Nancy Newberry Gets a Full Showing in the New York Times

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From Newberry’s “Halfway to Midland” series

Here’s a nice find: Today Dallas/Marfa-based photographer Nancy Newberry (included in the last Texas Biennial) is featured in the New York Times’ special “Lens” section,  which covers photography and photojournalism. Seventeen photos from her project “Halfway to Midland” make up a full slideshow, and in a written interview Newberry talks to Matt McCann about the impetus for the photos and her philosophy of taking pictures in her native Texas.

Those who know Newberry’s work will be familiar with the imagery; this particular body of work starts where her Mum series leaves off and further illuminates the lives of rural and small-town high school cheerleaders, marching-band kids and football players, as well as some of her more immediate neighbors’ nesting instincts.  (And she’s right: That mirrored horse from the house next door is looking pretty good. I would have offered to buy it, too.)



It’s a Nerdfest! Comic Art Comes to S.A.

In recent years, geekdom has finally been declared cool, or has The San Antonio Current explains in anticipation of the upcoming Alamo City Comic Con, “Now, nerding out is the new normal.”

Stan_LeeFor those interested in all things comics, the convention starts tonight at San Antonio’s Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, with a preview from 5-9pm. All day on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, there will be comics and toys, photo ops, and panel discussions with artists and writers (as well as other celebrities of nerd culture). Of course, George Takei will make an appearance, but the superstar all weekend will be the “grandfather of comics,” Stan Lee of Marvel Comics.

(Photo: Stan Lee. Image via

Someone Had To Do It And Frisco Has Agreed To Take It: A Museum of Video Games



Frisco will be the home of the country’s first and only museum dedicated to video games. The Videogame History Museum has up until now been a traveling operation, launched by three guys from different parts of the country who decided in 2009 to pool their collective obsession with classic home and arcade video games and create a non-profit. John Hardie, Sean Kelly and Joe Santulli have reached an agreement with the city of Frisco to house the museum initially in the already existing city-owned Frisco Discovery Center, and after a capital campaign it will likely get a building of its own, also in Frisco. 

The city will pay the rent and for some renovations in the space the museum will take up for the time being; some grants are incoming for start-up costs, and the museum itself will match funds. The museum is slated to open in April, and will OF COURSE feature Pong. As well as Sega stuff, all Atari, Vectrex, Intellivision, et al, and every other classic and retro game and gaming system you can possibly remember from that era going forward, plus paraphernalia, prototypes, and other ephemera. I personally am hoping to once again play the original Defender in the museum’s promised recreation of a ’80s gaming arcade. Newsflash extra: I am terrible at Defender but I love it.

Meet the New Lawndale Residents

JooYoung Choi

JooYoung Choi

So who are these three artists who beat out bunches of eager applicants for the ninth round of Lawndale Artist Studio Program’s nine-month residency? What are they going to do with that free studio space and stipends? Stop by Houston’s Lawndale Art Center this evening at 6pm to find out more. Josh Bernstein, JooYoung Choi and Lina Dib will give informal presentations of their work and talk about plans for their residency.

And artists: try again next year, and keep your eyes out for other residency opportunities.

We Still Miss You But Congrats! Suzanne Weaver Takes Miami

2014-09-23-moca-north-miami-ica-miami-Suzanne-WeaverThose of us who so fondly remember the golden era of Suzanne Weaver’s “Concentrations” series at the Dallas Museum of Art from 1996-2009 (and credit her for being so uniquely invested in the local scene) have kept one  eye on the curator’s career after she left us for the Speed Museum in Louisville. Today it was announced that the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, has appointed Weaver as its interim director.

The Institute of Contemporary Art is a rechristening, in a new location, of Miami’s Museum of Contemporary Art, which closed in August amid controversy over funding from and its relationship with North Miami. The museum threatened to close and move, and it has, to Miami’s design district. It’s slated to reopen in time for Art Basel Miami in December. The museum was founded in 1994 and has a permanent collection of around 600 artworks thus far.

Note: It’s heartening to see seasoned and passionate curators appointed as museum directors. They’re often as invested in the well-being of the art (and the mental health of a museum’s curatorial team) as they are the PR and money side of things, and while many curators might be loathe to take on such responsibility, this is one way to make sure our museums maintain a dignified and intelligent relationship to collecting and exhibitions.

Oh My! Naked Sculptures in Downtown Houston!

