(All photos by John D. Fisch except where noted. Click high res gallery to view full images.)
Dear readers of Glasstire,
San Antonio prides ourselves (read: economically relies) on our status as a tourist destination. You likely already know this. You may have visited on an 8th grade band trip in 1985 during which you were marched dutifully around the Alamo, got photographed in front of the Alamo and lugged your tuba around Alamo Stadium in 104 degrees. Maybe you came here for a weekend, stayed in a Hilton, got drunk at Hard Rock Cafe, saw other tourists or conventioneers and had a Mexican plate somewhere. Maybe you’ve got a cousin here who goes to a megachurch and never ventures south of the north side of Loop 410, and you’re convinced we’re some kind of white-flight chain-restaurant wasteland. Unfortunately, you may have even come across this SA item in your newsfeed recently.
But we’re more than the sum of those parts, Glasstire readers. San Antonio has some surprising and challenging contemporary art going on, and the scene, like all the best aspects of the city, is eccentric, complicated and welcoming. We’re a maddeningly, perennially, unfairly poor town with what’s usually referred to as a “vibrant culture,” often denoting “cultural traditions of people of color who you shouldn’t be scared of — no really” (we’re very similar to New Orleans that way). The “vibrant culture” thing is true, though, and not just in the expected areas.
I’m going to give you some background info and options to make your stay in San Antonio far stranger and more rewarding than you’d hoped, whether you’re visiting and clueless or already live here and don’t know what to do about it. I’d also like to point out now that this is for entertainment purposes only. I’m not gonna put maps and stuff, you should be able to figure it out.
These are places I recommend. If you see me thereabouts, I’ll try to answer any questions you may have. As will most San Antonians. You can spot us by our lack of college sweatshirts and by our raspa carts. Seriously, there are a surprising lot of artists and other cerebral peeps down here. But almost as many raspa carts. Which is good.
Let’s run quickly through the standard roster of San Antonio stuff you already know about, OK?
With additional info for the intrepid Glasstire reader.
Lowdown: remains small, lovely chapel and grounds, was the first of the missions built here by the Spanish (1718), very little of the current structure is authentic to its original building, roof problems, does not have a basement, surprisingly fun gift shop, pretty garden, an IMAX screen version of the battle, which I haven’t seen. Fave locus of impromptu Tea Party events.
I would say best to be avoided, but bit by bit a more nuanced (i.e., less overtly colonialist) narrative emerges with San Antonio artists like Laura Varela and Jimmy Canales riffing on it in the 2009 and 2011 Luminarias. Ozzy Osbourne public urination encounter in 1982 could be seen as heralding a new age of irreverent performance art, or an act of British colonial aggression. In any case, it was a source of ire and banning then, but is now recalled with fondness. Oh, Ozzy, you pee pee sinvergüenza. See? More complex than you thought.
Tower of the Americas
Tallest building in SATX, topped with revolving restaurant. I couldn’t tell you much more. I’ve got a heights problem.
Last time I was there it was still “Jim’s on a Stick,” but now somebody else owns it and it’s supposedly fun for cocktails and appetizers. Was designed by O’Neil Ford for the 1968 Hemisfair, as was Hemisfair Park, now used semi-successfully as the staging ground for Luminaria, our annual “arts night” in March. Hemisfair Park will soon undergo some kind of really ambitious urban public space development, by the way, so stay tuned, I guess. Hemisfair Park Best Case Scenario: beautiful public space providing much needed exercise and promoting civic togetherness. Hemisfair Park Worst Case Scenario: anything involving luxury condos or a fucking Sbarro.
Built in part by Works Progress Administration, this attraction epitomizes the San Antonio you already know — bars, usually-just-OK restaurants, flat-bottomed barges, beautiful holiday lights in the old trees, groups of servicemen and -women getting their margarita on. However, it also demonstrates the emerging, contemporary San Antonio. This new San Antonio is actively engaged in a years-long civic project to improve the San Antonio Riverfront from the old Pearl Brewery complex to the Spanish missions. This is awesome because an enormous amount of public art has gone and is going into it, and it’s already gotten people off their asses and walking around (SA needs exercise, but there are regrettably few public places to do it in. Also, it’s hell-hot half the time. But anyway, give San Antonians a pleasant place to walk, run, play, or bike, and we’re all over it.)
