This past weekend I headed to Houston to do more studio tours. This is only my 2nd time going to the Artcrawl, but I really enjoyed it last year, so my friend and I decided to head north. There are almost 200 artists participating, but this event is very different from the Austin studio tours. The biggest difference is that the Artcrawl only takes place in one day, where as the Austin tours are over two weekends. Last year I was a little disappointed in having such a short time to explore so many artists and spaces, but this year I was much more prepared. The fact that all of these artists are all in only about nine spaces really helped, other studio tours are much more spread out with less artists in more locations. In Houston, there seems to be a preference for renting studio spaces in large warehouses, or maybe that is just what is primarily available. While it is always great to work around or be associated with other artists, renting a studio with so many other people usually means there is a lot more bad art than good. But I will continue to look for artists that I want to work with, even though most of the time it does mean sifting through a lot of other art I’m not interested in. That’s ok. I try to prepare as much as I can by going through the artist list first. I still need to see what people are working on, what materials are used, topics being discuss, and how the work is presented. I always have a lot to learn from other artists. Meeting with another friend in Houston, the three of us begin the Artcrawl at Mother Dog Studios, a huge warehouse comprised of easily over fifty artists. Immediately walking in, there is a huge wall filled with the work of Kelly Alison. She is an artist I had previously worked with in Unconscious Desires, an exhibit I curated in 2009. Her colorful depictions of birds are engaging. The works exhibited here are all oil on paper, each measuring 28″ x 22″. There is always so much going on in her imagery, it’s hard not to get pulled in. These pieces are part of a series Tweet, 2011, in which Alison completed a piece every day for 365 days. On display she has 24 out of the 365 pieces. Based on current world events, she presents serious topics in her distinct style, discussing everything from the Japanese nuclear meltdown, local homelessness, to the economy. The work was then tweeted, resulting in this body of work being recognized and published in various sources. A couple have already sold today, which is always great during studio tours. However, she is not here. Since I have already gone through the artist list, I know she will be at her studio at Box 13. It is great to be able to view artists’ work through several different series, especially when it continues to evolve into new concepts. Walking into the studio of Katie Wynne, it is filled with assemblage type sculptures. Random items put together, initially, I’m not sure what to make of them. Then I see this beautiful piece of satin on the ground. It is slowly moving, very sensually, into itself. It is so simple, composed of two items, the satin and a motor in the middle creating the movement. She has a fantastic video of Untitled (Satin) on her website. I also find a massager with knitted covers over the moving parts. Again, creating a mesmerizing movement that draws me in. Both of these pieces are composed of a tactile element using a specific type of material and movement. Meeting Wynne, I discover these more sensual pieces are relatively new, compared to her other works. I discuss Seven Minutes in Heaven (SMIH) with her, these two particular pieces would fit well in the rooms of the Fox Motel. She seems interested and I get her business card. I would love to have her in the show. This is the second year in a row I have been to the studio of John Runnels and he is not there. His vulgar work using the word fuck in various media is very amusing. Creating these works with materials such as dictionaries, letterman jacket letters, money, and other assorted items, I like the variation in media used. He has another series of work on display as well, vintage looking nude photos that are displayed in oven doors. I prefer the Fuck Series much more. Literal and in your face, I think that is what I enjoy about these pieces. I would really like to talk to him about SMIH, I knew that as soon as I saw his work last year. Apparently, he is part of the duo that started the Houston Artcrawl. I’m sure he must be very busy. Unfortunately, I can find no business cards either. Well, I know where to find him. Clint Stone is another elusive artist I have yet to meet. His landscapes have this moody atmosphere that attract me, revealing another reality, a more emotive view of what is there. Finding artists that create something deeper than what is on the surface is always the goal. When I am trying to create a show, my focus is to present art that is not homogeneous. Maybe I am specifically taking on this challenge by curating shows that have strong connotations already associated with them. Currently, the group exhibitions I have been trying to put together include landscape, portraiture, and women and fabric. Those are very traditional topics that I hope to change expectations of. Ana Fernandez is another artist I would love to include in the landscape exhibit. I have written about her large scale oil paintings of homes reflecting the culture of San Antonio, when she exhibited in Austin, at Women and Their Work and also when she gave a lecture of her work in San Antonio, at the McNay Art Museum. The photography of Ken Frederick also catches my attention. His portraits of mannequins are done in a way that gives these lifeless bodies a persona. Staring at the pieces, I feel like it is a portrait of an actual person. Unfortunately, it is a little difficult to get a good photo, the frames are highly reflective. But I think even in this photo there is a sense of emotion. I get to speak with the artist for a little bit about this, discussing how much life I get from these images. This definitely works into my