How Tight is Texas for Artists?

by Christina Rees July 17, 2014

IMG_4504I ask you, readers, why does anyone who is creative and interested in philosophical discourse or cultural progressiveness move to Texas or stay here? Texas is good for business, we know, and some may want to come back at me with an argument about the wild-west libertarian idea of the individual or freedom of expression. This could in theory be a good environment for artists, but for the most part Texas’ brand of libertarianism is antisocial and generally paranoid, and art is inherently social.

Last week the old-school leftist rag Mother Jones ran a piece about a recent study exploring the theory of “loose” verses “tight” states, with tight meaning “have many strongly enforced rules and little tolerance for deviance,” and loose meaning “have few strongly enforced rules and greater tolerance for deviance.” So, essentially social conservatism verses liberalism. Religiosity, police presence, booze, prison sentences, porn consumption—all kinds of measures and variables were analyzed.

Texas was the sixth tightest state in the U.S, grouped with places like Mississippi and Alabama. The researchers grounded this argument with: “…tighter societies generally have had to deal with ‘a greater number of ecological and historical threats.’” Also: “Citizens of of ‘tight’ states tend to prize order and structure in their lives. Citizens of ‘loose’ states tend to be more ‘open,’ wanting to try new things and have new experiences.”

This linked to another Mother Jones story about a cluster of studies on how the brains of conservatives are fundamentally different from the brains of liberals, i.e. politics is personality. This touches on the above idea about dealing with threats and the hard-wired fear response and the amygdala. From studies out of Brown University and Penn State, the consensus is that “people who have a more fearful disposition also tend to be more politically conservative, and less tolerant…” .

Also, intriguingly, the longer you entertain or harbor a political view, the more your brain doubles down on that stance. In other words, the more you practice a certain way of living and thinking, the more you actually embody it. (I am not, for the record, a biological determinist. But today I am a pessimist and I do believe in slippery slopes.) Conservatives are also reportedly happier than us neurotic liberals.

Studies also point out that like-minded people tend to cluster, and then breed more of the same kind of people. A Time Magazine story about the “personalities” of places illustrates a trend: instead of regions becoming more varied as the country’s population grows, increasingly people are picking up and moving to the places where they fit in more comfortably socially and politically. Reading between the lines, Texas is becoming more conservative rather than less, which is exactly the opposite of what I’ve wanted to believe over the last ten years.

When I try to view my city or state through the eyes of a newcomer, I can imagine the claustrophobic confusion. It must feel like the nation’s libertarian bloodline meets its social conservative bloodline right here on the Trinity River, and neither of these impulses is good for creativity, because they’re intellectually barren. My husband is from London; he’s been here since 2004 and he’s still in shock.

If you’re from here, you’ve picked up all the unspoken codes and secret mores and weird invisible rules for how to get along here even if you’re not religious or right-wing. I’m in a position to laugh when a relative announces at Thanksgiving: “I’d rather kill my daughter than have her marry an atheist.” But it’s mostly a stink I can’t smell anymore because I’ve lived with it for so long.

But when I look at the current social and political climate and the information coming in from the various studies, I have two terrible recurring thoughts. The first one is: Why would anyone who is truly creative stay in this city or this state if they could live elsewhere?

The answer I think for the most part is that artists (musicians, writers) stay here because it’s cheap, and “easy to live here,” as long as you don’t get pulled over by the cops. Also, you can band together and make it “us against them” and feel (at least temporarily) purposeful about your scene.

I’m obsessed with place, and I do often talk to local artists about their relationship to Texas, but I’d love to hear more from native and non-native Texas-based artists about why they choose to live and work here.

My second terrible thought is: Why am I here? I moved back to Texas from much more liberal places, but I didn’t have to. Am I here because it’s cheap and easy? Or am I here because at heart I’m a terrible secret conservative, or am I here because I’m a dummy hoping against all odds to witness or even help usher in some change?

I don’t know anymore. According to this geographic personality test I belong in the District of Columbia.



Charles Dee Mitchell July 17, 2014 - 12:18

Crap, I belong in Oregon.

