Best Art Heist 2012 | Irby Pace | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

When University of North Texas MFA student Irby Pace first saw her in that Mac store, he knew he had to have her. From the way her earphones balanced out her pouty expression, to the threadbare nature of her thrift-store T-shirt, her composition was irresistible. The problem was, she didn't belong to him. The photograph was one of eventually thousands that Pace downloaded from sample devices such as iPads and iPods used in the retailer's local stores. He hijacked the images, all snapped by individuals who were playing with the camera features while shopping. Those folks who didn't delete their digital portraits wound up as muses for Pace's MFA show. The collection became an investigation of the fusion between modern technology and photography and toyed dangerously with the concept of ownership. Soon, Pace's little act of expression sparked a fire of debate. And once Wired picked up the story, it became a global conversation.

Summer 2012 marked Dallas' first installment of zine camp, a week-long exploration of self-published literature. Those inventive programming brains at Oil and Cotton collaborated with local literary booster The Writer's Garret to make it happen. As local artists heard about the project, they pitched in too, donating supplies and time to help make the camp run smoothly. It worked. The class spaces filled up almost immediately. Then, for two sessions in the summer, the shop's back studio space turned into a youth think tank where kids from late elementary school up to early high school learned the ins and outs of zine culture. Then, they each chose a personal emblem (which ranged anywhere from "Dubstep" to "Wormholes") and created small, hand-bound books on their topic. Each zine was filled with original artwork, short stories and poems. Then, when it seemed they couldn't get cooler, they silkscreened their own covers. It was a celebration of youth creativity at its best, and when camp was over, each student left knowing that their stories were important and worth publishing.

Barak Epstein

Not all romances fit the conventional confines of a mall's megaplex. Some need booze. Recycled junk yard cinema. And reanimated corpses, having threesomes. For those modern age Romeos and Juliets, there is Tuesday Night Trash, a free weekly Texas Theatre series organized by crap's curator, Travis Box. Looking at TNT's monthly calendar is a little like digging through the VHS junk drawer in a dilapidated haunted house. Will you wind up with 80 minutes of demonic blobs, hungry for human brains? A homoerotic prison boxing flick with an evil midget ringer? How about Eric Estrada as a crime-fighting priest? If you can imagineer it, Box can summon it, pat it on the head and present it for show and tell every Tuesday night. The best part? It doesn't cost a penny.

There are weird, artsy things happening between Dallas and Waco, and they're made possible by outsider collectors Bruce Lee and Julie Webb. The pair split their time between road-trip junking adventures through the South and selling the resurrected peculiarities at their historic store front, Webb Gallery. It's a temple to art's unsung heroes and renegade thinkers, and a shrine to the beauty that occurs in convention's absence. Cut paper skeletons? Glittery retellings of alien encounters? An entire collection of vintage sideshow banners, hung with the same respect given to traditional high art in a museum setting? Yes. That's how Webb Gallery rolls. It's a needed splash of psychedelic paint for a region more accustomed to beige walls, and it's improving our art world, one baboon skull at a time.

In the ever-competitive local TV news market, it's hard for one station to distinguish itself, but as much as we hate to admit it, Belo-owned WFAA does just that. The station's stable of veteran reporters — Brad Watson, Brett Shipp, and Byron Harris foremost among them — is unmatched. Certainly they also get kudos for lasting as long as they have in their studios at Victory Park.

At first, we couldn't imagine why we needed another one. We already have the panache of the Dallas International Film Festival, the experimental lean of the Dallas Video Fest and the cinematic halitosis, grandpa wisdom of the USA Film Festival, but the Oak Cliff Film Fest found its own niche: balls-out fun. They brought in the strange, oozing flicks we couldn't see anywhere else, like the singing, dancing delinquents from outer space in The Ghastly Love of Johnny X. They took over historic buildings to hold music video competitions, cult movie screenings and Q&As with directors. They brought Austin band My Education up to perform their haunting backtrack live while the Murnau silent film Sunrise played behind them. And just when you thought it couldn't get better, they took us to the zoo to watch The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Absent was all the corporate hoopla that entrenches bigger fests. Instead, Dallas' film lovers just came together and shared amazing memories and that special feeling that comes from knowing they were there in the beginning of something great.

Produced by Julie McCullough Kim and directed by Bryan Embry, this fashion marathon let us see Dallas' best local up-and-coming designers as well as the bigger, more established industry names. They tackled a mountain of applicants and curated a multi-hour runway immersion with looks by 35 different labels. From model selection to accessorizing, each outfit sent down the catwalk was given hands-on care, producing a refined, detail-rich army of walking art. In addition to being a spectacular display, The Pin Show brought well-deserved national attention to our local burgeoning fashion scene. How they pulled it off, we'll never know, but damned if we aren't thankful that they did.

When we first heard that two guys were dressed like video game characters and painting a giant Nintendo mural in Deep Ellum, we didn't grasp the depth of the spectacle. A quick site visit revealed all: A graffiti artist named Kid NES and a graffiti writer named Eder had joined forces over their shared love of eight-bit gaming. Dressed up as WaLuigi and Wario, the arch nemeses of our favorite princess-seeking plumbers, the pair created a temporary mural. It looked like a screenshot from an early-model Mario Bros. edition, recreated on the side of Quixotic World. Only in this life-size version of the old school game, Mario was being painted into a trap where every possible joystick maneuver would end in his peril. Spinys, piranha plants, turtles and other-world-depositing green tubes all filled out the image. People went nuts. Women screamed from passing cars, professing their undying love of Nintendo through open windows. Vehicles flipped U-turns repeatedly so that the drivers could snag photographic evidence of the situation. Basically, it was awesome. And when the whole thing was done, they left us with a memento: a video of the mural being made, set to music.

From In Cooperation With Muscle Nation to Homecoming!, pockets of artists across the region have started joining forces as collectives. It's making everything a bit more interesting. By forming these tiny unions, artists have started turning unconventional spaces into makeshift galleries. From Muscle's takeover of the Goodyear Retread Plant, to Homecoming!'s invasion of The Trinity Railway Express line, these collectives have proven that you don't need gallery sponsorship to show your work. A little groupthink, an idea worth acting out and pals to help with the planning and execution are all that's required. While some are more temporary than others, a handful of tribes have begun putting on interactive events that infuse our viewing experience with a sense of spontaneity and immediacy, while proving that art's working class has its own message to get out. And it won't wait around for the older institutions to catch up.

The Oak Cliff artist designed her solitary confinement in the form of a Plexiglas box. Felicella was on a mission to explore the full range of human emotions that comes from self-imposed isolation, done in plain view. Constructed in her studio and erected in an empty lot behind the Kessler, the box wasn't much larger than a phone booth and it became her dwelling for 48 hours. She even wore a catheter. We only saw movements from the artist as she worked, scribbling a mantra repeatedly onto sheets of colored paper, which when finished were crumpled and dropped to the floor. As they fell, they filled in the limited space around her, until they reached her waist, like water in a dunk tank. Hundreds of curious neighbors gathered to watch and lend support of her mission, but Felicella did not engage with them. Instead, she quietly observed and absorbed their presence. Those who couldn't sit vigil watched her confinement remotely through a live feed that the artist set up before she started her adventure. And when she emerged, wobbly, tired and hungry, we felt whole again. We had gotten one of our own back. So while Felicella's project was meant to research her personal psychological inner workings, we found that it made us take a look at our own emotions and ties to one another.

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