EAT ART is the name of an arts community "gossip" column of short pieces I wrote for the on-paper DARts. The title came from a bumper sticker for the failed, initial "a grEAT ART museum for a grEAT city" bond campaign to raise money for the new, downtown Dallas Museum of Art.
  

Metz As Smell

One Halloween disguise really stood out. Oak Cliff artist Greg Metz came to the gigantic Deep Elm warehouse Fly Killer party as a smell. A most effective guise. Mean Metz looked pretty much normal, mask-less in a cheap coat and tie. But OH! the olfactory! He truly stank.

Friends said he'd been saving fish and other pungently wretched dead things for weeks. The odor was fierce.

Metz was magnanimous enough to share shards of his icky costume. For example, he shoved a slimy gray brown entrail into my coat pocket. Even tho I quickly dumped the offending part, it smelled so foul that when I got home, my cat tried to kill my coat. Another glob shoved into a globe temporarily serving as a mask earned Metz a well-deserved sock.

Offensively controversial, Metz didn't so much raise a stink; he just let the natural aromas exude. Phew!

DARts #12, Mid-December, 1983

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Re-Discovering The Texas Kid

Willard "The Texas Kid" Watson is probably Dallas' most abused art icon. The thin, colonially polite black gentleman with the colorful wildman art is also this city's best known primitive artist. His works -- especially his porn drawings -- are in big collections, and Watson has made appearances in many important artistic events since the early 70s. Which has made him publicly successful, but far from rich. He's a talented and often celebrated local artist with a colorful past and an uncertain future.

The last ten years may have been the Kid's prime time, but a lot of it was ripped off. He's past his prime now, in failing health, and he need his community's help, not in being discovered or celebrated yet again, but to live. The Kid sells his art sometimes, but he's not rich and famous like the Disability Board decided when they stopped his checks. He still upholsters furniture and does other jobs to keep body and soul together.

"Chase A Jinx Away," an auction benefiting Willard Watson at the Bath House Cultural Arts Center Sept. 14 was a limited success. The Kid's much-decorated 1978 pickup truck sold at the minimum bid of $5,000 to a sealed bid in Fort Worth. Most of the clothes apparently prepared especially for the auction--and not nearly as high quality nor as ornately complex as the Kid's own wardrobe--sold for embarrassingly low prices, usually under $25.


Willard Watson on the cover of
DARts Volume I, Number 1
1979

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Only about fifty people attended the auction. Considering only 250 invitations went out, it was a good showing. But, for an auction to benefit Dallas' best known primitive artist, the crowd was sadly insufficient. I thoroughly enjoyed bidding up a neatly beaded and doo-dadded straw cowboy hat to $41, the highest bid of the evening, and a price second only to the pickup truck, which received no competitive bids.

Discovered and rediscovered throughout the 70s, the Kid--whose shuffling good manners and easy get-along grace has made him a ripe target for greedy artists and art promoters--has been ripped off by every art charlatan in the Dallas arts community -- sometimes repeatedly. He got a lot of personal promotions, made a lot of well-publicized public appearances, and each new batch of new-found friends got superb original naive art cheap or free.

Checks for the 'Jinx' auction were written directly to "W. Watson." But Kid Aid hasn't always been that direct or beneficial. In January 1984, an exclusive benefit auction at Allan Ireland & Don Kriendler's now-defunct Exposure Restaurant on upper McKinney, supposedly raised $18,276 for The Kid.

After more than a year, though, he got only about half that amount. It was too little too late. I tried to attend that "benefit," too. But I and other friends of The Kid were shunted out of the racist-feeling, white-only, business suited crowd.

Last summer, his government disability checks were stopped because the Disability Board decided he must be rich as well as semi-famous. But he's not. He was pleased to sell his recently redecorated pickup truck, still has his hallmark Cowboy Caddy, and if he can find a willing apprentice, might be able to finish a few pending projects.

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Mad Art Disease

Dallas photog and humorist Philip Lamb's latest greeting was a paper fold-over New Year's card. On the outside of a quater-folded page, a short clipping from The Dallas Morning News of a year ago headlined: "Cracker consumption averages 10 pounds." The first unfold revealed the endearing personal greeting, "Hey You, Yeah You" in ransom note cutout letters.