Tracy Hicks July 17, 2014 - 12:31

So much to say about this. I never thought I would leave Texas. My roots are there both art and family roots. But this radical conservative religious swing is specifically why we left Texas.

Great art in Texas happening now and for decades at least because the art communities within the state have become self sustaining in a wide variety of ways.

Much more to say – when time permits.

Tracy Hicks July 17, 2014 - 13:00

What I regret most – about leaving Texas anyway – is being directly associated with the community.

Texas artists are a unique community banned together well aware of the social racial and moral judgmental discrimination that pervades the state. The energy that dichotomy generates has produced some phenomenally important art work. Artists like Greg Metz and Rick Lowe and Mel Chin and on and on have spun from a communal level this Texas art energy out into a national and international art realm. But the thousands of working producing artists in Texas are all part of creating that energy.

That is what I miss about Texas. You can keep the summer heat,

M. Foster July 19, 2014 - 11:11

I was going to post something very much like this. I also liked the broad spectrum of practice in Texas and miss it.

Justin Hunter Allen July 17, 2014 - 14:09

Maybe you’re just wrong and magazines, e-articles, studies, and assumptions can’t fit the the world in a box.

Maybe “liberal” doesn’t have a monopoly on art.

“According to this geographic personality test”

What is this, Myspace?

Justin Hunter Allen July 17, 2014 - 15:53

Hmmm, *tap tap tap* in retrospect I think more accurately

“Maybe ‘liberal’ doesn’t have a monopoly on art.”

which sounds as divisive as the article should read:

“Maybe cultural progressiveness doesn’t have a monopoly on philosophical discourse.”

Maistrey July 17, 2014 - 14:38

Generally good, but a couple of things.

First, for liberals to understand conservatives, they need to read Jonathan Haidt. Links below. Briefly, the liberal moral compass is centered on care/harm and fairness/cheating, while the conservative moral compass includes these but also balances them against loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation.

Haidt began as basically an atheist Jewish liberal, but his research made him a lot more sympathetic to the people of Jesusland.

“What Makes People Vote Republican?”

Second, about “tight and loose” states. We can’t consider policy in a vacuum. We have to observe that culturally, the “loose” blue states, statistically, are more buttoned-down and better behaved: I mean things like lower crime rates, lower teen pregnancy rates, lower dropout rates, lower divorce rates. So they can do fine with “looser” laws, because they don’t have to worry as much about social breakdown. Whereas statistically (check the numbers if you don’t believe me), the people of the South commit more crimes, drop out of school more… (This is leaving race out of it. Even if you just look at the numbers for only white people and you will see a difference.) So, arguably, the “tight” laws of the South are a rational response to a culture with overall less self-discipline and a greater need for sanctions on destructive and anti-social behavior.

Look at Utah for a kind of counterexample — a conservative “red state” that is actually “loose” on the Mother Jones map, because it is more of a rural offshoot of restrained Northern culture than of “run-wild” Southern culture.

Third, I don’t think it’s possible to quite claim the left as the Party of Science and Reason without pondering whether the left’s passionate, unanimous and vehement hate for any suggestion that any differences between genders, and among different ethnic groups, might conceivably have anything at all to do with biology… might be based on something other than purely disinterested rational analysis, and instead on a kind of fear and loathing for any possibility that the driving project of Egalitarianism Uber Alles might run into some trouble somwhere.

Fourth, yes, artists are out of the mainstream here and yes, art is social, and yes, artists need to make a living, but isn’t there sort of a camaraderie among artists who recognize they’re in a scrappy, outsidery minority among the hordes of Baptists and golfers? Isn’t it enough to have social relations among a small like-minded crew of artists to stimulate the work?

How many of, say, New York’s myriad neighborhoods and social and ethnic communities does a typical artist there really engage with? Don’t they mostly hang out with other artists, co-workers, people from school, people who live nearby in the New York equivalents of Oak Cliff and Little Forest Hills (except in 500 sq ft instead of 2000)? Aren’t there enough artists here to form a bona fide social network, even if 99 % of DFW’s population is ignorant or apathetic about their work?

