Last chance for “Brain Trash”

It’s the last week to see James Drake’s breathtaking exhibit “Anatomy of Drawing and Space (Brain Trash)” at the Blanton Museum of Art. The exhibit closes Jan. 4.

lhs Drake 03
Photo by Laura Skelding/American-Statesman

Two years ago, the Texas-born Drake set himself the challenge of drawing every single day. He could draw whatever came to mind and as much as he wanted, but he never skipped a day of drawing.

Some 1,242 drawings — simply affixed with push pins — splay out across the museum walls tracing Drake’s stream of creative consciousness over two years.

Depictions of animals and landscapes overlap with scientific equations. The swirling clouds of a hurricane vortex sweep next to a neat axon-metric diagram of a mechanical system. Abstract Rorschach-like images give way to almost photo-realistic drawings of Drake’s family pictures.

“I don’t believe in an epiphany, a bolt coming down out of the sky and inspiring you,” Drake told the American-Statesman in October. “If you’re not working, you’re not creating.”

Detail of James Drake’s “Anatomy of Drawing and Space (Brain Trash)”

“Anatomy of Drawing and Space (Brain Trash)”

Blanton Museum of Art,

Museum hours: 10 a.m. t0 5 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 11 a.m to 5 p.m. Saturdays, 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays.

Admission: $5-$9; free on Thursdays.

Luis Jiménez sculpture coming to Umlauf

Luis Jiménez’ 24-foot long fiberglass sculpture “Sodbuster, San Isidro” is coming to the Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum as part of an exhibit of the same name opening Jan. 21.

The sculpture is on loan from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

Luis Jiménez' "Sodbuster, San Isidro" at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
Luis Jiménez’ “Sodbuster, San Isidro” at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

Born in El Paso Jiménez impressive career spanned nearly 40 years and he became widely noted for his vibrant, and often enormous fiberglass sculptures, that celebrated Hispanic and Native American cultures.

Jiménez, a graduate of the University of Texas, studied under Charles Umlauf in the early 1960s and delivered his professor’s eulogy at UT’s memorial service in 1994

In a talk at 6 p.m. on Jan. 28, sculptor Jesús Moroles, who worked extensively with Jiménez and assisted in the making of Sodbuster, will share insights on Jiménez’s process and the time they spent together.

The exhibit “Sodbuster, San Isidro”will continue through April 19.


Laguna Gloria installations by Do Ho Suh, Lucky Dragons extended

Do Ho Suh’s “Net-Work” at Laguna Gloria.

Do Ho Suh’s poetic yet evocative installation “Net-Work” will remain on view at Laguna Gloria through May 31, the Contemporary Austin has announced.

A shimmering net of tiny gold and silver figures, “Net-Work” drapes over supports on the floating dock at the base of the Laguna Gloria’s amphitheater.

Inspired by traditional fishing nets in Japan, where the piece was first installed on a beach, the net cascades down to the marshy shoreline, forming an enticing open-air enclosure, its miniature figures framing a new view of the lagoon.

“Net-Work” can be viewed whenever the Laguna Gloria grounds are open: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.

See for more info.

Do Ho Suh’s “Net-Work” at Laguna Gloria.

Also remaining on view through May 31 is “17,000 Observations” the intriguing sound-art installation by Los Angeles-based art collective Lucky Dragons.

A  sculptural mobile of circular mirrors is suspended between trees across one of the footpaths on the lakeside peninsula. Accompanying the mirrored natural views is a soundtrack of a field recording overlapped with an original musical composition.

“17,000 Observations” project takes its name the 17,000 observations  made by birders in the Laguna Gloria and adjacent Mayfield Park.

No excuses now not to see either “Net-Work” or “17,000 Observations.”

Detail of Do Ho Suh's "Net-Work" at Laguna Gloria.
Detail of Do Ho Suh’s “Net-Work” at Laguna Gloria.

Susi Brister’s “Fables” at Women and Their Work

Austin artist Susi Brister stages mysterious tableaux with enigmatic quasi-human figures draped in strange textiles and then situated in the natural landscape.

"613 Silky Straight in Swamp," Susi Brister
“613 Silky Straight in Swamp,” Susi Brister

Whimsical and eery at the same time, Brister’s “Fables” — on view at Women & Their Work — poke at what is real and what is imaginary.

Says Brister: “Acrylic neon crystals, camouflaging textiles, twisted piles of brightly colored tape, and layers upon layers of artificial hair extensions shroud forms that integrate with or interrupt the natural environment in a seeming attempt to blend in, but which ultimately emphasize the gap between the natural world and its synthetic imitations. ”

“Fables: Susi Brister” continues through Jan. 15.

