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.

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