Tracy Hicks July 17, 2014 - 17:33…-conservative/

A more scientific explanation gentle presented here by Bill Moyers and Chris Mooney and much more harshly discussed in the scientific journals.

HJ BOTT July 26, 2014 - 13:28

Maistrey, until your last ¶ there was little but chorus agreement. The “studies” mentioned are quite unfounded in the main because the samplings are far from ridge, way too small to be meaningful and what were the controls?

But, Maistrey, where we live is seldom satisfactory.But we make allowances and producing the work seems to be what it’s about. Of course many other objectives enter the equations.

Love your last ¶. It’s why I left NYC, and a host of other BLUE locals. I no longer scoop snow nor round a corner at 23rd and 4th Ave to freeze my ass. My bedroom does not vibrate 24/7. I park in or out of my gated community without continual ticket &/or break-in worry. Trash is ultra-convenient. Rent is less than 1/5 of the last NYC loft, and no “super’ to argue with on a daily basis about heating or cooling. As formidable as the Houston traffic is much of the time, the art venues are easily negotiated. The art-market control coteries are less AdForum dominating though the back-biting is as vicious as anywhere with more than 300 artists. Seem to be able to put 12 – 14 hrs/day into the work. In NYC? Never happened.

Does it really matter where the work is produced as long as supplies are available, with interested critics, other art writers, gallerists, curators, venue directors and collectors within an email? This is especially so after one has been around the block a few times.

Rainey Knudson July 17, 2014 - 15:42

Some thoughts:

1. Artists and people in “creative” lines of work in TX all deal with the suspicion of people elsewhere that we’re lazy or we’re rubes.

2. TX is not a red blob. TX has the most cities in the top 20 of any state, CA included (6), and all of those cities have Dem mayors with the exception of Ft. Worth. All of those cities (save Fort Worth, again) went for Obama in ’08 and ’12. And of course, Houston has the only openly gay mayor of any major city in the US.

3. Which means this is a rural vs. urban situation. Unfortunately for progressives living in the cities, there’s way more rural/suburban than urban in TX.

4. Also North TX is more conservative and religious than the rest of the state, no argument there. But Dallas has the best public transit!

5. I’ve lived elsewhere, both in the US and abroad, and I believe TX is a freer place to live — I feel more free here. I know that sounds hokey, but it’s true. And I don’t believe I feel free in TX just because it’s home and I know the ropes. I think the cliche of independent, bootstrapping, wildcatting wildassery is rooted in reality. God knows the culture of so-called “progressive” places isn’t open minded (just try poking fun at vegans in the Bay Area). Perhaps it’s that Texan culture is more tolerant of contrarians generally.

People in TX can pretty much do whatever they want, for better (start a company, start an art magazine, make art) or worse (build 24-lane freeways over existing train tracks, frack in areas of severe drought).

6. Re: Mother Jones, we have very little environmental regulation in TX — how can we be “tight”?

7. People who say horrible things about atheists are everywhere.

Thor Johnson July 17, 2014 - 16:30

“And of course, Houston has the only openly gay mayor of any major city in the US.”

The mayor of Seattle is gay

Katie Mulholland July 21, 2014 - 14:01

I don’t think a mayor or politican being gay really has a whole lot to do with a city’s political alignment, other than shows a city can tolerate gay politicians. Being conservative no longer really means anti-gay. Nor does liberal entirely mean anti-abortion or feminist overtones. It’s merely a name for the alignment of the larger percentage of what you believe. There are plenty of conservative and gay politicians. Republican and Democratic pretty much just exist as buzzwords…there’s no either or these days. There is no such thing as black and white, or in this case red and blue. Texas is all greys and purples.

Also, Anyone else hear about what Annise Parker has been up to? While she’s been pal’in around with Bun B, she’s also been chopping and screwing the HPD’s pension plan. Our first line of response to natural disasters & local response. Everyone’s a human, sexual preference does not define a persons political or moral beliefs- case in point.