Wings-of-the-CityIt must be a slow news week when a man calls KPRC Houston to complain about naked sculptures at Discovery Green and they actually send a camera crew to interview him and then run the story repeatedly. “Oh, it’s not art,” says Henry Lopez, who started the ruckus. “It belongs in a strip club somewhere.” Lopez says he will no longer bring his granddaughters to the park because of the “porn.” While the news crew was there, they found a few other visitors who also said the sculptures made them uncomfortable, including Blanca Flores who said, “I would not like my kids to look at it.”

The sculptures in question are part of Wings of the City, an exhibition of nine bronze sculptures by Mexican artist Jorge Marín, presented by Discovery Green from September 5, 2014 to February 8, 2015. The sculptures display a sometimes-winged man in different disguises and he isn’t always fully clothed. At the very end of the KPRC story, they add, “Many people at the park told Local 2 they enjoy the art, and said that’s all it is—art.”

Perhaps Lopez was inspired by the fact that it’s National “Banned Books Week” (September 21-27), and just got it backwards. It’s not in support of banning books; the subtitle is “Celebrating the Freedom to Read.”

(Image via

Ballroom Marfa Appoints New Executive Director


Susan Sutton

Fairfax Dorn, Ballroom Marfa‘s co-founder and outgoing executive director, is transitioning to Ballroom’s artistic director. Today the board has named Susan Sutton as its new executive director. Sutton comes to Marfa after four years as assistant curator of Houston’s Menil Collection. (Sutton recently organized the Menil’s “A Thin Wall of Air: Charles James.”)

Via Ballroom Marfa: “Sutton studied at Pratt Institute and San Francisco Art Institute and holds a bachelor’s in art history from the University of Houston and a master’s in art history of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England.”

MFAH Appoints Curator of Islamic Art

Screen shot 2014-09-22 at 7.25.21 AMThe Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) only launched the “Arts of the Islamic World Initiative” in 2007 and initially raised enough money to acquire six objects for a permanent collection. Eventually, the MFAH established a formal department and a permanent gallery and, in 2012, appointed a senior adviser for international initiatives. Later that year, the Museum reached a landmark agreement with the privately held al-Sabah Collection, one of the greatest collections of Islamic art in the world, for a long-term loan of some 60 objects. Now, the MFAH has announced the appointment of Aimée E. Froom as curator of Islamic art.

Froom has acted as a consultant to museums such as the British Museum, London, and the Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Paris and has taught at Brown University, Bard Graduate Center and the American University of Paris. From 2001-05, she served as associate curator of Islamic Art at the Brooklyn Museum and, until recently, has been an independent scholar based in Paris. She has published and lectured extensively on Islamic art and is currently preparing a book on Ottoman Sultan Murad III for Koç University Press.

Welcome to Houston!

Mexico’s Art Market a Casualty of the War on Drugs

A Mexican anti-drug mural. Photo: Chris Martin, via Flickr.

A Mexican anti-drug mural.
Photo: Chris Martin, via Flickr.

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by Sarah Cascone

Mexican galleries and auction houses claim their business is shrinking because of the recently introduced anti-money laundering regulations aimed at crippling the country’s drug trafficking business, reports the Washington Post.

The new law requires businesses like casinos, pawnshops, jewelry stores, armored-car dealerships, and art galleries limit the use of cash and share more information about their customers and their purchases with the government.

“The art in Mexico is marvelous. It is superb. The market should be growing. But it has totally frozen,” Guillermo Zajarias, the owner of Aura Gallery, complained to the Post. He claims his sales have fallen 30 percent since the law was enacted last year, “and it’s 100 percent related to this law. This is fiscal terrorism, and it is not fair.”

Fearing the government, many prospective art buyers are delaying their purchases, or taking their business north to the US because they “don’t have the confidence that their information will be protected,” explained gallery owner Oscar Román.

An informal, cash-based economy is still widely prevalent in Mexico, and many rankle at the attempted reform. However, the Mexican drug cartels are very real. Drugs are linked to violent crime as well as rampant money laundering, which allows drug dealers to purchase lucrative restaurants and hotels, as well as mansions, private jets, and other luxury products.

Despite its prevalence, money laundering has led to a minimal number of criminal convictions, something this law is aimed at changing.

Whether art is a hot ticket item among the drug lord crowd remains up for debate. For his part, Román refers to televised raids of their homes, where “they have posters on the wall. You don’t see a single piece of art.”

Follow @sarahecascone on Twitter.

This post originally appeared on Artnet News on Friday, September 19, 2014.



Big Gift Moves Irwin Building Forward at Chinati

irwinRobert Irwin, 86 year old California light-and-space artist has finalized plans for a 10,000 s.f. building at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa with the help of Vernon and Amy Faulconer of Dallas, who are giving Chinati $1 million: half in support of the Irwin project and half for Chinati’s operations.