You can read more about the whole project here.
The Museum Reach heads from the already-touristed part and heads all the way to the San Antonio Museum of Art and features artists from the U.S. and beyond, including soundscaper Bill Fontana, whose Museum Reach sound sculpture is my favorite public art in SA, maybe, light magician Martin Richman and Donald Lipski, whose F.I.S.H. under the highway overpass are gorgeous to see at dusk, when they light up.
The Mission Reach, in progress, will head from the original downtown attraction southward to 18th century SA, and will include work by local artists Anne Wallace, Gary Sweeney, Peter Zubiate and Vincent Valdez, often in the form of seating (not Anne Wallace’s piece — hers is a bridge).
San Antonio is one of the few cities I know of wherein you can become a part of the art scene without having any money, which makes it uneven and peculiar sometimes, and amazingly democratic, and very permeable. A good strategy is to come down here and reach out socially, post on Facebook first or ask for social connections from San Antonians you might know. Once you establish a friendship beachhead, you’ll be welcomed every time. Come to think about it, you achieve this by striking up random conversations with us at gallery openings, in bars, etc.
THE GALLERY AND CONTEMPORARY ART SCENE: a partial view
If you don’t know the SA art scene, here’s a good start for you. Sala Diaz is a strange, wee, often excellent contemporary non-profit art gallery with a serious experimental focus, located in half of a run-down little old house-turned-duplex, the other half of which used to house the redoubtable Chuck Ramirez. I’ve seen a Sala Diaz “residency” change artists before; I’ve watched artists tackle challenges in scale, sound, surface and context in such a way that they couldn’t or hadn’t been inspired to before by any other exhibition space — the artists don’t live there, mind you, but they’ve got a several-months tenure in which to work and show, which allows for ambitious, exciting site-specific stuff.
Sala Diaz was established by the great Alejandro Diaz, who came originally from Michoacán, dwelled here in San Antonio for a bit, and now lives in New York City. It’s kind of a classic San Antonio tale, actually: get here through birth or emigration or whatnot, be awesome, then leave. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to staunch the outflow. We’ve hemorrhaged artists Richie Budd, Charlie Morris, Mimi Kato and Dario Robleto, as well as art educators Kendra Curry (from Artpace) and John Sigmund (from arts-for-kids educational nonprofit Say Sí) just in the last two years. We’re not a big scene down here, and each loss is a real fucking loss. Most leave because although SATX has a brilliant creative class, we’ve got very little capital, jobs-wise, and a disorganized and confusing commercial gallery situation. We don’t know what the hell we’re doing business-wise, which is kind of cute, but doesn’t help people make a living. San Antonio Art Gallery = gift shop? Scenester hangout? Nonprofit artist-run space? A wall in a bar? Somebody’s house for an evening?
Anyway, Sala Diaz consistently fascinates me. It’s run by artist-curator Hills Snyder, who chooses artists and curators and lets ’em just go crazy. Somehow causes them to go crazy? Show up, meet Hills and decide.
Quick and partial further rundown:
Fl!ght Gallery shows work with an emphasis on fun, humor, absurdity, conflict and controversy, particularly from local emerging artists. But it doesn’t provide a living for co-founders Justin Parr and Ed Saavedra. I can’t guarantee that if it were in Brooklyn it would make money, but it might. Fl!ght is a great place to show and buy truly promising, ambitious, subversive emerging art. It’s a fun, sociable party scene too. Fli!ght’s online presence is minimal but its aim is true. It’s edge with heart.
Unit B Gallery is another fantastic place to see smart, cutting-edge works from truly talented emerging and mid-career artists from all over the country, but artist/gallerist Kimberly Aubuchon works a dayjob at Artpace to pay the bills. In Chicago, she’d be less likely to have a tip jar for beer funds out at openings. She’s a gifted curator, having shown Juan Angel Chávez (Chicago) and Mathew Noel-Tod (UK) and a host of happening SA artmakers, including Cruz Ortiz, Jayne Lawrence, Andy Benavides and Thomas Cummins. Her openings occasion really smart backyard conversation.
Gallerist and curator David Shelton recently moved out of his swanky suburban space to inhabit a larger one in Southtown (our artiest neighborhood), so that he could expend more energy curating and selling art, largely made by San Antonians, and usually to people in Houston and Dallas. Hopefully he won’t be moving to Houston or Dallas soon. He’s minutely aware of the work being made here, alert to every movement and a tireless champion of SA artists. Go and visit him, for sure.