Women & Their Work, Gallery hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays (Closed Dec. 24-Jan. 4).  and

We get letters

We get letters.

On Dec. 14, editorial page editor Tara Trower Doolittle wrote a column entitled “Austin stages are ready for more authentic multiculutralism” in response to Zach Theatre’s current production of “A Christmas Carol.”

You can read Doolittle’s column here: (This and all following links are subscription-free.)

Also on Dec. 14,  I devoted my arts column to the same topic. Read “Zach Theatre’s ‘Christmas Carol’ too reductive” here:

Readers and theater professionals responded.

We published two Letters to the Editor from Zach Theatre supporters on Dec. 16 who wrote in response  photo(15)

Next, Rupert Reyes, artistic director of Teatro Vivo, sent a letter which we published in our Dec. 17 Letters to the Editor,

Reyes wrote: “Presenting stereotypes creates obstacles to communication that could help bring our communities together.”

Read Reyes’ entire letter here:



Review: Tapestry Dance Company’s “Of Mice and Music”

(This review is written by American-Statesman freelance arts critic Claire Christine Spera.)

As I approached the Long Center via the South First Street bridge, my eyes lingered on the candy cane-striped columns adorning the performing arts center’s downtown-facing patio, good advertisement for the complex’s hosting of not one, but two “Nutcrackers” that weekend: Ballet Austin’s classical version in Dell Hall, and local dance academy and professional tap troupe Tapestry Dance Company’s anything-but-traditional “Of Mice and Music: A Jazz Nutcracker” in the Rollins. Of-Mice

On Friday evening, I was there to see “Of Mice and Music” (running through Sunday Dec. 21), a holiday tradition for Tapestry that gives the academy’s dancers, age 4 through adults, the opportunity to participate in a professional-level theatrical experience, complete with live music.

Conceived and directed by Tapestry artistic director Acia Gray, the production offers a modern take on a classic. The two-act ballet is whittled down to a one-act, one-hour version that includes tap and lyrical choreography, all set to a jazz-quartet score by Blue J, a reinterpretation of Tchaikovsky’s classical score.

In Tapestry’s production, Clara (danced by academy student Sydney Gallagher) is a modern-day teenager, complete with cell phone; her mother is a woman who shrieks at the sight of giant mice (can’t we all relate?).

Tapestry’s academy dancers make up several groups: the Rhythm Boys, an all-boys tap ensemble taught exclusively by men; Visions in Rhythm, for young dancers who spend at least 10 hours a week training across dance styles; and Visions in Motion, reserved for adult dance students. Then, of course, there is the professional tap company, North America’s only full-time professional tap troupe.

Moms and dads, grandmothers and grandfathers, sisters and brothers, families and friends — all were at the show to support Tapestry’s students. The audience was littered with video cameras and congratulatory bouquets of flowers stashed under chairs and in laps, awaiting the inevitable post-performance clutch of the performers.

Before the performance had even started, the jazz quartet was already playing such holiday favorites as “Jingle Bells” and the “Jingle Bell Rock.” The visual centerpiece onstage was a 20-foot Christmas tree.

“Of Mice and Music” is filled with all the usual characters, but presents them with a twist, from the tacky-Christmas-sweater-donning party-goers, to the Nutcracker and the Rat King, who do battle not with canons and swords, but via a dance-off.

Aww-ing over the sweet innocence of the pink-leotard-and-tights baby mice, who traipse behind the Rat King (played by professional company member Tony Merriwether), gives way to ooh-ing at the tuxedo-donning rats — the older children who clearly have tap chops to demonstrate.

The production is also an opportunity to check out Tapestry’s new professional company dancers (the only returning member this season is Siobhan Cook). As the Russian toy, Jeremy Arnold popped around the stage self-assuredly; Michael Love’s interpretation of the Spanish toy involved lightening-quick footwork with handclaps for accents; and special guest Rebecca Whitehurst’s Marzipan doll was an over-the-top French coquette who elicited much laughter from the audience.

With its mix of professional and amateur performances, “Of Mice and Music” has an appeal to audiences beyond the family and friends of the performers. If you’re looking for something Christmas-y with a touch of modern this season, look no further than Tapestry’s production.

“Of Mice and Music” continues through Sunday.

Review: “Feast of My Heart”

(This review was written by American-Statesman freelance arts critic Cate Blouke.)

December tends to be a time of reflection and giving. It can also bring out the best and the worst in people. So a performance dedicated to compassion seems particularly fitting for this time of year.