“I have had the pleasure of experiencing Chinati’s collection for many years. It has expanded my understanding and appreciation for art profoundly,” says Vernon Faulconer, who has been on Chinati’s board for nine years. “Judd did things his own way and it hasn’t been easy out there in Marfa. But I’ve always believed in the underdog and Amy and I are happy to support this unique institution. Irwin’s project is really something, quiet yet spectacular, and it will certainly change the art landscape in Texas.”

The new Irwin is a building with an interior installation (scrim!) on the site of the former hospital for Fort D.A. Russell, at the edge of Chinati’s grounds on the outskirts of Marfa. Construction will begin in early 2015 with an opening anticipated for 2016.

Lucia Simek is the New Communications Manager at the Nasher


Simek during a KERA-hosted round-table discussion called “State of the Arts” at the DMA in 2013.

Lucia Simek, who has written for this site plenty and recently finished her MFA at TCU in sculpture, is crossing over the the dark side (joke!) as the Nasher Sculpture Center‘s new communications manager. Kristen Gibbins, who held the position for nine years, is leaving. 

Putting an artist and writer in a PR position isn’t a completely new concept for a museum, but it’s not the obvious one either. It seems Simek’s deep ties to Dallas and presence as a curator (The Art Foundation, which she co-founded, was a an artist-curator collective that was active up until about a year ago), artist, and arts writer on the local scene makes her well-positioned, however, to jump into Nasher’s already well-oiled publicity machine to see what she can do. We approve! (She didn’t ask, but we do anyway.)


Memorial Park Master Plan Unveiled in Houston

lnd bridge

Houston’s Memorial Park, haven of joggers, turtles and squirrels, is the subject of a twenty-year master plan, unveiled yesterday by representatives of Memorial Park Conservancy, Uptown Houston Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone (TIRZ) and Houston Parks and Recreation Department. Designed by landscape architecture firm Nelson Byrd Woltz, the plan will unite the parts of the park sundered by Memorial Drive with a “land bridge” allowing park users and animals to migrate. The plan will be submitted for approval by City Council in spring 2015. No word that public art will be any part of it, though.

There’s a New New-Media Gallery in Dallas; Opens With a Show by Thor Johnson

10703944_10152405044670963_5910980625244353164_nA new gallery called Midway is opening in the re-igniting Fair Park neighborhood of Dallas. The space, owned by Denton transplants Lily Taylor and Sean Miller, both musicians and artists, will be dedicated to showing video and new media; the live-work, street-level loft “features video projections in… large storefront windows that directly engage viewers on the street, sidewalk, and passing DART trains. Windows are illuminated nightly, unless other wise posted. [sic]”

The inaugural show, opening tomorrow night (Friday, Sept. 19) is photography and video by Richardson-based (and longtime Dallas art-scene fixture) Thor Johnson. “Fair Game” will feature covertly snapped photographs Johnson took of people at the State Fair between 2004 and 2008 (a precursor to People of Walmart), as well as the completely insane cartoon shorts he made around the same time. How the unprepared passing public reacts to these images remains to be seen (and I wonder if the display will include sound?).

The opening will, according to Midway “take place at 8:30pm (Friday) followed by a brief Q&A with the artist, moderated by THRWD Magazine co-founder/editor and culture creator, Lee Escobedo.”

Midway Gallery, 3809 Parry Ave #107, Dallas, 75226. A note from Midway about entry: “Please use the gated door on the side of the building closest to the rail road tracks. Street parking available. DART is highly encouraged.”

It’s Art Fair Time in Houston (Again)!

hfafFor those who not yet arted out from the Texas Contemporary Art Fair, it’s time to gear up again for the Houston Fine Art Fair (HFAF)! Billed as “The South’s Leading Art Fair (Excluding Miami),” it is now in it’s fourth year and has returned to the NRG Center.

Tonight is the party night, with the $100 sneak preview event (6-7:30pm) benefitting the Asia Society Texas Center, followed by the 7:30-9pm opening festivities. The fair will be open on Friday and Saturday from 11am-7pm, and on Sunday from 11am-6pm. Throughout the weekend, there are some interesting talks and panels, sponsored by CultureMap (like the Glasstire Talks at the Texas Cotemporary) and on Saturday, they will be honoring two long-time Houston art folks. HFAF is introducing its inaugural Illumination Award for Achievement in Arts Education by honoring art historian/scholar/lecturer David E. Brauer, whose 36-year career teaching art history includes the Glassell School of Art, The University of Houston, and the Women’s Institute. The year’s Lifetime Achievement Award goes deservedly to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston’s Anne Tucker, who has been photo supercurator at the MFAH since 1976.

