Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
The myth about Dallas is that you can't garden here because of bad soil and hot weather. The truth is that you can garden here, but you have to grow the right stuff--often not what the nurseries are bringing in by the 18-wheeler load and pushing in their ads. The Dallas Arboretum, in partnership with Texas A&M University, has been raising garden plants in test beds for several years now, trying to find out what really can grow in Dallas and what really cannot. The beds themselves and the staff associated with the effort, especially plant guru Jimmy L. Turner, comprise the best resource any serious gardener can hope to find in this region.
Is there no infantile icon that adults can't infuse with a brooding sense of horror? Clowns were kind of freaky to begin with, dolls will never recover from Chucky and every amusement park that Scooby Doo ever came across was abandoned and haunted. But teddy bears? How do you mess with fuzzy, cuddly teddy bears? By making a giant, 10-ton mega-teddy out of cold, immutable granite, that's how. And let's throw in some companions in attitudes of carefree play but wearing that same inscrutable, stony glare that says, "I'd crush you and everyone you love if I had the chance to fall on you." Sure, the workmanship is stunning. Sure, the surroundings are lush and green. But just try and walk past without looking over your shoulder. Hey, wasn't his arm at his side a second ago?
Grandpa ran every Saturday at the lake? Grandmother fed the ducks? Now you can recognize loved ones or honor special occasions by donating money for the Celebration Tree Grove at White Rock Lake, recently approved by the city of Dallas and the White Rock Lake Task Force. Donations to an endowment fund established by For the Love of the Lake will go to plant native trees, starting with some large trees that will give the area a special, secluded feeling. Eventually the grove will include walking paths and a courtyard with benches. For a donation of $1,000 or more, a plaque with Granddad's name will be mounted on a commemorative structure built in the style of the lake's Civilian Conservation Corps-style rock buildings and walls. Don't stop at recognizing your human relations. Your black lab loved the lake, too. For $1,000, you get the plaque and someone else's beloved companion gets more trees to sniff.
Ever since most of us on staff caved in and bought iPods, we haven't bothered with local radio stations to get our music fix, and in the past year, the corporate-owned frequencies haven't done much to change our minds. But that doesn't mean our antennae go unused. Rather, we keep the radio tuned to The Ticket on 1310 AM. And we're definitely not alone. It seems like everyone around town talks about the sports talk shows that run throughout the day, even women and non-sports fans. The biggest reason for the wide appeal has to be drive-time show The Hardline, where Mike, Greggo, Danny and Snake (yes, just "Snake") spend more time on topics like Six Feet Under, tomboys, local music and "jarring" than sports, even though their sports commentary is second to none. Still, the 7 p.m. rundown of the station's best segments from the previous day is proof that the entire Ticket schedule is getting it right, whether by delivering the most incisive sports talk in town or by playing games of "Gay, Not Gay." Once you become a P1, you won't switch your radio back to music stations, either.
The nonprofit Writer's Garret has as its stated mission the education and development of readers, writers and audiences. It stages writing workshops, panel discussions, peer critiques, contests and movie screenings. But the organization's two-year-old Writer's Studio Series, hosted by KERA at Theatre Three, takes the top prize. This year, the series brought best-selling literary stars Margaret Drabble, James Ellroy, Umberto Eco and Walter Mosley to Sunday night readings. KERA radio host Glenn Mitchell interviewed each author, who then read from one of his or her books and answered questions from the audience. Each two-hour session was taped and later played on NPR affiliates. The programs are fascinating, unpredictable and sometimes infuriating, as when politically incorrect and always controversial Ellroy told the audience that John F. Kennedy "got what he deserved." Authors scheduled this fall include Bret Easton Ellis (his new one is Lunar Park), Joan Didion (The Year of Magical Thinking) and Scott Turow. With all the lawyers who want to be writers in town, better get your ticket early for Turow, attorney and author of Presumed Innocent and other novels.
White Rock Lake offers more than bike and running paths. For years, the Bath House Cultural Center on the eastern shore of the lake has been a little powerhouse of art, theater, history and music. Built in 1930, the art deco building is tiny but boasts a 120-seat theater, two galleries, a darkroom and other spaces for activities including yoga classes, jazz concerts and dance workshops. It also houses a small but fascinating museum about the creation and history of the lake. (Did you know people could swim in White Rock until 1953? It was closed to bathers due to "drought, polio and racial tensions.") The galleries showcase regional artists, often those who live and work in the lake area.
