Monday, November 16, 2009

Texas Road Trip

I just returned from a road trip to Dallas. I wanted to check out the art scene there & look up a few friends along the way. It was 20° here in Santa Fe this morning. Finally, some season-appropriate weather. We received only a few flakes from the storm that hit Colorado, our ski basin a few inches. This morning I ran up Picacho and shot the photo below.

I followed a bobcat’s tracks all the way up. It skipped the bends in the disused trail & opted for the most efficient route, as predators always do. I was trying to burn as many calories as I could stand, and the cat was trying to conserve as many calories as possible.

The plains between here and Dallas are a landscape transformed by human appetite.

There were beef cattle and feed lots, fields of wind turbines (not to be confused with the old prototype windmill above), grasslands grazed to the bone, and perhaps not as many oil wells as there used to be. The preferred site for wind turbine fields seems to be mesa tops. When environmentalists advocated for wind power a decade ago, I don’t think they had in mind the grids of sonic booming, bird and wildlife-killing monoliths that are now more common than cotton fields and cattle in West Texas. Why and how they are killing wildlife other than the obviously unfortunate birds who are sucked in is not yet understood. As long as we continue to consume electricity at our present rate, however, we can’t really complain about wind turbines. At least they are not coal-fired or nuclear plants.

The road to Dallas is populated by few people, many decaying industrial forms and abandoned structures, and a collection of small towns that seem to be hanging on by the skin of their teeth. When I lived for four years in West Texas, I hated the place, largely because there was no public land, which made me feel like a rat in a cage, and because it is overrun with Republicans and fundamentalists.

On my first trip back in ten years, I was struck by the beauty of the expansive vistas and disintegrating human-built structures. They seeded themselves in my creative imagination and have already begun blossoming.

Night Spirit, West Texas / watercolor / 8 x 10 inches

84 South / watercolor / 8x 10 inches
I am fairly bursting with the desire to get back to some big oil paintings. As soon as I finish matting a stack of watercolors that will accompany me to a museum show in Indianapolis in 2.5 weeks. . .

We spent a night with our friend Bruno and his fabulous cat Hermes in Ransom Canyon, an oasis near Lubbock that is home to a steel house built by the recently deceased Robert Bruno (name similarity coincidental). It juts out like a hawk’s eye over the suburban landscape of the canyon.

The Dallas are scene may be small, but it is vibrant. I visited only galleries that show contemporary abstract work, and I spoke with some energetic and friendly people.  Nearly all of the artwork was organic in design, content, and often media. Things were growing in these paintings and sculptures. Artists were overlaying topo maps with personal visual mythologies (something I do from time to time) and creating sculptural forms that spoke of plant life and undersea worlds.

The standout was a piece at Dunn and Brown Contemporary comprised of plant material molded into human skull forms hung in a grid, with a map identifying the plant material (rose petals, mustard seeds, etc.) each skull was made of.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get the artist’s name & couldn’t find it on their website. Galleries of interest include HCG, Craighead Green, Conduit, and DeCorazon. In this steel and concrete desert, galleries are selling, and presumably collectors are buying, portals through which viewers may touch down itno nature and psyche (which are one and the same). Returning via the feedlots and oil fields, I found this reassuring.

As we reentered New Mexico, a storm front blew in from the north.

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