Dave Sims July 19, 2014 - 13:15

This is right on, and I’d go further and point out that not only has Texas wildassery produced great art and music, but the tension between red/blue, con/lib is as healthy here as anywhere. Specific areas like Marfa, Denton or Austin, and the more particular art communities that Tracy Hicks points out in Dallas (not to mention Oak Cliff) and Houston, are engaging I believe precisely because Texas is not monolithic, and generally resistant to groupthink in either direction. This is healthy for democracy as well as art.

Texas is way more conservative and way weirder than either East Texas racism or Austin bumper stickers would have anyone believe. To me that’s a state where the potential for engagement and transformation (as well as conflict and regression) is alive and at least interesting. Maybe that’s the best kind of place for democracy to be creative, cooperative and artistic, rather than the characteristic bellum omnium contra omnes that red vs. blue seems to take on everywhere else.

Sean S July 17, 2014 - 15:48

I second Tracy Hicks’s comments about missing the community. Nothing is perfect, of course, and Texas has room for gigantic improvements like most other places, but it has a great loose community of good, intelligent, dedicated artists, from North TX to Houston and San Antonio. (I’ve heard even Austin now, but I left 13 years ago, so I plead ignorance.) Amidst the daily bullshit there is an undeniable ethos of making it work together that TX has in spades, more than anywhere else I’ve personally witnessed. If one wants the full-on gallery career, then, yeah, we know the two cities in the USA to go to. But I haven’t seen a more lively, fun patchwork of artists than in (mega-awful) conservative TX.

HJ BOTT July 26, 2014 - 13:39

SEAN S, thanx for drawing this together under the ethos of making stuff.

Carolyn July 17, 2014 - 16:23

I’ve been reading the same articles and getting a similar picture.

When I was little, I liked to play pioneer; and there’s lots of pioneering to be done here. Civilization, ho!

Tracy Hicks July 17, 2014 - 17:50

I only invested a few years in trying to help organize the art community in Dallas. But toe years were very significant to me. Before those days Michael Parenteau, Deb Grotfeldt, Surls, Jesse Lott early Rick Lowe Mel Chin Jack Livingstone Gus and Sharon and the whole Houston art community Lawndale Diverseworks focused around community Their art community but also the parallel roles of art reflecting social change and art as an economic venue. They were my heroes and role models for art that can bridge the gap between a capitalist society that only values the economy of art and the people – not mater their politics who responded to art.

More to say but want to establish that perspective first.

Sebastien Boncy July 17, 2014 - 19:23

Maybe get out more?. Not that the Texas you describe doesn’t exist, but it is hardly the only Texas. You forget that Cheap is good, it’s not just about leisure, Cheap is political. Cheap allows for time to think, and congegrate, and income to build up resources, and occasionally help out another soul. The source of that cheapness may be deplorable, but let’s not kid ourselves: Two of the bluer states house the entertainment industries that churn out the White Supremacy Jingles and Commercials broadcast from sea to shining sea before they go on and infect the rest of the world. Difficult to understand the 50 states on a two color map. It doesn’t account for the great variety of communities that we have here, and no place with that amount of variety can be described as intellectually barren.
Did you not consider the aesthetic reasons? Texas just looks and sounds amazing to some of us, that make it a fertile environment to create above and beyond any political concern. Are you talking to artists or activists?
You brought up your husband coming over from a much richer culture, and I gotta to assume he’s white. I say this because I personally have very little interest in living in a white country that’s never had a civil rights movement, where my daugther might come across a golliwog on a random playdate. And, remind me, is the NDNAD still trying to catalogue every single black person in the country?

Tracy Hicks July 17, 2014 - 20:07

The Texas art community is anything but monolithic. It reflects a liberal image but it is a full spectrum. Lots of more conservative perspective art work economy in Texas. Lots of artists who will take offense at anything about whatever it is their work is about. Hell folks – that is Texas.

The gallery economy in Dallas – and I take it all of Texas – has grown gigantically in the past few decades. Far disproportionately to the economy. As has social change in those communities. Vicki Meek still struggles to get support from the “North Dallas White” art community. Houston with the Row Houses and Art League integrate socio.economic-art infusion beautifully but continually picking at the edges and helping change the larger community.