Lawrence Markey runs a professional gallery with an impressive roster of acclaimed artists from around the country. Like Sol LeWitt and his ilk, if LeWitt has an ilk. I don’t know this for sure, but Mr. Markey may be making a living. I hope so. This is an elegant, big-city worthy, investment-minded gallery, which I say with deep respect. If you’re a serious collector, this place should be on your map.
Same goes for Joan Grona, whose exhibition space at the Blue Star Complex has given a leg up to many local emerging artists, and who has curated some mighty fine painting exhibitions, in particular. Her recent showing of Ana Fernandez rocked my socks, and it was the first place I saw the work of the mighty Ed Rodriguez. “[Emerging art] is just more fun for me,” she told me recently. And indeed, it’s a solid trajectory for an emerging artist to start at Fl!ght, show at Joan Grona, then maybe in a group show at Blue Star, then get a Sala Díaz residency and/or a Unit B show, with an eye towards an Artpace fellowship and sales via D. Shelton.
The “main” exhibition space in the Blue Star Complex, called the Blue Star Contemporary Art Center, is a powerful institution for sure, and hosts big traveling exhibitions as well as copious one-person shows in the smaller enclosed spaces, the Project Space, the Middle Gallery and Gallery 4. When overtaken by challenging stuff, it’s a fantastic place to see art. When the curation’s muddled and the cavernous hall hosts three or four shows that don’t engage in any kind of interesting dialogue, it’s not. Sometimes they get the lighting all wrong, too. But it’s also a non-profit, an education center, a sometime wedding and funeral location and a clique. And it’s the epicenter of the “First Friday” fiesta, wherein people cram into Southtown to look at art and drink beer. The new shows actually open on First Thursdays, though, when you’ll see more of an art crowd there to see the work on purpose…and drink beer. Head to La Tuna across the way after for chitchat and more beer (and surprisingly good food!).
Also in the Blue Star complex, but in different buildings, you’ll find artist-run spaces like Justice Works Studio run by Barbara Justice and Adriana Barrios, Michele Monseau’s Three Walls, Leigh Ann Lester’s Cactus Bra and Dayna De Hoyos’ StellaHaus. These offer consistently interesting shows and take a lot of work, love and generosity by very smart women, each of whom also works elsewhere for a living. Three Walls, Cactus Bra and StellaHaus are all in the same bunker just past the Sterling Houston Theater, home of the experimental Jump Start performance group. Justice Works is in another, nearby bunkerish building. Just go to the Blue Star complex and ask around, look for signs. There’s another live theater space in the complex, too, the wild and scrappy Overtime Theater: Theater for the People. There are bars and a bike shop.
Another, even rootsier arts complex you should check out is the micro art village at 1906 South Flores, just a little ways west of Blue Star and just as exciting. Andy Benavides founded a frame shop there, and bit by bit the converted warehouse space along the train tracks grew into an easygoing network of artist studios and exhibition spaces. Fl!ght is in there, as are Lone Star Studios, ONE9ZERO6, graffiti-infused wunderkind Shek Lerock’s new Gravelmouth gallery, and the SMART Art Space. You’ll want to hit this warehouse complex fairly early (starting at 7) on every second Saturday. There’s usually live music, beer and even tacos on offer.
Up North in the wildlands of Castle Hills (where I grew up), go look at Carina Gors‘ beautiful Gallery Nord. Gors is a warm and playfully cerebral European transplant (I think German?) gallerist/curator with a real knack for using her mod-fab Allison Peery-designed building for maximum impact. She’s a little outside the norm, what with not being in Southtown and all, and not generally showing the usual San Antonio suspects, but I’m always pleased and surprised when I go there. She’d be a good gallerist to approach, artists. She’s talented, and that’s a great space. Visitors, you can go hit Gallery Nord and then eat at Dough, Sichuan or Guajillo’s (see below).
There are other galleries/gallerists, but this gives you some context to go on. If you’re from San Antonio, you likely already know most of this, but if you aren’t, and haven’t come down here, this gives you some idea of where to look for good work. Come buy our shit, y’all. It’s good. It’s embarrassingly cheap. And in my opinion, it’s increasingly important. If you think San Antonio art is all folklorico dancing, mariachis, Our Lady of Guadalupe murals and bluebonnet paintings, you’re only partially right. I estimate there are a couple hundred talented, dedicated artists who deserve national reputations but aren’t known outside the limits of Bexar County.
