It was all cowboy boots and even a few hats at last night's Avant Garde Society event "Art Y'all" at the Nasher Sculpture Center. White lights were strung through the trees; the Josh Weathers Band played Texas tunes; and the Center's own Nasher Café by Wolfgang Puck put out an impressive, buffet spread of ribs, beef and fish tacos, Mexican Caesar salad, field green salad with Texas pecans, mac and cheese, honey stung fried chicken fingers, and borracho beans and rice.
Two long communal tables were decorated with fresh single-stem flowers in mismatched vases and set up in the center of the garden. Guests settled in to enjoy their meals after partaking in a drink or two from the bar.
For the event, three Texas artists, Gabriel Dawes, Rusty Scruby and Kana Harada, were asked to create and donate a piece inspired by their experience with or their feelings about the Nasher Sculpture Center. The main event of the evening was an auction of those pieces as a fundraiser for the Center.
Gabriel Dawe's piece titled, "Blue Sky, Green Sky, Yellow Sky, Orange Sky, Red Sky, Magenta Sky, Purple Sky" (2011) consisted of seven acrylic boxes each full of string, multiple colors of string wrapped in neat skeins, nesting like soft bodies or undulating quietly like gentle waves. Dawe's inspiration was James Terrell's "Skyspace," each box reflecting the many colored skies one can witness inside Terrell's piece.
How something as simple as wound string can invoke something so intense as the ever-changing sky is the true delight of the piece. The intricacy and delicacy of the work is as enchanting and inviting as the bite of sky offered by Terrell's piece when viewers step inside and gaze upward.
"My New Backyard" (2011) by Rusty Scruby is a photographic reconstruction. The piece is from the Nasher Sculpture Center's point of view and the scene in the core photo shows the Museum Tower under construction on the side of the sculpture garden. In Scruby's piece, green paper with holes cut through goes all around the central image, exposing scaffolding, windows, and building materials.
There's something about "My New Backyard" that inspires a little sadness, or, perhaps, confusion, and yet there are also elements that are other-worldly. It's as if the artist is a little disoriented, all the while curious and mesmerized, by the backyard view that is coming to be.
The third piece, "Into the Garden" (2011) by Kana Harada, is a sculpture of a single magnolia bloom. The piece has been created from craft foam, some of it pre-cut into leaves and flowers. Off the stem hangs a sting with tiny, clear beads on it that looks like dew on a spider web. The entire piece is suspended from the acrylic case in which it resides.
The piece is fairy like in its delicateness and magical because of its materials. Materials that in anyone else's hands might have become a simple, throwaway craft project but which in Harada's hands turn into something of fragile beauty.
Following dinner, as guests meandered to the dessert buffet, there was a short panel with the artists. Dawes spoke about his love of James Terrell's work and about thread as his own trademark material. "As a boy growing up in Mexico I wasn't allowed to sew or embroider. But I really wanted to." Now Dawes is known for his large constructions of thread that viewers can walk through and around. "And when they come down, I put them in plexiglass boxes," he explained.
Harada said that when she was asked to create a piece, her "heart came straight to the garden." She was inspired by Terrell's work as well. "And I love the cool and dew [in the Nasher Sculpture Garden] so I tried to create that."
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Scruby talked about the various backyards he has enjoyed, some of them nicer than others, and how the light affects the look of each of those backyards, making even the ugliest ones pretty at times. "The Nasher is going to be the Museum Tower's backyard," Scruby explained. "I grew up knitting. In my head things are 3-D so even though they're photos, they come out 3-D" by virtue of the way he weaves the photos together in his piece.
Then it was finally time for the auction. Steve Wrubel served as the auctioneer and was particularly goofy. "I've never done an auction before. But I've watched some cattle auctions on TV," he explained as he mimicked an auctioneer's trill. Wrubel may not have been experienced, but he certainly got the job done. Dawes' piece sold for $600.00, Harada's for $1000.00, Scruby's for $1000.00.
It was a great time for art in Dallas. Beautiful weather, excited patrons, skilled artists and Texas-inspired food and music. How could you go wrong really? It's art, y'all!