The gallery community bridges the more conservative political economic community wink wink nod nod – and has to various degrees.

What I am trying to suggest is the Texas based energy Greg Metz used recently to “kick the Machine” and smooth the system out for an already well established facility – foothold is significant and drives energy that everyone there participates in.

I am just getting to know the community over here, it is big and coherent but I can guarantee you it is not pushing the class structure envelop like Texas

If you have not please read Ben Fountain’s “Long Halftime Walk” laugh and cry Texas is Texas.

I have been thinking about this for awhile now. Thanks for hitting the nail and letting me spill this out, Christina. Now I’ll shut up for awhile.

Martha Terrill July 17, 2014 - 21:21

I moved back to Texas from NYC in the early 90’s because I knew that my money would go further. It is just cheaper to live here and there is a wonderful art community and places to buy art supplies, even if you have to drive.
As for the strange dynamic between loose and tight in Texas, I think has to do with so many people, who populated Texas in the early days before it became a Republic, were criminals, heavy debtors and/or con-men. They came here because there was no law enforcement and they could be who they were with a lot of freedom. When Texas became a Republic and then a state, those who were part of the government were decidedly conservative and” law-abiding”. I think the tightness in Texas comes from a reaction to the idea that you can do anything you want in Texas: see #5. in Rainy Knudsen’s response to this.
Even the Conservatives have cultivated “Wildassery”. She is correct.

Damon Smith July 17, 2014 - 23:54

I moved here from the San Francisco Bay Area, where money for art and music institutions is really tight.
The museums are run poorly and have weak collections – except when Don Fisher the Republican owner of the Gap bought or donated work to the SFMOMA.
The institutions are more focused and in a better place than here than in SF for sure.
For music, and the music I am involved in it is different. There is more funding for specific things and more reliable audience here, but way more great musicians there.

John Aasp July 18, 2014 - 10:25

Hating and Loving a place makes for great content. Great article Christina.

Ean Schuessler July 18, 2014 - 11:05

I think the Good/Bad Art Collective presents an interesting case study. In Denton you had a group of young artists creating work in an environment driven almost entirely by the love of doing the work. That work attracted international attention and made many of those artists believe that they could move to New York and “make it in the big leagues”. Once they got to New York the network of financial demands and cultural gatekeepers systematically crushed the life out of their effort within a few years.

The notion of “tight” and “loose” are relative. There are many levels of control in society. We live in a world where slave chains have been replaced by FICO scores and other sophisticated and pervasive controls.

Even culturally these notions of control are complex. I have successful artist friends in San Francisco who have confided that it is difficult to associate with people socially because you never know whether someone is genuinely interested in you and your work or is trying to break into an the otherwise difficult to penetrate inner sanctum of the city’s art heavies.

It is harder to be a “working artist” here and live in the sense where you are financially secure from just the sale of your work. It is, however, far easier to find the time, resources and collaborators to make art here. You do not have to work 2 jobs to keep yourself in an 800 square foot apartment. A warehouse (or just a big garage) full of equipment is still something that can be had on an average salary in Dallas.

Which end of loose and tight you are on may depend on your perspective.

Tracy Hicks July 18, 2014 - 14:33

Well I did not address the loose-tight correlations for Texas Art and Community earlier so…

Suck it up folks. – You live in Texas. – It is hot. – The politics are hot. And the commentary is idiotic.

The radical right religiously judgmental community elected an idiot governor who wants war against children on the southern border. Hell that makes everyone’s asses tight as ,,.well …a pencil lead.

At least the art community I know in Texas get loose have some fun and still gets things done.

By “loose” I don’t mean drunk and stoned – at least not all Texas artists all the time – I mean the looseness I get from being with friends the are willing to laugh share tight ass stories and make work incorporating the tightness we laughed about.

There is an energy in that.

If the Railroad Commission could figure out how to tax you for that energy – your asses would tighten like a – silver spoon up gov. good-hair’s ass.