At any rate, before Alejandro Diaz left us, he started up Sala Diaz in half of that old wood-frame one-story house converted into a duplex. There are several such structures on the corner of Stieren and South St. Mary’s, known collectively as “The Compound” and owned by civic-minded local attorney/bon vivant/hates-to-be-called-a-landlord Mike Casey. Sala Diaz openings are traditionally feted in the communal backyard, which is a beautiful, wacky, welcoming place. This whole get-up is more interesting and less hippie-ish than it sounds, it occurs to me. Very little nag champa, no tie dye. If you can, come to a Sala Diaz opening (like them on Facebook or check their website for more info), check out the installation, then spend some time chatting people up in the inevitable backyard party. We’ll be glad to see you. Bring beer!
MUSEUMS AND SUCHLIKE (hit the links for more info)
This is not so much a museum as an exhibition and education space and home of the Artpace International Artist-in-Residence program, three yearly in-house artist residencies lasting eight weeks with three resident artists in each; one artist from Texas, one from elsewhere in the United States and one from abroad. Do you follow? So, nine resident fellows, total, in a calendar year.
While in San Antonio, the artists are encouraged to take part in educational youth programs and community outreach on-site, and to explore San Antonio and Texas. This can make, or has made, for some terrific exhibitions by the likes of Felix Gonzáles-Torres, Xu Bing, Bojan Sarcevic and Karen Mahaffy, and creative events like the yearly Chalk It Up! family event in October. There’s been some mission slippage in the past few years, though, leading to some big-name artists showing up for a much shorter period of time and whipping out bad executions of half-cocked ideas (in one notorious instance, the artist was here for an afternoon and managed to accidentally kill some animals).
Artpace, founded by picante sauce scion, artist, collector and all-around tremendous lady Linda Pace (1945-2007) is under new management since February, when director Matthew Drutt left. The savvy new director for the governing Linda Pace Foundation, Steven Evans, is former Managing Director at Dia:Beacon, and Artpace Interim Managing Director Mary Heathcott is smarter than most. I’ll be watching closely to see who the board and staff recruit as new director; meanwhile, Artpace seems to be doing fine – its last Artpace In residency (AIR) show, “starring” Devon Dikeou, EV Day and Kelly Richardson, was one of the strongest I’ve seen.
I strongly encourage you to make the scene; it’s free to the public, hosts a ton of potluck suppers and gallery talks, and the staff is deeply committed to art and this city.
Lovely former home of the late collector Marion Koogler McNay (1883 – 1950), with a quality collection of post-Impressionists, a good Picasso, a minor Van Gogh, a wonderful Ben Shahn, a poignant Kathe Kollwitz and now a brand new wing, the Stieren Center, devoted to larger shows. It’s a brilliantly-designed, fantastically-lit exhibition space. This is a wonderful small museum grown very carefully by director Bill Chiego. The curators — Rene Barilleaux (Post-War), Lyle Williams (Prints and Drawings) and Jody Blake (Tobin Theater Collection) — are smart, community-serving and contemporary-minded.
De rigueur if you’ve got kids with you. A history/natural science museum, and San Antonio’s first. The then-mayor apparently had no idea what a museum was, at the time (1920s). Think dinosaurs, wildlife dioramas and a pretty cool science “treehouse” along the banks of the lazy SA river. A solid and much beloved museum.
You likely think they’re corny, but if you go by yourself or with somebody quiet to the still-functioning Espada Acequia on an overcast, chilly day, say, and sit there for a few minutes, or stroll along the nature trails and take in the architecture, this can be an inspiring, bordering-on-eerie experience. Did you know that the missions were each built within a horse-gallop apart (approximately 7 miles)? This proximity is due to the 17th century dominion of the Comanches, who would sweep in and raise hell; the missions, in addition to colonizing this area with Catholicism and Spanish rule, also built these little fortresses against what was then possibly the best light cavalry in the world.
