Normally, this type of event is too fancy-schmancy for my tastes. But when my friend invited me, three things about it caught my interest: the inclusion of Dallas-area artists’ work, the chance to see the inside of a $5.75 million house in Preston Hollow, and the fundraiser aspect, benefitting the Boys & Girls Club, Dwell with Dignity (a nonprofit that creates homes for families struggling with homelessness), and The Crystal Charity Ball, which supports children’s charities in Dallas.
The Kips Bay Show House concept started 47 years ago in Manhattan by the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club, and has since branched out to other cities. This is its first year in Dallas. The idea is that different interior designers and firms get a room or section of the house to showcase current domestic design trends.
For those who enjoyed TV shows like the 1980s Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous (RIP Robin Leach), or who dream about living like the one percent, this tour is for you. It is grandeur and decadence. While I’m no design expert, I feel like for this project the designers were indeed successful in creating mini-utopias in each room. Some were more to my taste than others.
In terms of the art, I felt a bit like Alice down the rabbit hole: the surreal quality of masked visitors quietly whispering oohs and ahhs, while I played detective trying to locate and identify the local artists’ work on display. Understandably, there were no wall labels. However, it’s unfortunate for the artists that their names were not always included in the printed materials or catalog.
But I took photos, and did my research as best I could.
Current Artpace San Antonio resident Letitia Huckaby’s stitched photograph on fabric, Sister Rebecca (2014), from her Bayou Baroque series featuring the nuns of the Sisters of the Holy Family Mother House in New Orleans, is featured prominently on the upstairs landing. This is the only space in the house that is curated around a single art work, which I imagine is due to the fact that Liliana Bloch Gallery and not a designer curated the room. The powerful work commands its own space for quiet reflection.
An art dealer friend of mine always says to put the best work in the bathroom. Keer Tanchak’s small-scale, intimate paintings of the female form transform the bathroom into a more dynamic space; the shaped metal canvases add a cool, quirky vibe.
Sarah Ball’s small portrait paintings in the kitchen defy domesticity. One would expect to see portraits of family members in a domestic setting. But these haunting portraits are sourced from historical photographic archives of criminal mugshots. The subdued color palette and stark expression drops a bit of hidden subversive humor into the space.
Desireé Vaniecia’s work In Times Like This We Pray is perfectly placed in the “We Tell Ourselves Stories” room (note: it looks like a living room to me). The artist’s work pays homage to her family, while challenging stereotypes of black women constructed by society and the media. The four panel paintings, full of evocative and complicated emotion, suggest a narrative, with each presenting a frozen moment in time. The title refers to our current, fraught socio-political moment.
My favorite designer room is the “Turkish Writer’s Lair” by Michelle Nussbaumer. Evoking Morocco and Turkey, this room is intricately detailed. One could think that the patterns would overwhelm or conflict, but they’re perfectly balanced to create a creative and peaceful space.
My favorite artist room is “Utopia” designed by Sherry Hayslip. If I were depressed or had artist’s block, this is the room I would want to live in. Carmen Menza’s custom-designed colored sky light Opaline Skies transforms the space and creates rainbows of light throughout the day and night. She’s best known for her colored light boxes, which are also featured in the room. The skylight is a new design for her, one that’s seamlessly integrated within the architecture of the space. Rebecca Carter’s delicate thread sculpture, The Blue Eyes, is prominently displayed on one wall. This piece reminds me of both Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye and Derek Jarman’s film Blue. Dan Lam’s drip sculptures Goldilocks and Dark Matter add an unexpected flourish to the book shelves. Hayslip included other artists as well.
The main benefit for artists participating in this kind of event is for potential collectors to see how art fits within the domestic sphere. I think it can be very difficult for patrons who see work in a gallery to imagine how it may fit in their home environment. Historically, any Kips Bay House gets a lot of media coverage. My hope is that this brings more attention to the talent we have here in Texas.
Available to tour through Oct. 25, 2020. Go here for details.