For the full Fair schedule, go here.

Rick Lowe is Officially a Genius!

Houston artist Rick Lowe, founder of Project Row Houses (PRH), has been named a 2014 MacArthur Fellow. The program awards unrestricted $625,000 fellowships “to talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.”

Initially trained as a painter, Lowe was one of the pioneers of what is now called “social practice,” among other terms. Using PRH (this year celebrating its 20th anniversary) as a model, Lowe has gone on to initiate similar projects in other cities, including “Trans.lation” in Dallas’ Vickery Meadow area. Last year, the US Senate appointed Lowe to the National Council on the Arts.

In the video below, created by the MacArthur Fellows Program, Lowe discusses PRH, social practice, and what the so-called “genius grant” means to him. “I don’t have any concrete ideas at this point about what that would mean and what would happen with it,” he says at the end, “but it’s certainly nice to have those opportunities.”




Houston Artist Wendy Wagner (1967-2014)

After battling brain cancer for over two years, Houston artist Wendy Wagner died this past weekend. She was 47 years old and is survived by her husband Kenneth Finch.

wagnerWendy was born in Austin and was a longtime Houston resident. As a multimedia artist, she studied at various institutions, including Austin Community College, the Maine Photographic Workshop, the Art Institute of Houston, Collin Community College in Plano, and MFAH’s Glassell School of Art. Her work has been included in numerous group exhibitions in the past 15 years and she has been the subject of sixteen solo shows in the past decade. In 2008, she won the $50,000 Hunting Art Prize. Wendy’s last solo exhibition, Look to the Left, which took place at Austin’s Women and Their Work in early 2013, received much attention, including a write-up in the New York Times.

Known for her colorful, playful works in painting, ceramics, soft sculpture, and animated video, her art seemed to be made by an incredibly imaginative child with amazing technical skills. In speaking about some of her characters in her work, Wendy said that they help the viewer “to identify the playful spirit in all of us, enable us to laugh at ourselves and not take life too seriously.”


Kenneth Finch and Wendy Wagner

After her opening at Women and Their Work, and surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapy, in March of 2013 MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston released Wagner from all treatments as they were no longer effective and estimated her life expectancy to be 2-3 weeks. Wendy and her husband sent out an email stating that they had decided to “take another direction—a new direction focusing on quality living rather than battling cancer.” They opened their home on Wednesdays and Fridays for their “Open Table” evenings, inviting anyone who wanted to drop in for food, drink, and to “celebrate Wendy as we enjoy every minute of every day.” Wendy was surrounded by many friends in her last year and they continue to express their love on her husband’s Facebook page, where he has invited people to share pictures and stories and will announce an upcoming service.


A memorial service for Wendy Wagner will be held at 2:30pm on October 5th, 2014 at Live Oak Friends Meeting House, 1318 West 26th Street, Houston, TX 77008 and a special celebration honoring Wendy will take place from 5pm-8pm at Lawndale Art Center, 4912 Main Street, Houston, TX 77002 on October 5th, 2014. In remembrance of Wendy, contributions made to the non-profit Wendy Wagner Foundation: Funding Creativity, would be greatly appreciated. Please mail donations to P.O. Box 980113, Houston, TX 77098-0113.

The Saving of Prada Marfa

When it’s a battle between Art and the State, it can get ugly. Max Ernst vs. the Gestapo. Robert Mapplethorpe vs. Senator Jesse Helms. Ai Weiwei vs. the Chinese government.

Then there’s the chilling power of the Texas Department of Transportation.

Wait, what? You mean TxDOT, the state agency with the cute nickname that plants bluebonnets along the road? Yes, and last summer, wielding the chilling power of the Highway Beautification Act, they nearly shuttered a beloved West Texas art installation: Prada Marfa.

Image: Moon Over Prada, by Don Auderer

Image: Moon Over Prada, by Don Auderer

At that time, in July 2013, TxDOT had just declared Playboy Marfa an “illegal outdoor advertising sign” according to the 1965 federal act. The previous month, Playboy Marfa had appeared, literally overnight, along Highway 90, just outside of the desert art mecca of Marfa. It was a Richard Phillips creation, with the trademark Playboy logo of the bunny in a bowtie, towering 40 feet above a Dodge Charger on a concrete platform.

It was commissioned by Playboy Enterprises; it featured a corporate logo; and it sure looked like advertising. It turns out they didn’t have the proper highway permit for the bunny-on-a-stick-on-a-box.

With Playboy Marfa under investigation, the TxDOT bureaucrats then adjusted their orange safety vests and drove—slowly and with caution—west along Highway 90 to Prada Marfa.

