Red Badge of Courage Awards!

by Kate Watson September 2, 2009

Hiya, Reader. Here’s how I imagine you— you are sitting in a comfortable spot in the sweet cool of your centrally air-conditioned home, drinking a mint julep Lone Star and unwinding after a long day. Or perhaps you are hiding in your cubicle, making a savvy choice to read my new blog instead of filling out that APS or OOEF or whatever boring form is slowly sucking away your spirit. Wherever you may be, I sure am glad to make your acquaintance.

I’m happy to see that our fair hamlet seems to be slowly waking from this ghastly summer slumber. Fun fact: did you know that the number of days over 100 degrees in Austin is supposed to be a measly average of twelve? At last count, glorious 2009 has generously given us 67 days of temperatures above 100 degrees. In late July, I did the only thing a logical (freelancing) person could do—I got the heck outta dodge and headed straight to my native New England. Sorry to bail on you, Texas.

I used to wear the Austin heat like the red badge of courage (or maybe more like the scarlet letter?) but I think we all gave it a rest this year. Still, a bunch of crazy art folks pulled out all the stops and managed to put together an impressive summer of programming around these parts. You could probably fill an Okay Mountain keg barrel with all the blood, sweat and tears shed by the tireless gangs in the Austin art community. Ok, sorry. That was kind of gross.{mospagebreak}

My top five recent gems, for posterity…

1. Nohegan!

This almost didn’t happen. But then it did, and it did HARD. Lead by fearless leader Jill Pangallo, the fourth year of this art summer camp for grownups prevailed in the dusty, barren wasteland that was once lovely McKinney Falls State Park. Wasn’t there a waterfall there at some point? Now there’s a mosquito pit instead! Oh, well. It rocked!{mospagebreak}

2. Inspired Inspirations: Eeew, that MASSty

Nowhere in this town gets quite as sweaty and dirty as MASS Gallery in the summahtime. But bring on the sweat… this show was really tight! And heat-induced delirium felt just about right for this show. I’m excited about the new MASS staff members, many of whom are crossovers from the fabulous Monofonus Press crew.{mospagebreak} 



3. Mark-Making: Dots, Lines and Curves
In my humble point of view, this show was just darn good. Opinions may, ahem, vary (see my fellow Austin blogger CC Grady’s thoughts here). But I’m unsure what’s pretentious about exploring the topic of mark making on visual culture—was cave painting pretentious? Those awesome doodles you used to draw in junior high? Yes, clearly someone like Daniel Zeller (see above image) is continuing in the tradition of Sol LeWitt, but on a more primal level, he’s also just taking doodling to its ultimate, obsessive orgasm. An additional highlight of this show was Joseph Grigely’s compelling piece 8 Pink Conversations. Grigely lost his hearing at the age of ten, and his rough, tacked up notecards capture fragments of daily conversations with strangers and loved ones alike. Grigely’s reliance on this form of communication highlights the ephemeral nature of conversation, the tiny moments of daily mundane interaction that make up so much of a person’s life but are rarely recorded.

This cool drink of a show may be more polished than its DIY eastside counterparts, but Lora’s doing some heavy lifting on the other side of town, and the work is a meditative romp perfect for calming the weary summer spirit.{mospagebreak}



4. Polymict
Lines and forms and installation, oh my! Curated by local favorite Nathan Green, this show has gotten a resounding local thumbs-up. Check out my homegirl Claire Ruud’s review over at …might be good. I couldn’t agree more. This collaborative model of pairing midcareer and emerging artists and letting an exhibition happen organically is brilliant! Austin needs much more of this kind of playful experimentation.{mospagebreak}


5. Libres Y Lokas
While Lora and Nathan were doing everything in their power to cool it down with their breezy curatorial endeavors, wild local filmmaking duo Otis Ike and Ivette Lucas pumped up the volume about fifty notches with their homage to Monterrey, Mexico’s wild and wooly underground nightlife. Focusing on the lives of Lucha Libre wrestlers and transgendered nightclub queens, Ike and Lucas delved deep into these fascinating subcultures, and the results are both tender and stunning.  I was hiding out under a rock in rural Maine at the time, but I heard opening night was SIZZLING with sweet tranny performances, specifically from rising local performance art star Christeen (Paul Soileau).{mospagebreak}

Glad to be back in Texas, ya’ll. We’re heading into a very exciting fall. Stay tuned to this same Bat Channel for my fall picks, an examination of public art in Austin and beyond, a journey through the wild evolution of our very own eastside, and much, much more!

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