he says, pointing to various favorites in the gallery as we head out.

The DADA Gallery Walk may have come and gone. But, all things being equal, it'll be back. In the meantime, the galleries aren't going anywhere and many of them will have the current work up for a few more weeks yet.

Dive in. Challenge the massive canvases. Listen to the critters whispering. Watch for the trees to move and the meanings to move you. Sit with the sculptures. And spin with the colors. Mark my words. It's worth the swim.

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Jenny Block