Was Prada Marfa art or advertising? Most saw it as the whimsical satire of European artists Elmgreen & Dragset. It was installed in 2005 by Ballroom Marfa and the Art Production Fund. But on its surface, it was a phony shoe store, brandishing the Prada brand to the millions (well, ok, thousands) of travelers who whiz past it into the dusty town of Valentine: population 217.

Well, this Friday (September 12), the verdict finally came down. TxDOT has now given up its more than yearlong crusade. It released a statement, saying “the complaint file will be closed.”

“Prada Marfa is officially saved,” crowed the website of Ballroom Marfa, which commissioned the piece almost a decade ago.

One of the key moves for Ballroom was that in February of this year, they began leasing the land on which the art exhibit is located. The building’s branding was subsequently considered to be an “on-premise” sign and therefore didn’t require a permit under the Highway Beautification Act.

“I was happy with that,” said artist Boyd Elder about TxDOT’s decision. He is the site curator of Prada Marfa and a resident of the town of Valentine. In recent years, he’s seen the site grow into a bona fide tourist destination, a must-stop for “selfies” along the road. Its urban façade set ironically against the empty desert landscape.

“Whenever I’ve had to do work over there,” he said, “it’s incredible the number of people who come up to me and want their photo taken.” On a 2012 trip, Beyoncé accelerated this trend, when her friends took a snapshot of her leaping into the air in front of Prada Marfa. In a yellow blouse and black skirt, she floats above the road, arms outstretched.

Prada Marfa now may be safe from bureaucrats, but it’s still the target of vandals. The two biggest attacks were in 2005 and earlier this year, in Spring 2014. In the first major attack, a few days after it opened, thieves broke into the storefront and made off with Prada shoes and handbags. Earlier this year, a resident of Waco, in a clumsy attempt at a political statement, grafittied the walls of the exhibit and slashed the cloth awnings. The legal case is still ongoing, and according to Elder, the site itself has not been full restored.

As for Playboy Marfa? It gave up the fight. It was dismantled barely six months after it was erected. On a cloudy November day, it was trucked east, to a new home at the Dallas Contemporary. Most Marfa residents were happy to see it go. To this day, a few “Ban the Bunny” bumper stickers still appear around town.

For some, it was too bad Playboy Marfa was ever lumped in with Prada Marfa in the first place. Playboy was the name-dropping party-crasher at the cool kids’ party, parachuting into town to take advantage of the Marfa name.

It was a stealth installation and there was no opening. Playboy’s PR flacks wouldn’t even talk about the sculpture for two weeks after it was installed. Playboy staff barely made their presence known. The publicity photos of Raquel Pomplun, Playmate of the Year, were taken in front of the sculpture in the wee hours of the morning. By that afternoon, she was on a plane back to the West Coast.

In the end, Creative Director Landis Smithers was happy that Dallas wanted what Marfa had scorned. And Prada Marfa, now with security cameras firmly in place, will soon enter its second decade.

Maybe TxDOT knows what they’re doing after all.

Joan Davidow Gives Her Art Collection to UTD for its New Art Building

ATEC Building - UT DallasJoan Davidow, longtime collector, art advocate and formerly head of the Dallas Contemporary, has announced along with the University of Texas at Dallas that her art collection will be installed as a permanent display in the public areas of UTD’s new Edith O’Donnell Arts & Technology Building. Davidow, an avid fan of art made in this region, has an eclectic collection of video, photography, and new media art by artists in the early and middle stages of their careers.

On September 19th at 6:30 p.m. in the first floor gallery of the new building, a reception and show called “Tech Talk” curated by UTD’s John Pomara and Davidow will open to celebrate this gift. The reception is open to the public. Via UTD: “UT Dallas President David Daniel and Arts & Humanities Dean Dennis Kratz will welcome a gathering of students, artists, teachers, collectors and arts advocates to honor this highly inventive and meaningful gift to the university.” For more info on this event, go here.



(photo via UTD) 


Project Row Houses to Change Leadership

Houston’s Project Row Houses (PRH) announced that it has launched a search for a new executive director. The current executive director, Linda Shearer, has decided to step down at the end of this calendar year.

Linda ShearerShearer originally came to Houston in 2007 to serve as interim director for the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH). Although she made it clear that she was not interested in the permanent position at the CAMH, she accepted the directorship at PRH and led enthusiastically for five years. “These past five years have been extraordinary for me,” Shearer said. “I have learned so much about Houston and the Third Ward, about African American art and culture, about the amazing synergy between Houston arts organizations, about the enormously supportive cultural community that exists here, and about the power of art to affect change.”