theme of untraditional portraiture. Finding artists with a unique perspective on such a traditional style with a rich history is going to take a while, but will be worth the effort. Box 13 is a gallery that also houses studios. I’ve never made it out here before, so I’m glad I was able to check it out. This is where Kelly Alison has her studio. It is great to talk to her. She shows me her current work, says she would love to show in San Antonio and would be happy to work with me again. That is always the highest compliment – when someone will return to work with you. She is an accomplished artist, exhibiting as far as in China and Peru, as well as extensively in Houston, including two permanent public art pieces. Unfortunately, I am not working specifically on anything that her work would fit into, but I am always coming up with new shows, so I make sure I have her updated contact information. Alison was in the first show I ever worked on as curator with out of town artists. It would be great to work with her again. Maybe I can work on getting her a solo show in San Antonio. Another artist I meet at Box 13 is Elaine Bradford. Her studio is brimming with transformed taxidermied animals that vary in size from birds and ducks to sheep. Bradford gives them new perspective, with a crocheted skin around the figures, creating a colorful outer layer. Completely concealing the original figure, the only revealed parts are the eyes of the animal. Bradford even constructs her own species of animals, complete with their own legends. There is a great description of these on her website, from her exhibit The Museum of Unnatural History. This includes a two headed sheep and another species that fuse their tales in a mating ritual when they have found their partner with the same pattern. While presenting those animals in a traditional setting of taxidermy, as you can see in this photo, other animals are exhibited in new and unusual ways, continuing to surprise in the display, as well as what constitutes as an “animal”, as she merges natural elements with the figures. Women and fabric? Maybe another artist that pushes the boundaries and expectations of a traditional medium that I could work with in the future. I have to admit I am pleasantly surprised with the variation of media I found being presented in this Artcrawl. While I found traditional media such as painting, drawing, sculpture, and photography being used, that was the extend of what was predictable. Their concepts pushed the media and what it means. Assemblage and crochet were additional methods I saw used to convey their ideas in interesting and engaging ways. This was a great studio tour. If I can find one artist to work with, I consider that a successful studio tour. But I may have found quite a number of different artists for several different projects. These are the things I get really excited about.
November means it’s time for studio tours! The East Austin Studio Tours takes place this month annually, in fact this is the 11th annual E.A.S.T. I have been going for quite awhile now and have always enjoyed visiting artist’s studios. At the time, I didn’t realize how important these tours would become for me or even that they would become something I would do to work. I just knew I liked it, so I kept doing it. Now, there are several objectives I have when doing studio tours. First, I want to see what is out there – what ideas other artists are working on now, the media, their surfaces. Second, I am curating. This began by keeping track of artists I was interested in working with, yes, just in my head. Then I finally started to see enough artists I liked working on similar ideas. The exhibitions I am currently piecing together include nontraditional contemporary portraiture, nontraditional landscape, and experimental process or media. And, of course, my main and largest project by far, Seven Minutes in Heaven 2013. However, a new priority is really observing these studio spaces for, well, their space. I want to compare how they store their work and supplies, divide their work space, display their art, or find new ways to use the space. Yes, I have always noticed, lusting after these large studios. But now it’s all possible. If I want it, I now have a place to make it happen. A little low on funds, I decided to experiment with how I could make this work. The tours take place over two weekends, with over 200 locations on the map, this included hundreds of artists. I could only attend the first weekend, next weekend is the Houston Artcrawl. I meant to rent a room, but I waited to long and couldn’t afford that. So I booked two roundtrip tickets on Megabus to go both Saturday and Sunday. My total was $12 – for both days. That is less than gas for one trip. That is why I love Megabus. The only drawback is that you can’t bring a bike. Luckily, since all the studios are fairly close in proximity, walking is a great option. Day 1 of the tour is very disorganized for me. I forgot how important it is for me to plan ahead and nothing was really going according to my loose plan anyway. Due to an accident on the freeway, I arrived an hour and a half later than expected. A friend from school and her husband met me and we drove not too far into the East Side of Austin. I had been so busy, I did not print a map, I figured I would just pick one up at one of the locations, I knew the general area. Yes, we got to the general area, no, there were no maps or catalogs available. They were all gone, this is a very popular tour. I was disappointed, the catalogs are actually a beautiful highlight of the tour, the one for the West Austin Studio Tours earlier in the year was very impressive. In fact, I feel the Austin Tours are a great model for artist studio visits, one of the largest and best organized. After what seemed like an eternity, I printed a map at the library and we were on our way. By not going through the list to edit, this caused major mistake #2. With a couple hundred of artists to view, I will probably only be interested in 25 – 35% of the