It was hangdog and hidebound for a few years, but under the leadership of Patty Ortiz, the Guadalupe is always up to something. There are two art exhibition spaces, the Guadalupe Gallery and the Cesar Chavez project space (click here to see a short video I did about Westside minimalist Kristy Perez in this space), a theater and an ever-evolving calendar of cool San Anto stuff. Don’t miss CineFestival or the Accordion Festival if you dig Latin film and squeezebox music. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a Japanese conjunto group win over a hall of whooping South Texans. The GCAC could deepen your understanding of the challenges and beauties of this town.
Unofficial Museum/Gallery: San Antonio’s Westside murals
They are authentic, splashy, meaningful, ever-changing and interact dynamically with their communities. I hesitate to mention one over another. Check out this blog post for more info. Organize a tour through San Anto Cultural Arts. Or check this map and drive around on your own. Grab some vuelve a la vida or camarones al mojo de ajo at Siete Mares while you’re over there. When the great Mario Ybarra, veterano of LACMA, the Whitney Biennial and the Tate Modern (2x) was in residence at Artpace, he said the murals and hand-painted signage on the Westside inspired him to tackle painting for the first time in a long while. ‘Nuff said. (OK, there’s a partial peek here.)
Beautiful Latin-American and antiquity collections. Contemporary art past the gift shop (puzzlingly). Pretty good gift shop. Riverfront accessible, with a beautiful upstairs patio cafe. Two-story foyer space is lovely and bright. Brown Foundation curator David Rubin does onstage interviews with prominent artists in the auditorium, which are good.
There are tons of reasonably-priced chains and what-have-you, this being a tourist town. But check these out.
One of ingenious hotelier Liz Lambert‘s prized Texas Four, along with the Hotel St. Cecilia and the San José in Austin, and the el Cosmico art-trailer park in Marfa. The Havana’s got a Cuban theme, which plays out cleverly in vintage room accents, dark woods, a sexy basement bar and Ocho, a gorgeous lounge-cafe reminiscent of a birdcage with enormous decorative windows onto the river. My sister threw a party for me here recently, and it was likely the most fabulous party thrown for me anywhere. I hope they have my funeral there. It’s supposed to be haunted, you know.
A fancy old-fashioned 19th century hotel with lots of old stuff on it. Theodore Roosevelt hung out in the bar. Also rumored to be haunted. Right next door to the motherfucking Alamo, how do you like that?
OK, I’ve never been here. It’s in kind of a fabulous location, however, right near the very hip and foodie-friendly Pearl Brewery development, home of Saturday morning farmer’s market, regular live music events, a Culinary Institute of America (with a good cafe!) and Chef Andrew Weissman’s celebrated Il Sogno and Sandbar restaurants. And it’s right near the river, too. It’s not much to look at, in a very noticeable way. Until recently, it had “fantasy rooms.” If you go, please tell me what it’s like.
Seriously, if you hang out long enough in SATX, somebody will take you in. I know of a German guy who came for a weekend and ended up staying four months. Lázaro Valiente, a multi-instrumental and performance artist from Mexico City, stayed here throughout March in somebody’s studio space. Check out the Facebook link above, call around, get in touch. People know people, and San Antonians are good hosts. We’ll show you where to get great tacos or pan dulce in the morning.
BARS AND RESTAURANTS
EL 7 Mares
As mentioned, see link above. Puro San Anto Gulf seafood. A great place to spend a chunk of Sunday afternoon, drinking micheladas and people watching. Also good: Mariscos Bucanero on the long and mysterious W.W. White Road, which is also home to the sublime Mr. and Mrs. G’s Home Cooking.
As mentioned — a great cross-section of San Antonio’s art community, a chill ice-house set-up (bar area in different building than restaurant, across an open area where kids and dogs frolic around). Good burgers, veggie options, amazing nopalito salad. Sit at picnic benches under the trees. Cheap. Fun. In the evening in the summertime, almost never too hot, somehow.
A new art community hangout-“gastropub” which, while stylish and sophisticated, also offers cheap drink specials and budget-friendly bites. Sit outside. Brunch is amazing. A lot of the servers and patrons are artists, ask around for event recommendations. Chuck Ramirez ate his last meal here; a Gary Sweeney tribute’s in front, I’ll let you spot it for yourself. Great friendly service.
