Small Sculpture in Texas ©1993, 2000 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

The First Kinetic
Sculpture Parade

Twenty five more or less kinetic, locally designed sculptures were driven, dragged or carried the two-mile length of the first "Old Oak Cliff Kinetic Sculpture Parade," the kick-off event for the 11th annual Urban Pioneer Tour, which is sponsored annually by the Oak Cliff Preservation League, September 21.

Two pieces self disqualified because they didn't fit the letter of the rules, which called for self-propelled sculptures, with pilot and copilot, no wider than six, nor longer than eight feet, safe, cost less than $300 to build, and would move the entire length of the parade.

The Egyptian barge, created by Johnnie Nelson, Blake Alexander and others, was too long, and Randy Brodnax' beautiful iron-work pre-publicity and parade pace piece was professionally prepared for event sponsor, real estate developer Jim Lake. Two other entries fell apart on the too-long, two-mile parade route. At least one other had to be carried when its wheels broke. Many entries had no co-pilot or were neither self- nor people-powered. None of these were disqualified.

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Event organizer Cathy Oppel admitted that the too stringent rules, especially the size limitations, were "an error in judgement -silliness on my part." She promised softer specifications if there was a next time. Oppel hoped the parade would be an annual event, but only if "we can find a business sponsor." It cost, she said, "close to $15,000 to put it on."

The parade's sponsor used the event to promote his Oak Cliff properties in what he is calling "Dallas' next arts district." It should be noted that only one Jim Lake tenant joined the competition. Stuart Kraft's entry, a dog-drawn ironwork cart.

Other Lake renters may have been put off by Lake's earlier self-promotions-which were directly contrary to their wishes for anonymity. By their participation, artists and others, wittingly or unwittingly endorsed the real estate "developer's" real estate promotion.

Entries with sponsors got $300 each to build "kinetic sculptures" In addition, three winners got cash prizes.

Judges, who wore propeller beanies at the sunny event, were KRLD commentator Alex Burton, his nine-year-old daughter Nina (adding a child's viewpoint), DMA contemporary curator Sue Graves, art consultant Murray Smither and DW Gallery director Diana Block.

Unsponsored first place winner was Greg Metz. He won $500 for his protest piece, Artist's Wheel of Misfortune. One of the two big-wheel, self propelled treadmill pieces entered, Metz' rolling rust-colored metal mesh cylinder had tandem, live chicken treadmills and banners proclaiming "Oak Cliff used to raise artists and chickens. Now they only raise the rent. Remember Dee- Ellum."

The latter was a reference to the Deep Elm area's continuing struggle against self-interested "developers" who raise rents and prices without making substantial improvements.

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Second prize of $200 went to City Water Department design technician Chris Pauley's minimalist City of Dallas piece made of a 1914 hot water heater. Third prize, $100, went to George Sielen's gee-gaw bestrewn Cedar Valley College class project. Although no other prizes or honorable mentions were awarded, there was a need for such. Oppel promised more in the future.

"Most Appropriate Use of Sponsorship" would have been a hands-down win for Frank Tolbert and Ann Stautberg's mostly black with spray painted silver, matching bicycles, representing Lamar and Smith Funeral Home.

"Most Involved" could have been a tie between giant green urban fish and the reed Egyptian barge, complete with "slaves" in ornate head-dresses and a harem of scantily clad women.

Another potential contender for top prize was Fort Worth artist Debora Chronister's white, paper horse with pulley-driven legs that galloped. Unfortunately, the horse lost its head on the open-air tow from Cowtown and wasn't put together again until after the parade.

"Least Kinetic" would have been a highly competitive field. The only thing "characteristic of motion" about many entries was that they moved from point A to point B. But adding a set of wheels to a static pieces does not make sculpture kinetic.

It was gratifying to the event's organizers to have that many entries-their first year's goal was 25 entries. But it would have been a much more exciting and artistically interesting parade if more attention were paid to the spirit of kinetics.

However, if artists paid even as much attention to the underlying, political real estate purpose of the otherwise fun event as they did to making sculpture kinetic, the promotional parade probably would never have happened.

Dallas Arts Revue #15,
October 1985 

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