“Feast of my Heart,” playing through Saturday at Salvage Vanguard Theater, interrogates what it means to engage in an act of compassion.

The one-man show, deftly performed by Jason Phelps, features eight short pieces written and directed by more than a dozen contemporary theater artists. The short pieces range from narrative monologue to video installation to performance art and will (understandably) suit some tastes more than others.

With pieces from playwrights such as Lisa D’Amour, Zell Miller, and Kirk Lynn, the show offers an array of theatrical styles from talented artists. And with each piece guided by a different director (such as Jenny Larson, Shawn Sides, and Ken Webster), we witness a panoply of tone and movement.

Stephen Pruitt’s lovely set design, paired with Natalie George’s gorgeous saturated lighting, creates a beautiful and lively backdrop for Phelps’ performances.

The first piece, “No Direction, Only Action” by Lisa D’Amour, starts us off slowly and intriguingly. Phelps seems to silently fill himself with joy that he wishes to share with the audience. He chants a sort of song. He does a couple of dances. Then we’re transported elsewhere in the shift to the next piece and we have to quickly assimilate a new world of the play just when we were getting the hang of the last one.

This pattern continues as we move through the eight pieces of the show, and I wish I had felt more sense of continuity. Some of the pieces are narratives or monologues, while others feel like something you might call a choreopoem.

Abstract art works for a lot of people. Museums are filled with Rothko’s and Pollock’s work, and I respect the aesthetic preferences of those that enjoy such work — I’m just not one of them.

Similarly, I have a tremendous amount of respect for the many artists involved in “Feast of My Heart,” and I can appreciate and honor the work that they’ve done, even if I can’t say I enjoyed all that much of it.

Taken individually, the pieces likely have a lot to offer, but pressed together as they are, there was simply too much high concept to wrap my head around.

“Feast of My Heart” continues through Sat. at Salvage Vanguard Theater.

“The Power of Insanity” @ Flatbed Press & Gallery




Known by many as ‘El Pastor,’ José Antonio Galvan founded an asylum, Vision en Accion (Vision in Action), outside of the border city of Ciudad Juarez after overcoming his own struggle with drug use and homelessness.

The asylum provides food, refuge and community to the area’s homeless, drug-addicted and mentally ill.

At Flatbed Press and Gallery through Jan. 10, “The Power of Insanity: The Paintings of  José Antonio Galvan” features art work by El Pastor and his residents. Proceeds from any sales will be gifted to the asylum.

Review: “Anything Goes” national tour

(This review is written by American-Statesman freelance arts critic Cate Blouke.)

When Cole Porter penned his classic tune “Anything Goes” in the 1930s, I doubt he could have imagined how far things would really go – both in terms of the cultural license his song describes and the longevity of the hit Broadway musical that takes the song as its title.

Brought to Austin by Broadway Across America this week, the 2011 revival of the 1934 “Anything Goes” playing at Bass Concert Hall through Sunday, is charming even if it inevitably feels rather dated at times.

"Anything Goes" national tour. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.
“Anything Goes” national tour. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

A romantic comedy set aboard an ocean liner bound from New York to London, the show offers a lot of comic relief and some great dance numbers in addition to the Cole Porter classics: “You’re the Top” and “I Get a Kick Out of You.”


Billy Crocker (Brian Krinsky) is in love with an heiress, Hope Harcourt (Rachelle Rose Clark), but she’s engaged to a British nobleman, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Richard Lindenfelzer). Night club singer Reno Sweeney (Emma Stratton) is fond of Billy but willing to help him win over his lady fair. Since Billy has to stow away on the ship to try and break up the engagement, he needs all the help he can get.

The show is somewhat slow to start, but it builds to an outstanding crescendo with a huge tap number to close out the first act.  Act two is energetic and hilarious, making up for some lost time in the early parts of the performance. By the latter half of the show, the comedy turns truly campy in a delightful way, and it consequently ends the production on a high note.

Emma Stratton is fabulously sultry and adeptly carries the major musical numbers of the performance. Dennis Setteducati (Moonface Martin) is a surprise favorite, especially with his rendition of “Be Like the Blue Bird” in act two.

As the lascivious gangster girl (Erma), Mychal Phillips is adorable, and Richard Lindenfelzer proves his character isn’t the sop we thought he was when he bursts out of his shell with “The Gypsy in Me.”

The costumes in the show are unfortunately hit or miss – some fabulously full of pizzazz, while others are decidedly unflattering for the female characters. The same is somewhat true of the dance numbers, again, with a rather slow and static start to the production that eventually builds to an excellent finale.

“Anything Goes” continues through Dec. 14 at Bass Concert Hall.