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Christopher Blay Wins SMU’s Moss/Chumley Artist Award

Christopher Blay refers to his images in the show as "anti-images." Photos: Christopher Blay

Photo by Christopher Blay

Christopher Blay, one of the founders of the Fort Worth photography collective Group f.8 and a curator of a Tarrant County College gallery, is the 2013 recipient of the Moss/Chumley Artist Award. The annual prize is given to an outstanding North Texas artist who has exhibited for at least ten years and is a community advocate for the visual arts.

Earlier this year, the William Campbell Contemporary Art gallery reunited the disbanded Group f.8 for a show, and Art & Seek’s Stephen Becker profiled Blay as a “curator of people.” Blay typically uses photography or installation art with a large shot of humor. In a recent solo exhibition at the McKinney Avenue Contemporary, his Machine Time featured antique salon hair dryers, clocks and photo projections. An excerpt from Time Machine was displayed at SMU’s Meadows Museum during the awards presentation on December 12.

A graduate of Texas Christian University, Blay began a community oral history project with the Fort Worth Public Library in 2006 and has created a series of tongue-in-cheek “Frank Artsmarter” videos spoofing critical theory and the “cult of celebrity” around artists. Earlier this year, he won an NEA grant for “Activating Vacancy” with the bc workshop.

Previous recipients of the Moss/Chumley Award include Noah Simblist, Bob Nunn, Tracy Hicks and Stephen Lapthisophon. The full press release:

MEADOWS MUSEUM ANNOUNCES 2013 MOSS/CHUMLEY ARTIST AWARD WINNER: CHRISTOPHER BLAY

DALLAS (SMU) ( Dec. 18 , 2013 ) – The Meadows Museum has announce d that Christopher Blay has won the 2013 Moss/Chumley Artist Award. The award is given annually to an outstanding North Texas artist who has exhibited professionally for at least ten years and has a proven track record as a community advocate for the visual arts.

Blay received the award on December 12 th du ring the Meadows Museum’s holiday party and preview for the exhibition Sorolla and America .

“Christopher Blay truly represents what the Moss/Chumley Award is all about,” said Mark Roglán, the Linda P. and William A. Custard Director of the Meadows Museum a nd Centennial Chair, Meadows School of the Arts, SMU. “We are excited to honor an exceptional North Texas artist who has done so much to give back to the arts community.”

This year’s Moss/Chumley Award winner is a multimedia artist who combines installation and photographic art. Blay’s recent solo exhibitions include Machine Time , an installation at McKinney Avenue Contemporary comprised of old hair – drying stations, clocks, an overhead projector and other photographic ephemera. Faces Sequence f or Alpha Station , an excerpt from Machine Time , was displayed at the Meadows Museum during the award presentation and will be on view through out December.

“I’m thrilled to join this list of esteemed artists,” said Blay. “I thank the Meadows Museum for hon oring me with an award named after Frank Moss and Jim Chumley, who made so many contributions to the arts community in North Texas.” The Moss/Chumley Award was founded to recognize not only talented artists living in North Texas, but also to acknowledge t hose who have proven track record s as community advocate s for the visual arts. Blay has been called a “curator of people , ” and his civic – mindedness is evident in the community – centered projects he creates. While working on an art project at the Fort Worth Public Library in 2006 Blay beg an a community oral history project that included several DFW communities, and he received grants from t he Arts Council of Northeast Tarrant County for his oral history projects on Haltom City and Keller.

Blay has served on the program committee for the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center and the steering committee for the Emergency Artists Support League (EASL) and he spearheaded a charity auction (VELVEASL!) to raise money for the EASL. He has donated art for several years to Artists against Aids as well as EASL, and he is a teaching artist at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth’s Spring Break Art Camps.

“Each year, we get a bigger pool of talented artists who apply for the Moss/Chumley Award, but Christopher was an obvious choice,” said Nicole Atzbach, Curator of the Meadows Museum. “He’s a very talented artist who takes a dualistic approach: he’s very socially minded in his art, and his community projects are centered around art, as well. His civic – mindedness makes him a natural fit for this award.”

Blay received an Associate of Arts degree in Fine Art in 1998 from Tarrant County College and a Bachelor of Fine Art degree in 2003 from Texas Christian University. While still attending TCU he founded the Fort Wor th photography collective Group f.8. Later, he focused on installation art while using a deconstructive approach to photography that kept him close to his love for the equipment and tactile process es of pre – digital photography.

The process of image making , an overarching theme in Blay’s work, connects this artist’s endeavors in installation and photographic art. This process can refer literally to the chemical process of photography , as in his “anti – graphs” created with expired Polaroid grid film .

In more metaphorical terms, Blay’s image – making process refers to the manipulation of public personas: His Artist as Dictator images were self – portraits modeled after Charles G. Taylor , the Liberian dictator who was the subject of Blay’s elaborate 2009 installat ion, The Trial of Charles Taylor , in which the artist recorded eight hours of transcripts from Taylor’s trial at The Hague for his 1980 coup.

Blay’s more recent works take to task the “cult of personality that develops around art and artists” with equal pa rts wit and humor. His 2011 sculpture series Art Depreciation presented such p arodic juxtapositions as Do nald Judd Apatow , Samuel L. Jackson Pollock, L’il Wayne Thiebaud and Steely Dan Flavin .

Blay is the curator of Art Corridor II, the gallery of Tarrant County College (Southeast Campus ). He was awarded an NEA grant in 2013 for “Activating Vacancy” with BC Workshop as well as his previously mentioned g rant s from the Arts Council of Northeast Tarrant County . In 2011, he received the Tarrant County College Northeast Distinguished Alumni Award.

The jury for the 201 3 Moss/Chumley award included Michael Corris, Professor and Chair, Division of Art, SMU ; Joan Davidow, director emerita, Dallas Contemporary; Heyd Fontenot, artist and director of Central Trak, University of Texas at Dallas Artists Residency; George T. Lee, Jr., attorney at law and Meadows Museum Advisory Council member; Peter Simek, arts editor, D Magazine; Kevin Vogel, owner, Valley House Gallery, and Meadows Museum Advisory Council memb er; Nicole Atzbach, curator, Meadows Museum; Shelley DeMaria, curatorial assistant, Meadows Museum; Holly Hutzell, registrar, Meadows Museum.

Moss/Chumley Memorial Fund and Artist Award

The Moss/Chumley Memorial Fund was begun in 1989 by Frank Moss and the Meadows Museum as a tribute to Jim Chumley; Moss’s name was added to the fund upon his death in 1991. Moss and Chumley were two Dallas art dealers who made outstanding contributions to the visual arts in North Texas during the 1980s. The pair operated the Nimbus Gallery on Routh Street from 1980 to 1987 and the Moss/Chumley Gallery at the Crescent Court from 1986 to 1989, where they showcased numerous new artists.

Established in 1995, the Moss/Chumley Artist Award is given in their memory. The award is open to artists working in any medium who live in one of the eleven North Texas counties: Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Hunt, Johnson, Kaufman, Parker, Rockwall, Tarrant, and Wise.

Past recipients have included Isabelle duToit , Juliette McCullough, Catherine Chauvin, Kaleta Doolin, David Dreyer, Susan Kae Grant, David Hickman, Tracy Hicks, David McCullough, Bob Nunn, Sherry Owens, Ludwig Schwarz, Noah Simblist, Janet Tyson, Marie Van Arsdale, Mary Vernon, and Marilyn Waligore . Last year’s winner was Stephen Lapthisophon