Winnowing down Dallas' growing, dynamic community of artists to three MasterMinds involved some tough choices. The process was like lining up at a vast buffet prepared by an outstanding chef: too many wonderful selections and too little room on our plates. On the way to naming the winners, our judges narrowed down the original list of 45 entrants to 10 tasty finalists.
Each day until the three MasterMinds winners are announced via our next issue Thursday, we're featuring those finalists (in no particular order) right here on the Mixmaster. Check out yesterday's if you missed them, and you'll find today's after the jump.
Frank Lopez Collodion photographer and educator Through Frank Lopez's eye, the world looks ... old again, and that's just the type of forward-thinking that we expect from our MasterMinds nominees. Using 19th century technology, Lopez photographs landscapes, architecture, landmarks and the occasional human, capturing the world as it was and is, all in one frame. Lopez's preferred method utilizes wet, black glass, called "ambrotypes," which produce a positive image with a stark monochromatic scale that pops, seeming almost metallic at a glance. He also experiments with pinhole photography, eliciting ghostly landscape images that haunt, adding an electric energy to an otherwise static scene. A world traveler and adventurer, Lopez likes to "get lost" in foreign countries, foregoing verbal language for gestures and emotional cues in order to communicate with his subjects, creating what he feels is a more democratic, collaborative process. The atavistic technology, he thinks, signifies his identity as an artist in a way that modern technology cannot, and the curiosity it fosters in his human subjects often dissolves cultural boundaries and encourages trust. However -- much to our surprise -- Lopez has begun recently experimenting with his iPhone, grabbing candid, full-color stills that require little or no set-up. From a mournful black-and-white ambrotype of Big Tex to the brash red-orange of octopus tentacles in Vietnam, Lopez masters the whole spectrum, and his photos make "in the moment" feel like 1855 all over again.
Stephen Lapthisophon Graphic artist, art philosopher Legally blind since 1994, artist and University of Texas at Arlington professor Stephen Lapthisophon's aesthetic philosophy seeks to deconstruct and revolutionize the role of sight in artistic culture. An installation artist, graphic artist and art theorist, Lapthisophon uses elements such as music, texture and cuisine that engage all of the senses to "examine the interaction of our sensory processes." Winner in 2008 of the Wynn Newhouse Award for artists with disabilities, Lapthisophon's work is striking in its combination of geometric lines and tasteful color. While elements or themes tend to recur throughout a cohesive Lapthisophon exhibition -- the written words and alphanumeric characters in Spelling Lesson, for instance -- he has worked to subvert the idea of the "signature style" by adopting a multitude of diverse mediums, juxtaposed with unexpected found objects such as eye charts and a walker, ladders and dance step charts, all with a mind toward the cerebral investigation of linguistic signs and the ways in which we use them to form our sense of identity and the world around us.
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Will Richey Spoken-word poet, slam poetry advocate Will Richey was on the third day of a 500-mile trek across northwestern Spain, El Camino de Santiago de Compestela, when the towers fell on September 11, 2001, and he says that revolutionized his perspective. Richey, 33, who was raised in a predominantly Caucasian environment in deep Louisiana, found himself overwhelmed with emotion, and over the remainder of that journey penned the poems that began his exploration of cross-cultural dialogue and his own previously unexplored Puerto Rican heritage. From those first few poems, Richey has evolved into an ebullient slam poet, and when he takes a stage, he's talking to you and you know it. Forging an intense emotional connection with his audience, Richey's mission -- whether through his work with his company, Journeyman Ink, or with programs like DaVerse Lounge and Arts and Letters Live -- is to reach and empower listeners, particularly young people who have never before had the opportunity to speak their mind or unleash their hearts. On stage, Richey is all slant rhymes and slang, philosophy and spirituality, with a little bit of humor mixed in. With business and creative partner Alejandro Perez, Journeyman Ink's stage presence includes a mixture of multilingual rhymes, music, beats and dance moves. Specializing in creative writing and performance-art workshops, Richey works with students from diverse ethnic and educational backgrounds with a focus on English as a second language and increasing their "emotional literacy." This lyrical evangelist is all about giving back, and Journeyman Ink is a labor of love requiring constant work and personal sacrifice. To learn about Richey's latest fund-raising efforts, visit journeymanink.com.
La Reunion Artists' colony, social utopia You didn't know there is a 35 acre artists' colony in Oak Cliff, but that's OK because La Reunion is on its way up, shooting higher than the "ball" observation tower that shares its name. Inspired by the socialist utopian art community of the same name founded in the 1850s by European immigrants, La Reunion was resurrected in 2006 by Catherine Cuellar and 2010 MasterMinds finalist, Sarah Jane Semrad. Over the last five years the community has focused on rehabilitating the wild plot of black land that will - in the near future - host artists-in-residency. Already featuring massive installations by local artists, ethereal eco-art and educational programs for local school kids, La Reunion is newly helmed by interim executive director Catherine Horsey, a Renaissance woman in her own right. With an ethical eye toward financial and ecological sustainability, La Reunion hopes to draw artists from all mediums to come live for varied but formally agreed-upon periods, utilizing the bucolic wilderness to inform their work and to enrich the greater Dallas community. Until recently, La Reunion's financial resources have gone almost exclusively to exact the legal due diligence to secure the land, and only weeks ago, the organization signed a fifty-year lease, making the vision finally more of a reality. La Reunion hopes to begin rehabbing the house and studio on the land next and to officially open its doors to residents next fall.
Check back on the Mixmaster tomorrow for the next set of featured MasterMinds finalists.