Was a run-down old man bar when I was a kid, boasting the longest actual bar in Texas, and occasional drunken stabbings. Chris Hill (whose sister, Stacey Hill, is co-owner of the Monterey), resurrected the joint beautifully but without too much pretense, but with actual mixology and bar snacks and even some notice by Padma Lakshmi, et. al., which created a stir hereabouts. Lovey-dovey high-walled booths. Service can be crazy slow depending on alertness of hipster server, which feels kinda big-city in and of itself, no?
Time to get real.
Taquería Datapoint (which is a truck and a brick and mortar place)
Tacomiendo, which is parked at Artpace for lunch every Friday. This makes for a great opportunity to eat tacos, see art and meet folks.
Los Robertos (also both truck and restaurant)
Out of the Way
These two spots are in Castle Hills, which is about 20 minutes from the downtown/Southtown art nexus.
Head on out even further towards the medical center for Jerusalem Grill. The Northwest side is increasingly a new home to Middle Eastern, Asian, South Asian and African immigrants, and to SA’s delight, there are new restaurants all the time. Sarovar is good for Indian food.
Under no circumstances eat at a chain restaurant, unless you have to, or it’s Whataburger, which gets a dispensation.
As to Tex-Mex, I’m fearful of even venturing an opinion, lest I be shot at. The Tex-Mex holiest of holies are loudly and hotly debated. Don’t go to Papasito’s or Alamo Cafe or anything like that… OK, hit up El Mirador for soup on Saturday, El Milagrito for breakfast tacos, hang out at Taco Haven on South Presa for solid food and San Antonian-watching (most are locals, many are regulars and at any given time about 20% of the people in there know each other).
Buy art. Also, I’m going to recommend one really special place, right near Main Plaza and the Governor’s Mansion: Marti’s.
When I was a kid, my family spent time in the border town of Laredo TX/Nuevo Laredo MX, back when you could walk across the bridge for a family outing, come back to your hotel (La Posada, usually) and swim, then head back to Mexico for dinner. On sweltering frontera days after we’d been fed lunch at the (now-defunct) Cadillac Bar, we’d head for the air-cooled splendor of this department store/boutique, which sold fascinating objects. Gold-leafed chairs in the shapes of human hands. Custom-made guayaberas. 18th century painted altarpieces. Contemporary Surrealist paintings. Oaxacan spirit animal figures. Antique masks. Hand-embroidered and hand-sewn and handcrafted luxury goods from all over Mexico, all leaning towards the gorgeous and unusual, as though Alejandro Jodorowsky had taken over Barney’s.
Since the carnage that’s overtaken northern Mexico has made it hard to do business in Nuevo Laredo, they’ve relocated here. The website gives you no indication of how extraordinary this shop is, you should go in. It’s got a very pretty 2nd-floor view of the old Spanish Governor’s Palace, too.
EVENTS FOR YOUR CALENDAR
In the Fall, there are always interesting arts events during the Halloween/ Dia de los Muertos period in late October/early Novemeber. Be sure to check the Guadalupe‘s website around that time.
Mid- to late-April is Fiesta, a 10-day parade and party blowout. Locals love Cornyation, a satirical take on San Antonio’s historically-Anglo fiesta courts and local politics with a big ol’ gay wink, and the King William Fair, which has the most entertaining parade.
Summer is fucking hot. If you manage to run around outside, I am majorly impressed with you. Wear a hat.
OK, so that’s that. I have left out so much. But this should get you started.
San Antonians and San Antonio enthusiasts: Please feel free to add suggestions in the comments. Should I have put Blanco Cafe in there? Or the Blue Star satellite space? Damn thing could be endless.
For eight years in New York City, Sarah Fisch defended Texas as the home of muchos smartypantses, artists, thinkers, and other people who aren’t, for example, Tom deLay. New Yorkers remained skeptical. After she graduated from The New School, Fisch migrated back to San Antonio in ’08. She worked as the arts editor at San Antonio’s altweekly The San Antonio Current, until this past November when she became the arts and culture staff writer at start-up SATX news site Plaza de Armas. Furthermore, Sarah Fisch (whose last name is pronounced “fish”) is the 2010 San Antonio Artist Foundation Grant winner for Literary Arts for a forthcoming book of SATX-based short fiction and was a national Endowment for the Arts / USC Annenberg / Getty Arts Journalism Program Fellow. She’s a children’s book writer, a stand-up comic, and also a sound artist, which are conveniently broad categories.