The next fold presented "happy new year" in more cutouts, and a clipping headlined "Creative minds tend to go awry, psychiatric study shows." It was clipped from last September 21's Dallas Times Herald. The UPI story says, "Artists, writers and poets are 35 times more likely to seek treatment for serious mood disorders than the average person, according to a recent study that established a strong statistical link between creative genius and mental problems."

"...There is a relationship between creativity and madness. And there [is] a disproportionate number of artists who are literally insane, or at least pushing the edge." The study "at Oxford University focused on prominent British artists" and others in the upper levels of English painters, playwrights and poets. It also "concluded that poets suffer the severest forms of the disturbance." Thanks Philip.

Dallas Arts Revue #18, February, 1986

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Indentation

All but ignored at the TSA annual membership show was Houstonian Ken Young's superb Indentation, which combined simple, rounded pillow shape, viewer kinetics and intriguing, see-through ambiguities in an eminently touchable physical manifestation of intelligence and humor.

The succinct, wide-weave, wholly enclosed wire-frame basket comprised a bronze, fingerprint textured crosshatch exoskeleton one could simultaneously see into, through, and beyond. And it begged for touching, even strumming, as if physical and aural contact with this optically illusive, 3-D cartoon proved its real-world existence.

Regular, except for a rounded concavity indented into the front, the piece was stationary. But as viewers moved around it, an ever-changing retinal moiré of competing arcs formed in the viewer's mind.

Dallas Arts Revue #26, Spring, 1988

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Murray Smither

Murray Smither, who more than anyone else is responsible for making Dallas the artist's center it has become, sold all of his Delahunty gallery's stock to founding co-partner Laura Carpenter on January 1.

With a degree in journalism, Murray was assistant editor of Town North Magazine published in Snider Plaza during 1958 when he interviewed Dallas artist Chapman Kelley. By 1959 Murray was studying with Chapman at his art school on McKinney During the 60s, Murray continued studying painting and did volunteer work, helping with installations, at Dallas' fledgling Contemporary Arts Museum (on Cedar Springs in Oak Lawn). Also working there were [now Morning News Art Editor] Janet Kutner, artist David McManaway and others).

Murray left Kelley in 1970, to open Cranfill Gallery on Routh with Betty Cranfill Wright. Two years later, he opened his own Smither Gallery in James Dowell and Gil Northcrete's studio (later Allen Street Gallery), which he "inherited."

Murray Smither, color painting by Dwayne Carter
  

In 1974 Murray, then a commercial art consultant in need of working capital, joined with Virginia Gable and Laura Carpenter [freeway] to form Delahunty Gallery, which had become Dallas' second most successful art gallery. (Murray cites the downtown, Texas western art gallery as the most successful in town.)

As of this writing he is looking for but hasn't yet found "a space" in Dallas. Murray is not planning to open a gallery. "I'll be a private dealer," he told me. "I'll hang shows, but I won't be representing artists... I'll be an agent, not a rep."

Already in the works are plans to curate shows at 500X and DW galleries as well as occasional shows in his own space. Although most of the art he'll show is contemporary, one event he is especially looking forward to will be a fold art show. (He likened his own painting style to that of Grant Wood.) In addition, he will be showing the work of "young, unknown artists as well as more famous artists who need to be seen." He stressed "There will be no schedule [of events]... and no representation."

About leaving Delahunty after all these years, Murray said, "I decided I would like a change. I felt I wanted the freedom [to do some things that are impossible in a... gallery structure.]

"My main interest is the artists of this area," said Murray Smither. Unfortunately, as a gallery grows and becomes more successful, he added, "it is less and less able to help local artists."

Texas Arts Revue, #10, December, 1983

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Optically Illusionary

I'm glad I waited till just after the darkest shade of evening New Year's night 1985, to visit Julie Bennett's Ultra Violet Sculpture at the Theatre Gallery, 2808 Commerce.

Several signs around the rambling front space said "Do Not Touch." But the subtly radiating soft electric colored, and rhythmic shape drawings were elegant and sweet in my mind. Optically illusionary, like intelligent mind candy, they glowed under the purplish UV lamps.

  

DARts Contents

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