Dallas Is Artificial? A Gallery Reveals the City's Unmentioned Natural Splendor.

The person who shares living quarters with me is a Dallas native who lets out a small yelp whenever she comes across a mention in the media she thinks is insulting to Dallas. I'm a carpetbagger. I don't even notice.

This morning's offending mention was in The New York Times and included the phrases, "a highly manufactured environment" and "the stereotype about Dallas's artificiality," both of which were read aloud to me like key testimony in a murder trial. I'm shrugging, thinking, "So what's the news?" But I know better than to say that out loud, the day still young.

My own subsequent reading of the offending mentions led me to believe these descriptions of Dallas as "manufactured" and "artificial" came originally from Texas Monthly magazine, which, c'mon, is her own people. It's not like New Yorkers said it.

But the important point in the item in the Times was this: It's about a show that's just about to end at Sun to Moon Gallery on Levee Street down by the river in the Dallas Design District, called "Dallas Naturally." It's photographs and film exploring the band of wild undeveloped land along the Trinity River out between the levees where most people never go.

The show presents the photographic and cinematic work of Dan Burkholder, Scot Miller, Jill Skupin Burkholder and R.P. Washburne. The images I was able to find online are windows into a magical universe I have found myself out there by stomping around, sometimes dragging a kayak, sometimes paddling with Trinity River naturalist and outfitter Charles Allen. And Texas Monthly or whoever said it was not wrong: We in Dallas do live within this man-made chrysalis, blind to the existence of an immense natural forest at the heart of our city.

It's weird that we don't see it, and not seeing it plays all kinds of tricks on us. We march out into the bottoms with an army of cranes and bulldozers, and we jam stuff into the ground like the Calatrava fake suspension bridge, because we think it's all an ugly void out there and we want something to be there. We don't get that a forest is there already -- a thing more wonderful than anything we could ever build ourselves. It's as if Dallas has reverted to the pre-Romanticist view of nature as the howling void begging to be civilized.

Anyway. This show is up today and tomorrow. Sun to Moon is at 1515 Levee St., open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., phone 214-745-1199. Tomorrow throughout the day they will show a short film by Scot Miller about the forest and about Groundwork Dallas, a nonprofit that takes city kids out into the forest and teaches them about nature.

If you've ever been curious about what's out there, this is a pretty cool way to get a vision of it. Someday the scenes portrayed in these pictures will be more emblematic of Dallas than anything having to do with that bridge. The mention in the Times was right. We do live in an artificial man-made environment, but only because we are hiding from what's really all around us. (How do we make this work at home? Easy. She never reads a thing I write.)

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