Twofer! Texas Storytelling: Ellen Tanner and the Lizard Cult

Ellen Tanner, The Dog and The Butcher, 2012, oil on panel, courtesy Moody Gallery

Ellen Tanner, The Dog and The Butcher, 2012, oil on panel. Courtesy Moody Gallery

Ellen Tanner’s first solo exhibition at Moody Gallery is a series of incredibly skilled oil on panel paintings that each tell one of Aesop’s Fables. (Only a couple of works depart from the literal stories.) Every detail is given a microscopic focus that turn passages of the paintings into small worlds or vignettes unto themselves. I got lost looking at some of the details outside of the focal point of the action: a patch of mushrooms, a rat eating meat from a beef grinder, and a cornucopia of a lion’s kill. The fables are dark with themes of death (animals eating other animals) and deal with the pitfalls of trust and the brutality of self-interest and power.

Ellen Tanner, The Lion, The Fox, And The Ass (detail), 2010, oil on panel

Ellen Tanner, The Lion, The Fox, And The Ass (detail), 2010, oil on panel

 

Lee Baxter Davis, Blue Devils, 2013, ink, watercolor, collage, courtesy The Brandon

Lee Baxter Davis, Blue Devils, 2013, ink, watercolor, collage. Courtesy The Brandon

Much less illustrative and with more idiosyncratic/hermetic narratives, the exhibition at The Brandon brings together a fascinating look at the “Lizard Cult” of Lee Baxter Davis, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Robyn O’Neil, Georganne Deen and Gary Panter. Baxter taught at East Texas State University where he had as students Hancock (’97), O’Neil (’97), Deen (’77), and Panter (’74). The beauty of the show is seeing each artist’s distinctly unique voice with affinities in approach (narrative driven work to create dark, moody personal allegories) and technique (painting/printing/drawing that relies heavily on the basics of technically skilled draftsmanship). This is definitely not student work looking like watered down versions of the teacher’s.

Trenton Doyle Hancock, Pull

Trenton Doyle Hancock, Pull

 

Revisiting the Lizard Cult is on view at The Brandon, Houston, through January 18. Ellen Tanner’s Aesop’s Fables & Other Tales is on view at Moody Gallery through January 11.

also by Joshua Fischer

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3 responses to “Twofer! Texas Storytelling: Ellen Tanner and the Lizard Cult”

  1. Thanks for the nice write up of the show. Lee Baxter Davis is one of the most interesting people in Texas as well as an amazing and inspiring artist. One correction– I studied with Lee from 69 -74.

    1. Thanks Gary. Just read your influential “ROZZ-TOX Manifesto” from 1980. Great stuff.

      http://www.altx.com/manifestos/rozztox.html

    2. Thanks, Gary!

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