Sunday, February 24, 2008

CAA side show

This week the College Art Association held its annual meeting in Dallas, and that means that artist friends from around the country were an hour's drive away from my prairie home. What luck! Wednesday after a department head meeting and after a departmental meeting, I drove into the big city to visit with my friend Kevin and a couple of arts professionals. It was mostly a dinner at an Italian place on Main St. down town. Even though I was pretty winded from all the administrative shenanigans of the day, it was really good to spend some time with a man I respect and to reconnect with his friends Chris and Charla. Chris wrote a decent review of my last show in Kansas when he was living there. Now that he's here with Charla, I probably should do a few things to connect him to the Dallas scene.

Friday night we drove in to the big city again for dinner -- this time with Kevin and John, a friend from back in our days when was working on my MFA in Terre Haute. Nandina was our destination, and it was quite good. But I have to say that the restaurant isn't as fine as our first visit a few years back. And unfortunately Kevin isn't a fan of seafood -- even when it's cooked. So sushi didn't work at all for him.

We hadn't seen John for several years (he's on the faculty of a university in North Carolina), but our conversation never missed a beat. I suppose that's evidence of the nature of our friendship.

Saturday, we met John and his friend David at the conference hotel at lunch time. They wanted barbecue, so it was obvious that Sonny Bryan's was the destination. It's the classic Dallas BBQ joint. They've opened branches in other parts of town, but the original on Inwood is the real deal. I mean, I've eaten at other locations, but BBQ in Macy's at the Galleria somehow misses the mark. We had beef sandwiches, of course.

After lunch, I drove us to the Dallas Center for Contemporary Art so John could see the video show. Next it was Barry Whistler's place where Scott Barber's paintings from the mid 90's are on exhibit. Scott died a couple of years ago -- complications from a bone marrow transplant he underwent to fight a recurring cancer. Some of the last paintings he made were based on photomicrographs from his lab work. Big, generous, and beautiful abstractions derived from images of a disease that threatened his life. Around the corner from Barry's Road Agent Gallery offered a stylish, elegant show of four artists from Chicago. Next we headed up to Dunn and Brown to see Beverly Semmes' outsized dresses. I was able to show John a copy of Trenton Doyle Hancock's book, Me, a Mound, and one of Robyn O'Neil's very large graphite drawings. The two of them graduated from my school a few years back and are responsible for alumni of our program being represented in three Whitney Biennials in a row.

After drinks at the Stoneleigh P, I drove us to S&D Oyster house for dinner. For the table: four beers, two dozen on the half shell, a fried oyster po' boy, two shrimp cocktails with remoulade, two bowls of gumbo, a slice of lemon meringue pie, and two orders of bread pudding.

It's a little embarrassing to confess, but that was my total involvement with the 2008 CAA: Meeting friends from out of town for restaurant meals and a little gallery hopping. Not exactly career building, I suppose.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Duck breast prosciutto

A couple of years back, we spent Christmas with our daughter who was then living in the city of Montauban near the French city of Toulouse. There were many amazing things to love in the regional food stores, but one in particular stayed with me -- little slices of cured duck breast set on rounds of chevre. Tom Colicchio has a recipe for duck prosciutto in his book The Craft of Cooking. There's another one in Ruhlman and Polcyn's Charcuterie. I've made it before, using both recipes. This time it was the Colicchio version. After 24 hours in a salt cure and a couple weeks hanging in the pantry with the window open, it looked like the photo above.

Much distinguishes the cultures of Cow Hill and southwestern France. But some things can be approximated even on this prairie.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Phone videos

Last night we attended an opening for a show ("Real Time")at the Dallas Center for Contemporary Art -- curated by a couple of friends of mine, John Pomara and Dean Terry. Okay, I'm stretching to call Dean a friend, but we have worked together and he and I have engaged in friendly conversations from time to time. (John and Dean teach at UT-Dallas, where I once worked as a painting teacher.) The premise of their show is projections of camera phone videos by a number of artists and art collectives in the area -- videos which are refreshed daily in short snippets they're calling microart. Uber-techno-guy that he is, Dean has set up a Web site for the show here.

The opening was rather odd. They charged admission, for one thing -- Joan Davidow, the director is working hard to raise big dollars for the joint's new building, but jeeze, a sawbuck to drink art wine, groove to a DJ's turntable tunes and nibble from a fruit plate struck me as a PR mistake.

On the other hand, I'm inclined to think that the show itself will evolve into a really interesting event. Any exhibit that includes Ludwig Schwarz singing "Time after Time" to his cat holds promise for seriously whacked future antics.

Here's an excerpt from Dean's curatorial statement: "Microart is about accepting and exhibiting (mostly) failure rather than (mostly) success. It is about the composite and sequential effect of a large number of small bits that create a stream rather than fewer, individual substantive statements. And its about honesty and directness of the process. Individual posts may be disposable, like most cultural productions in consumer society, but the goal is that the cumulative effect is not."

Some ifs:

If you're reasonably competent and if you hang around long enough, you run into certain sweet ironies like the fact that I was the first art teacher of Kirstin Macy, one of the artists in John and Dean's show.

If anybody wants to participate in "Real Time," Dean said there will be a portal for video donations on the show's Web site. When I checked just now, I didn't see anything that looked to me like a way to contribute. But I've missed things like that before.

If you visit Dean's personal site (linked above), be sure to check out his documentary "Subdivided." It ran last fall on KERA, the Dallas PBS affiliate, and I was quite impressed. We're going to get him out here to Commerce to lecture soon as we can.