Dallas has lately been abuzz with the arts. Yet this growth comes at a perilous time. Galleries are struggling to survive, and artists are ﬁghting to be shown. To provide a public environment for area artists to exhibit their work, D Magazine, along with John Sughrue and f.i.g., produced a juried art show in May called D Art Slam. Of the 150 artists who exhibited, the jurors honored nine, designating them the New Dallas Nine.
The name recalls the 1930s and ’40s regional artists who believed that local art can speak universally. The original Dallas Nine—Jerry Bywaters, Thomas M. Stell Jr., Harry P. Carnohan, Otis M. Dozier, Alexandre Hogue, William Lester, Everett Spruce, John Douglass, and Perry Nichols—shaped the Texas centennial exhibition and Dallas’ new art museum. Working on murals, printmaking, sculpture, painting, and drawings, they depicted Texas’ landscapes, labor, luminaries, and tribes. They followed their own style, nodding but not kowtowing to New York and Europe, exhibiting alongside each other and national and international artists. As World War II ended, the Nine disbanded and moved elsewhere. Their work can still be seen at the DMA and other museums.
The presence and work of the New Dallas Nine speak to their efforts to live as artists within Texas. As the original Dallas Nine upheld, Texas has its own muses and talents. Here, we honor D Art Slam’s winners as they shape a 21st-century conversation about Texas and its artists.
When she was 8, Pamela Chance saved up until she could buy a Kodak Brownie Starmeter camera. Since then, she has sought to capture human emotions. She’s currently engaged with street photography, where she says she can “record life as it happens, especially when it’s unscripted and shot in a natural environment.” Though her pictures range from vivid, painterly shots of Lost Maples State Park to austere black-and-white ones of border towns, the narration of a story guides Chance’s photos. This month, the Camp Wood Library in West Texas displays Chance’s solo exhibit, “Don’t Tell Me That the West Is Dead and Gone.”
As a child in South Korea, Sunny Jacquet always wanted to be an artist. Family finances wouldn’t allow it. When she moved to the United States in 1986, she became a hairdresser to pay the bills. A car accident finally made her quit that job and enroll in art studies at Texas Women’s University. Combined elements of European classical painting and trompe l’oeil see Jacquet depict pears as a metaphor for human experience. “Each individual pear has its own distinctive shape, yet all pears possess the same qualities and characteristics of milky smooth surfaces and off-white innards,” she says. “Likewise, all human beings exhibit a genuine heart and soul despite different outer appearances.” Jacquet’s work can next be seen at the Haley-Henman Gallery.
Jennifer Jones’ upbringing in a family of artists saw her major in drawing and painting at Baylor, where her father taught. A year spent in Florence instructed her as well. Influenced by surrealism, minimalism, Jenny Saville, and more, Jones’ work marries the macabre and ungainly with the delicate and dainty. Jones takes elephants with their “vulgar, phallic, grotesque trunks” and juxtaposes them over the “vulnerable beauty of old ’50s and ’60s movie stars.” She is extending her current “Reflection” series with buddhas cast in bronze and resin alongside other knickknacks from her family home—a keepsake of family memories.
David Leonard moved to Texas in 1993, sharing studio space with some 30 artists. A fellow artist and former student of William Lester and Everett Spruce showed Leonard a regionalist technique—how to manipulate and texture paint to create a more abstract surface. Leonard’s urban paintings rely on this surface abstraction. He likes cities’ compositions, grids, and colors, as well as their narratives. “Cities describe past and present communities and the way time alters landscapes,” he says. He also paints “surreal, scientific, and wonderful shapes of oil refineries and power reactors,” which make “the man-made become almost animated.” Leonard’s Austin has yet to figure in his series; it’s a more neutral, relaxed landscape than his busier skyline subjects.
When Rich Morgan retired as an architect, he took on a second career: art. Raised on a farm in Kansas, he grew up doing metal- and woodwork. Learning photography, painting, drawing, and sculpture took some added time. His training as an architect has engaged him in city matters with the Trinity River Project’s early urban design. Though his work often reflects “an architect’s eye for order, context, place, and time,” it also focuses on objects “we look at but don’t necessarily see—speeding images full of distortion and difference.” His often site-specific pieces “amplify the architecture and space around them.” This month, the Geometric Madi Museum features Morgan’s work, and large-scale sculptures of his will be unveiled at I-75 and Stacy Road as well.
Every day after school, Shane Pennington’s grandmother made art projects with him at their place in the Hill Country. From that landscape comes some of Pennington’s art. His father unwraps hay to feed the cattle he raises, and that bale wire figures in Pennington’s pieces, as do tree roots, bug jars, and childhood train figurines. Pennington also uses plastic, paint, and multimedia. In his digital/painted work inside the Chase Tower, Carmen’s Wish, dandelion leaves seem to wisp through the air. Meant to honor a person dear to Pennington who suffers from multiple sclerosis, the “dreamy piece suggests weightlessness and movement.” Pennington’s newest work, an 18-foot tree with figurines in its branches and roots that looks out from the W’s 35th floor, also seems to fly into space.
Growing up in Oklahoma, Joshua Stone would skateboard and make graffiti with his friends. Since the late ’90s, he has incorporated those pastimes into his work. He always paints the same word across his work: “wave.” He says it has come to symbolize a self-portrait. “It’s a long-term study of how words interact,” Stones says. His pieces often involve different materials processed repeatedly. He finds fine art posters, money, and fabric in thrift stores, flea markets, online, or at the bank. Stone has just completed work on a fiber-optic chandelier and is currently working on disassembling and graffitiing a Baptist preacher’s old Bible.
A class at the Art Academy of Cincinnati introduced Kathleen Wilke to photography. Inspired by Howard Schatz’s water imagery, she composes images of draped women motioning languidly in the water. “Submerged subjects fascinate me because of the interplay of the light and reflection in water, and how it illuminates the skin and fabric,” she says. Dallas figures prominently in Wilke’s work—if only underwater. Her “Immersed” and “Lady of the Lake” series use White Rock and its legends as inspiration. This summer, Wilke will be in Greece, using the Mediterranean as her works’ watering hole.
From his father Ancel Nunn (who studied with Hogue during the ’40s), William Young began learning his craft. Nunn taught Young that images can relay a philosophy. Though Young loves to capture physical images—clouds, spider webs, metal—he also works with “internal images that come from someplace mysterious and outside my life experience, someplace archetypal in a Jungian way.” That archetypal landscape partially stems from his Texan background. “From big skies in West Texas to peeling paint on an old sign in Dallas to cracks in the sidewalks in Fredericksburg, I set the scenes in my paintings with these backgrounds and details,” Young says. The Longview Museum of Art welcomes his work in November.
For more information on D Art Slam, visit http://www.d-artslam.com.