Arts & Culture News

Dennis González Collaborated on a Painting Exhibition With His 8-Year-Old Granddaughter Issy

Dennis González and granddaughter Isabella Anaïs Sisk-González are set to show five years of collaborative works starting Friday, Nov. 12, at Top Ten Records.
Dennis González and granddaughter Isabella Anaïs Sisk-González are set to show five years of collaborative works starting Friday, Nov. 12, at Top Ten Records. Dennis González
Back in October of 2015, artist and Yells At Eels trumpet player Dennis González was finishing his last piece for an exhibition in Oak Cliff. It was huge; he had worked on it for about a month-and-a-half.

Suddenly, González’s granddaughter Isabella Anaïs Sisk-González (or “Issy” as she is known to her grandfather) decided she wanted to help her “Boo Boo," ran up to the piece with a gold marker in hand and started making what González considered to be “scribbles” all over the work.

“Oh, Lord, she has destroyed this piece of work — my big masterpiece,” González thought in a panic.

That’s when an idea struck him.

“Hey, come on González,” he said to himself. “You know that this is a new opportunity. You're living a new chapter of your life. You are the one responsible for getting Issy to draw.”

González turned to Issy and said, “Hey, baby girl, you want to be a partner in crime?”
click to enlarge "Big Lips," 2017. - DENNIS GONZÁLEZ
"Big Lips," 2017.
Dennis González

From that moment forward, Issy and her Boo Boo began collaborating together on several works that are set to be shown at the Isabella Anaïs Sisk-González & Dennis González: 5 Years of Collaborative Work showing at Top Ten Records from Nov. 12 to Dec. 3.

“I'm finally getting to do stuff that I've wanted to do for three years, finally getting to play my horn again,” González says, preparing for his Ataraxia Trio + 2’s performance at the opening reception from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 12.

“It's been a very strange time,” he says. “But it's also been a very beautiful time.”

González’s health has suffered for the last three years or so. Part of the problem, he explains, was heart-related, for which he had surgery. Another part of the problem was a fall the artist took at Klearlight Studio a year ago that broke his neck and his orbital sockets and caused him to lose four units of blood.

“It was pretty nasty,” González says. “I was pretty close to skipping out on this earthly realm, but things worked out. Somebody wants me to still be here.”

González also had to start doing dialysis to treat his kidney problems, which he preferred to do at home. González’s wife, Carole, spent a month practicing and studying to get all the hands-on experience she needed to make this happen.

“I'm like 1,000% better,” González says.

In early September, González and his granddaughter went to Shreveport to do the first exhibition of 5 Years of Collaborative Work. “I had only been doing dialysis for two weeks, and I was afraid I was going to be too weak,” González says. “I hadn't traveled for two-and-a-half years, but the dialysis really came right in time. I was able to ride with the family for the three-hour drive. It was just tremendously wonderful.”
Issy and Boo Boo at their first showing in Shreveport. - DAVID NELSON
Issy and Boo Boo at their first showing in Shreveport.
David Nelson
During the show, González says, Issy would go around to people and hold court, explaining just how the collaborative works came together.

“I would bring out some paper or some Xerox copies of the collages I made, and I just give her all the markers, all different colors, and let her do whatever she wanted to do,” González says.

The first things Issy contributed were in black Sharpie, then she started branching out, using silver and maroon and many, many different colors.

“She knew what she wanted, and she wanted different kinds of media,” González says. “So I bought her all different kinds — from watercolor markers to paint markers, to gold, silver. She looks at a piece that I'm doing, and she'll just go for it.”
click to enlarge "Color Kong with Tuba," 2019 - DENNIS GONZÁLEZ
"Color Kong with Tuba," 2019
Dennis González

What started as scribbles and lines for Issy developed into childlike drawings of hearts, people and animals. Sometimes it takes her a week or two for her to turn the piece back over to her grandpa.

“She brings a lot of the innocence that I guess we have lost,” González says. “You start learning too much, and your parents tell you don't do this and don't do that, and then pretty soon you're in school, and you kind of lose track of this imagination.”

While many would say how great it is that González has given his granddaughter this kind of introduction to the art world, González contends that he's the one who's gotten the most out of their collaborations.

“She actually is the one who's taught me how to come back and work on a new phase of my art,” González says.
click to enlarge "Nights Enter," 2020. - DENNIS GONZÁLEZ
"Nights Enter," 2020.
Dennis González
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David Fletcher writes about music, arts and culture for the Dallas Observer. You can usually find him at a show in Deep Ellum whether he's writing about it or not. A punk scholar and local music enthusiast, David focuses his attention on the artists screaming in the margins of Dallas' music scene.
Contact: David Fletcher