You can't fling a paintbrush/film canister/chisel/flashcard/pencil/found object in this town without hitting an artist. They're sketching at White Rock, shooting Deep Ellum in gritty black and white and wandering downtown, picking up lost Post-It notes and other detritus for assemblages. For most, the biggest opening reception their art will see is when they pop the top on a Bud Light after hanging their latest masterpiece over the couch. But if they're lucky, they'll catch the discerning but unpretentious eyes of Sarah Jane Semrad and Nyddia Hannah of Pigeon-Stone Project, which gives local artists and curators opportunities to show off their work in public by giving local businesses new, innovative local art to display. The duo currently books exhibits--with receptions and everything--in the Continental Lofts, the bar at the Magnolia Theater, Sozo Salon on Knox-Henderson, Zeo Salon on Travis Walk, Two Sisters Catering in Deep Ellum, Counter Culture at Mockingbird Station and the Elbow Room near Baylor Hospital on the edge of Deep Ellum. But look for them to expand to every nook and cranny with enough blank wall space to accommodate a piece or two.
At the core of this year's best-of artist's category is a loss: the death of our most stellar, the rising young artist Scott Barber. The Abstract Expressionist Robert Motherwell once said "art is much less important than life, but what a poor life without it." It is a meager, dull and uninspired life without Barber and his art. He artfully deployed his private life in the public sphere, waging his battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma on the painterly surface. Though we know Barber for his lapidary painting, the faintly bubbled and brightly colored planes of the renderings of his cancer cells, he was a polymath when it came to artistic medium. He worked in video and sculpture, the virtual and the plastic. His three large, round urethane-cast wall pieces give light form in plastic hirsute bodies. In yellow, blue and red, they are the primary colors of Mondrian's palette translated into an electric light-swooning affair that is perfectly shagadellic. Barber died on April 22 from complications resulting from a bone-marrow transplant.
Consistently elegant work, large luminescent space and magnetic urban location constitute the trifecta that makes Holly Johnson Gallery a winning space. Though a newcomer, having opened in early April 2005, the gallery has had a triumphant run of shows. Casey Williams, whose work was shown in late spring, makes photographic abstraction out of the molten stuff of a harbor. His photographs of the Houston Ship Channel play on the entropy of different surfaces--the expressive decay of a painting's desiccated canvas and the rust-strewn hull of enormous cargo ships. William Betts' work, the subject of a more recent show, makes a world of stripy colors from bits of pixelated detritus. Manipulating digital information into flat planes of infinite lines, Betts makes surfaces of colorful stripes that would knock the socks off of Peter Brady, that erstwhile master of striped pants. Proprietor and namesake of the gallery, Holly Johnson has injected an intelligent sense of subtle experimentation into the beau monde of the local gallery world.
Goss Gallery 2500 Cedar Springs Road 214-696-0555
One of the best art exhibits this year had nothing to do with buzz or hipness or hype or scene. It was about heart. But it was still the exhibit for artists to contribute to and for art fans to attend. A Friend in Deed, a one-night show and sale at Barry Whistler Gallery in January, benefited Scott Barber, a Dallas painter and teacher at St. Mark's School of Texas who received a bone marrow transplant as part of his treatment for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (see Best Visual Artist). The show included 65 works donated by artists including Bill Komodore, Ann Stautberg and Vincent Falsetta and was organized by gallery owner Barry Whistler and artists John Pomara and Ted Kincaid. More than $35,000 was raised for Barber, with more than 50 pieces sold. Whistler said it showed everyone, especially Barber, that a community of artists who work alone could come together when one needed help.
Like so many things associated with the Trinity River, Trammell Crow Lake Park, between the levees on Sylvan Avenue, is mostly about potential. The parking lot is littered, the soccer fields neglected. The curvilinear artificial lake is mostly mud (from which protrudes a Dallas Morning News vending machine). But with a little sprucing up, this scene could be positively idyllic. A concrete running path around the lake leads to a shady tree and--what the? Are those cows? Yes, this abandoned attempt at pastoral bliss includes a scattering of life-size marble cows, variously standing and lying in the shade with the Dallas skyline behind them. One has a shattered horn, while others are scrawled with graffiti (cow-tagging, anyone?). Unlike their lean, charging bronze counterparts adjacent to City Hall, these bovines appear well-fed and placid, pondering with dignified melan-cow-ly the park that might have been.
It's an insomniac's dream. Every third Friday of the month, the DMA stays open till midnight with a crazy schedule of activities: music and dance performances, yoga classes, cooking demonstrations (which means free tastings, yum), screenings of cult movies, karaoke. And, oh yeah, there's all that art to hang out with. Free with paid admission to the museum ($10 max, free for DMA members), the late-night gatherings are sponsored by Starbucks, which provides all the coffee you can drink. Six hours of caffeine? Try some double-shots and then go stare at Jackson Pollock's Cathedral or Matthew Barney's The Cloud Club. Zowie. Next Late-Night bash, October 21.