deadWEST is a new gallery/studio space in the Fort Worth area that held its inaugural show in September 2015. The website for deadWEST indicates that it was conceived “as an alternative artist space in North Texas, with a location that is due west of the Dallas and Fort Worth Cultural Districts.” It is indeed far west for the area, a bit outside the 820 Loop of Fort Worth, near the far edge of Lake Worth.
The exhibitions at deadWEST are the result of a curatorial collaboration between artists Winter Rusiloski and Angel Fernandez, and are installed in the artists’ own studio spaces. According to the curatorial statement, the current show OPEN RANGE represents “a sampling of the varied materials and approaches to art making with the common thread of great attention to craftsmanship.” The artists in the show are Barbara Campbell Thomas, Angel Fernandez, Trish Igo and Jill O’Brien, Jeremy Rudd, John Hartley, Winter Rusiloski and Fred Spaulding, whose work was also featured in the inaugural exhibition.
Jeremy Rudd and Barbara Campbell Thomas are the two out-of-state artists participating in the exhibition. Rudd is based in Northeastern Iowa, and Thomas lives in Climax, North Carolina. All the other artists live and work in the Fort Worth area.
Jeremy Rudd’s sculptures epitomize the show’s theme of meticulous attention to materials and exquisite craftsmanship in their fine metal and woodworking details. In Rogued, a jackrabbit hides in a thorny thicket of laminated wood with wooden peg spines. Harbinger ties into a related environmental theme of OPEN RANGE. A silver cast bison stands unsteadily in a cramped wooden canoe, showing its precarious predicament as a genetic remnant. The canoe is fixed in place by tall strut-like supports, underscoring the fact that managed herds of bison are confined to a fraction of their former vast rangeland. The title Harbinger suggests that bison were one of the first species that humans impacted with near mass extinction (while the trend toward extinction of species in all areas of the globe continues unabated).
While this may be the wild, wild west of Texas, why go to the trouble to open carry a weapon when you can just hang your Tommy gun on the wall? Here’s a rendering of a toy gun by John Hartley in his painting Gamechanger. The original toy gun that he used as a subject had painted details; the charm in this work is how skillfully Hartley plays off the two-dimensionality of the toy’s decorated surface with his illusion of the three-dimensional in the finished oil on canvas. Hartley states, “My paintings combine two passions: making art and collecting: linking the past, present, and future through inanimate objects, memories, and relationships.”
Trish Igo and Jill O’Brien’s installation Fur is a show stopper, and is part of an ongoing series they call Creature Comfort. In this work, fur pelts of multiple animals from second-hand coats and stoles are stitched together to create a freeform linear piece that stretches seventeen feet across the gallery wall. Both artists wish to memorialize the brief lives of deceased animals in creative ways, whether the animals died as road kill or were killed for a fur coat. Their joint artist statement provides a compelling explanation of their seemingly morbid artworks: “Animal philosophies are rife with contradictions brought about by our childhood idolatry of animals and our societal use and slaughter of them. Commixing these extremes, we create a dreamlike exposé of our haunted relationships to animals. We compose vignettes using objects we covet in order to construct situations that provoke reflection… .”
Fred Spaulding’s paper collage 22916759a2703 occupies amorphous space and is part of a new series of abstract works. Detailed computer drawings are interleaved with and clipped to cut and shaped colored paper, creating a varied and visually dense viewing experience as projecting opaque and transparent paper shapes lift away from the wall surface. Spaulding says, “…I hope to express and convey a sense of intuitive play… The pieces are developed through a translation of linear drawings into shapes of color and combined with computer generated drawings of three dimensional shapes that are generated with the same intuitive spirit. The prints are cut and torn to further develop the compositions in a more organic way. Overall the work advocates for the freedom of individual expression that emerges from a sense of joy.”
Another artist favoring collaged abstraction, Barbara Campbell Thomas contributed several fabric works to the show. In Fabric Exercises, the fabric swatches are cut and stitched together much like a quilting exercise, while for Accounting for Spin and Thought Experiment, multi-colored fabrics are collaged together. The James May Gallery sums up her approach: “…her paintings and collages capitalize on fragmentation, the unexpected results arising from a commingling of different materials, and an interest in finding idiosyncratic order amidst disorder… . These adamantly physical works are a means of building some kind of… ever unfolding space analogous to our dense sensory existence.”
Angel Fernandez’s sculptures are pared down to the essence of form, and his resulting forms are organic, playful, sensuous and ambiguous. Ranch Seat is made of two smooth cast components fitted together and perched on wooden sticks. Fernandez envisions the maquette-sized work at a larger scale in the future. Red is another example of his carefully shaped sculptures that are abstract yet vaguely anthropomorphic forms.
In a second studio building converted from a horse barn, Fernandez’s lozenge-shaped Rocker (which is rideable) is surrounded by several paintings by Winter Rusiloski, including Dante’s Gate and Threshold. Both are characteristically semi-objective abstract works that show with propulsive energy the artist’s signature bravura brushwork. The artist says, “I work spontaneously, with specific memories and references in mind. I enjoy the physicality of the paint and am interested in the ambiguous spaces I can create through abstraction.”
Overall, deadWEST functions well as an exhibition space with installations in two adjacent gallery spaces. In opening up their studio spaces to stage periodic group shows, Fernandez and Rusiloski exemplify the generosity of spirit characteristic of partners and artistic comrades within and beyond their community, who understand the value of wider collaboration.
OPEN RANGE at deadWEST is extended through May 14, 2016. It is open by appointment. 304 Aquilla Drive, Lakeside, TX 76108 For additional information, see www.deadwest.org.