art, and only about 10% will I seriously be interested in working with. While exploring is fun, with so much, there needs to be some organization. So a lot of Day 1 was spent trying to gain my bearings. I saw a lot of art, but not really anything that I would seriously consider. So I began to prepare for Day 2 on the ride home. I began to comb through the artist list. This begins by identifying the locations with the most artists there. If I had a catalog, each artist or location gets a page with an image of their work and their website. But no such luck and the catalog is not listed online yet either. That makes trying to form a strategic plan a little difficult. Day 2 was a million times better! First, I arrived on time. Armed with my map, I jumped in a cab and got dropped off at the furthest point away that I wanted to visit. And just spent the day walking back, hitting as many studios as I could. This included Big Medium, Pump Project Art Complex, and ARTPOST. Those three spaces alone had over fifty artists. A major highlight was finding Industry Print Shop. Immediately, I recognized the style of prints by the artist I saw at the Mexi-Arte Museum Graffiti Exhibit. There his work opened the show, overtaking the entire first wall. He has some work up, as well as some smaller prints on a table for sale. The works are sensual advertisements using sex for promotion. To promote what? These pieces don’t have a product to sell, just imagery and catchy slogans. These prints feel nostalgic, designed like vintage signs, but I begin to realize it’s also in the attitude. The sexy tart can always get what she wants. But how do those attitudes work today? Sex sells more than ever. Are these women being taken advantage of or in control of the situation? How have these attitudes changed in the last 50 years? Can a woman embrace her sexuality? While sex sells, there still remains the stigma of being a whore. Sex will make money but the woman better act like she doesn’t know anything about that. I pick a print to purchase, how can not? I also buy an awesome shirt for a gift. All I had to do was ask for more info. The artist is Antonio Diaz, and he is (one of?) the owner(s) of Industry. I let him know I am a fan of his work. Mentioning seeing their work somewhere else is always a great way to begin a conversation with an artists I want to meet. They are interested when you know their work or have seen their other shows. We go into his office and he shows me some more prints. I discuss Seven Minutes in Heaven 2013, inviting him. He would make a great addition to the show. Interested, he gives me his card, I will definitely be in touch. I have just begun to finally organize things for Seven Minutes in Heaven 2012. Working on the Invisible Gallery website for several months now, I have organized SMIH 2012 page with the artists and press. I would love for this to work out. I love that during his open studio tour, Mark Johnson sits facing the corner of his studio, clacking away on a vintage typewriter, not paying attention to the crests of people in and out. His mixed media works include various typography, referencing the home and domesticity. There is a sense of longing, a void was left from all the chaos. I find his work compelling and would possibly like to work with him in the future, although I have no idea right now where he would fit in. Nothing I am currently working on. But that doesn’t mean something won’t come up. I can’t find any cards and I feel awkward trying to talk to him as he is typing away. But I ask if him for his card, he politely stops, hands me the top piece of paper from a pile, each piece freshly typed as I was there. The little piece of art with his most recent words was his card. Yes, it had his contact information. Back to typing. Discovering the Pump Project Art Complex for the first time was cool. There are a couple of collective studios there, such as MAKEatx and Women Printmakers of Austin. There are also quite a few individual artists studios there, as well. I find the ceramic work of Debra Broz. Her manipulation of decorative kitsch is playful. They are incredibly well crafted. Taking these items from thrift shops, she alters them in an amazing way, where you cannot tell that it was not originally like that. But you know it wasn’t. This is her skill, her trade is a porcelain restorer. A multi talented woman, she is also the director of Pump Project. The photography of Jon Oldag catches my interest. Stitching together photos physically versus digitally doing this in Photoshop is a lost craft he is continuing. This gives the image a soul, some motion, in contrast to the flattened quality a computer can often produce. There is always an attraction to the handmade, something exhibiting the artists’ touch. He is actually selling his work for whatever you would like to offer him. As much as I would love a piece, I have no cash and he is not taking credit cards. And then I found a free catalog at a little gallery. I was so excited! It really is a nice book, a great reference for Austin artists, and advertised as the companion book to the West Austin Studio Tours catalog from earlier in the year, which I have. They were for sale at Big Medium, but free at all the other galleries in limited quantity. As usual, I was on limited on funds. What I do have I will spend on art. It’s really good. This was such a productive day, I am extremely pleased with the amount of work I got done. Finding one artist for SMIH is a huge accomplishment. The Austin Studio Tours always have intriguing art, I always find new artists to work with, get explore new spaces, and return to favorite spots. I think this may have been the very first large studio tour that I ever went on, who knows how long ago. Finding diversity in media is always welcome. I really chose to discuss these artists randomly based on how much I like their work. Afterwards is when I noticed I was discussing screen printing, mixed media, ceramics, and photography. Obviously, I feel it still delivers fresh artwork every year.