Tracy Hicks July 20, 2014 - 09:02

I solicited this opposing argument from a friend who prefers anonymity:

“Artists make their way “in spite of” a lot of things, and hopefully their reasons for being where-ever they are doesn’t have to do with politics. Yikes!!!”

And while I think that is true, I also see strong art work reflecting regional social culture. It is not the past politics east coast school against the west coast school anymore. That was eras ago. Nor middle American contrasted with the coasts – or…

My point continues to be the unique tightening of conservative tightness verses liberal looseness compounded with the sever tightness of Dallas racial politics – Texas drives a unique energy I can see in everything from the contemporary gallery folk work overlapping the academic galleries and museum network with the artist driven facilities.

There is a lot of conflicted energy driven by Christina’s premise that rather than driving the artists away – like me – they use it – and it shows.

Katie Mulholland July 21, 2014 - 12:06

I REALLY enjoy the fact that someone wrote this article, and wrote it well. It’s a tricky topic, and could go into a multitude of fallow up discourses and research. However freedom is a tricky thing. I’d like to take the time to play a little devil’s advocate.

So for every Houston artist that fallows politics and gives thought about what they see on TV(or even watch it) and find value in things deemed “property”- there are several who don’t. This population is HUGE in Houston. Bigger than any other city I have lived in, and just as big as some that I haven’t. Call them hippies,crust punks, hood rats, musicians, Rennies, call them whatever, but they are a highly evolved group of trademen/artists that exist almost entirely unaffected by any of the statistics stated here. If anything Houston is a historical port city and rail hub- and that determines almost the entirety of their existence. Travel/income/housing… off the grid or not. At one point- mine included. This is the vein of Houston’s diverse art scene.

Houston has a diverse scene of highly visible artists that do more than dance to a different tune, they use every other tune as a jungle gym. They are white, hispanic, asian, and african american… although you could interchange any of their races and their life stories would be just as intricate. You could also interchange what industrial city we are in, and it would also make little difference. They are the people many of those you see represented in galleries become. Your studio neighbor could have been or be one. A lot of these people find hitchhiking fun, hop trains when necessary, and trespassing on someone property is just another way to get to a better place. It’s not that they can’t drive… they dont have a need for cars or houses with a white picket fence. They aren’t poor. They aren’t homeless. They aren’t mentally ill. And they aren’t teenagers… they are people seeking happiness and inspiration by any means necessary. They ARE the people who make places like EaDo cool for stuffy white people to live in. They ARE the inspiration for most commercially visible art. They are the people well-off-white-folks deem as liberal or hippies or homeless with disdain, and fret about them still living in their neighborhoods… but are really the reason why they are living there to begin with. They are freedom.

It sounds dreamy and all, but it’s a shitty, often broke, existence (and occasionally with some jail-time) that occasionally has a LOT of payoff. Well-being for most is one of them. I’m talking about graffiti artists, tattoo artists, Yoga instructors, professors, muralists, musicians, dancers, eccentrics, welders, writers, even the occasional zoo keeper. Anyone fringe who has ever had ______ said to them: “No, but what do you really do?… what IS your REAL job?” or “You can’t possibly make money doing that”. These folk get it. And its not about the money.

And needless to say, they are getting pushed out… and heading like places to Detroit, Cincinnati, Sedona, Salk Lake City, Galveston, Juno, etc etc. Places that better support this freedom… But don’t worry they will still be braving the next ghetto, and when once golden places like Alief turn into places like Alief again, and the heights turn back into a place where my friends used to buy and shoot up dope… they will be back. And not for the dope or the parties.

Freedom is subjective. And almost entirely an illusion. Freedom is about as heated and variable of a subject as Houston’s Top Ten Painters List. But freedom for those who have ever hopped a train or climbed to the top of a building or a billboard will never change. Owning a gun and having excellent privatized healthcare is one type freedom… but realizing (just like in art) that rules are meant to be broken is ENTIRELY another.

Freedom to do what you want, when you want, and how you want is the ultimate freedom. It’s scary,it frightens people, its often illegal, and is the basis for all of American art, down to the Hudson River Painters and the history of our pop culture. And it can be done anywhere, in any city with cheap living and a need for trade labor, and can be done in any face of any adversity.

Katie Mulholland July 21, 2014 - 12:15

“They are the people many of those you see represented in galleries become.”

Many the people you see represented in galleries or in art history book lived this way at one point in their life, if not still, if not had friends who did.

Jim Malone July 21, 2014 - 13:07

Some people go for the box of 128 crayons and some prefer the box of 8

Katie Mulholland July 21, 2014 - 14:07

*checks box labeled “I love this comment”*

Albert Omaha July 21, 2014 - 13:46

I have absolutely no idea why I am still in Dallas I don’t know why I would leave. It’s something to think about, thanks Christina

pish July 21, 2014 - 14:33

austin cheap to live in?….i found it far from cheap….maybe somewhat easy, tho pretty well disagree with the easy also….

Peter Briggs July 23, 2014 - 11:48

The profundity of this topic and its exposition leaves me breathless, and makes me wonder how the ten best painters in Houston or the weekly top five art events fare in the space they inhabit. By the way, is it possible to develop more art-related lists? They tend to elicit insightful commentaries and observations with which one might be able to penetrate the complex arenas of contemporary art.

HJ BOTT July 26, 2014 - 15:07

So much for the OCEAN test, Christina: I belong in Georgia!!!! Not on your life (unless in the heart of Atlanta). Once had a gallery and a woman I loved in Atlanta.

Tracy, sorry to say this but I would never return to Atlanta, unless to visit with you. Certainly became fearful driving the back roads of Georgia looking for local color, became an “Easy Rider” affair. Make art there? Maybe, but it would certainly be more obviously political than my current nuanced (personal perspective of course) cultural symbolism projects.

Houston was/is (for some considerable time) an art environment that champions invention without it being shit-in-the-space for the usual shock-a-look no differently than any other major city. Of course now it is statewide.

I became comfortable with SOME of Texas long before my political hackles were on ever-alert, having gone to H.S. in San Antonio and many years later serving on the SAPD for 13 months gathering data for a dissertation. Raised throughout the mid-west before H.S. and wintered in Germany, give me the South-Texas warmth/heat even with the criminal Shrub, his big-hair off-shoot, the devastating redistricting absurdities and improbable rural/suburban fearful self-loathers. Many of these folks are bright normals with “good” school-housing and even collect art.

It doesn’t take personal tragedy, the Ukraine or Gaza to induce grist for the canvas. We have enough here in Texas, thank you.

HJ BOTT July 26, 2014 - 15:16

BTW. Many thanx, Christina, for opening this vista of constant art-radar frequency. You opened a beautiful thread. And Tracy, it was the loss for Texas that you moved to Georgia. We miss the beauty of your sixth-extinction awareness exhibitions.

Ricardo Paniagua July 26, 2014 - 23:17

Good question, aside from all of the issues. I was born in Dallas at Baylor Hospital in East Dallas right near The Meadows here. Why am I still here? Because we have the internet now. Sure, having personal relationships with other arts professionals in places more cosmopolitan may serve to boost a young artists career, but I do not believe it’s worth sacrificing all those funds for rent instead of for art materials. I’ve been living and working in downtown for 8 years or thereabouts and now re-locating to a studio in Cleburne, TX. There are cows and horses all around me. A big studio and a quaint living space. Will my career suffer? No, because of the internet. There will be guns, my new 4 x 4 truck, a salsa garden, honey bees, wildflowers, my DSL ATT High Speed Internet service and a mind realizing art. The Cleburne news paper heard I was moving there and wants to run a story about it. Perhaps this is all I know. I’ve been to other major art capitals, but Im just a good ole country boy I suppose. It’s not a bad place to be creative either. The fucking computer chip was invented here among other major evolvements in techonoly which has tremendously alter the course of history for humanity. I think there there is something in the air here that helps people think clearly and thus innovation can take place here easier than other places. Now, that’s all mumbo jumbo neither here nor there, but that is exactly what art is anyways.

HJ BOTT July 28, 2014 - 13:32

Ricardo, glad to know you and a studio landed safely together. Keep making the best.

Alecia Lawyer July 28, 2014 - 12:07

There are as many shades of political beliefs as there are skin tones. I am always saddened that artists claim “You are only diverse if your diverseness is like me.” We work for diversity, but shun anything opposite us. Please tell me you all see how hypocritical that is?

HJ BOTT July 28, 2014 - 13:43

Yes, Alecia, that is hypocritical. But that is not what I believe nor practice nor do any of my artist friends, representing a broad socio-eco-political spectrum. How do you know what “WE” shaun? GAWD! Your brush is wide. I would be saddened too. Maybe your Quote marks are misplaced.

HJ BOTT July 28, 2014 - 13:58

Before proceeding with this informative thread that reflects so much of the elements of defensiveness within our respectively perceived genuineness, thus, it might be a good time to reread Edward T Hall’s
“The Hidden Dimension.” And then, I simply may be projecting after the sting of Alecia’s last comment.

Alecia Lawyer July 28, 2014 - 16:04

I said we and owned it myself. Easy to just create multiple us and them scenarios: poor/weathly; liberal/conservative, etc.

Troy Schulze July 28, 2014 - 14:05

I believe Michael Bise just dropped the mic on this topic. See “The Alamo.”

Alecia Lawyer July 28, 2014 - 16:06

I’ve been making art just long enough to believe that great artists are either Jeremiahs or John the Baptists.

And they all said “Amen!”

HJ BOTT July 28, 2014 - 23:28

Troy is right. A must read: <>. Michael Bise makes his words whisper for each of us as the volume of his argument increases.

Travis July 28, 2014 - 15:57

Yawn… This is just regurgitated Texas bashing that ignores all the decades of progressive independant liberalism represented by Anne Richards, J.J.Pickle, Glen Maxi, LBJ, and basicly all the leaders that proceeded the election of Bush to Govenor. I won’t waste my time to extoll and enumerate the continued benefits of this State, it’s history, and it’s people with someone who begins their proposition with myopic assertions of why everyone who would choose this place is wrong. You find what you look for.

The vocal minority will always dominate the public dialogue and perception even when they are dealing in self serving fantasy. They will even believe they are right regardless of any evidence offered them. Instead they will pat themselves on the back in congratulations for anyone who agrees with them in any way at all. They will also pat themselves on the back in congratulations even harder when people disagree with them, because they perceive push back as just further evidence of their inherent correctness.

Even with the perception and projected outward appearance of conservative authoritative domination that we have in Texas, it is the independent, radically progressive, libertarian, “cowboy” spirit that means you can creatively do absolutely anything you like in Texas regardless of any perceived governmental, social, cultural pressures. The code of independence that is woven into the fabric of Texas and true Texas people celebrates the innovative difference and diversity in individuals in a way you simply can’t find elsewhere regardless of outward appearances of conservative hide bound oppression. In Texas we just ignore those blow hards and just keep doing what we are doing.

Plainly, I am just sick and tired of all the Texas bashing. If you have something positive, functional, proactive, progressive to share, I honestly believe you will find it strongly welcomed with open arms despite your misgivings. However, if you genuinely find Texas as unpleasant, unwelcoming, oppressive, and “tight” as you project, I welcome you to exersize your free will and either do something about it or leave. I hope you don’t leave. I hope instead you open your eyes and get past the politically correct propaganda fantasy about Texas and truly realize what a treasure of freedom and Liberty we have right here if you only choose to exersize it.

HJ BOTT July 28, 2014 - 23:19

As a transplant, I thank you for your stance, TRAVIS. Molly Ivins would be proud.

Moe Profane August 15, 2014 - 15:10

The interiors of the big cities aren’t tight. Not at all relative to the suburbs and countryside.

The suburbs weird me right the fuck out. I don’t get out of my car in the country.

This contrast makes Texas great for me. I love the tension. I love watching the county christian conservatives squirm as their state turns blue. I don’t enjoy the hate it provokes but I do love the fear and discomfort that is its source.


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