Harry Shearer’s voice is probably most familiar to people. But in addition to voice acting for memorable characters such as Mr. Burns, Smithers, and Ned Flanders on the long-running cartoon show The Simpsons, Shearer is an actor, comedian, philosopher, and political satirist. And he’s just been announced as this year’s recipient of Dallas VideoFest’s Ernie Kovacs Award, honoring innovation in television and media.
- This week on Frame of Mind, we will be featuring a set of shorts created by Kat Candler, an independent filmmaker based in Austin, Texas. This episode will include Love Bug, Roberta Wells, and Quarter to Noon.
- Tune into KERA TV on Thursday, September 25 at 10 PM to catch this week’s episode.
On Love Bug:
I had written a one act play in college called The Spider in the Bathtub and my playwriting professor told me that I should think about turning it into a screenplay or a short film. I hadn’t really thought about making movies – I had worked in a movie theater from the age of 15 all the way through college, but I didn’t really know how movies were made and that was one of my early thoughts of “Oh, maybe I should make movies!”
So when I moved to Austin, I decided to turn that one act play into a feature screenplay. I tucked it into my writing folder and then years later, I got it back out and started rewriting it and then I got into this development program at Tribeca to try and get it off of the ground. So as a sample from the feature, I pulled a scene and refashioned it into a 7 minute script. That was how Love Bug came to be.
On Roberta Wells:
I was going through a terrible breakup and I had sworn off film for a little while and then I got the interest to make something again. So I gathered up some of my friends and I kept thinking of my Great Aunt Urna, who had emphysema and had to carry her box around, and kept thinking about the elderly in my family and how in big gatherings, they become overlooked and a little bit forgotten about. I wanted to take a slice of life and make something. I gathered a bunch of friends for a really quick weekend shoot.
This was shot back in 2004 or 2003 so we were still back in the mini DV phase. But I wanted it to have a kind of documentary style to it where you are questioning at first whether it is a documentary. I also played with the idea of having two cameras filming from the beginning to the very end and following around these characters to see where they went. So it was just a fun little experiment exercise to help me get back into filmmaking.
On Quarter to Noon:
I was working a desk job at an artificial intelligence software company at the time. I had worked a day job all my life and it’s just sitting at a desk for 8-9 hours. At that particular job I didn’t even have any windows in my office, it felt so isolated and cave like. So I wanted to explore just getting out of that and following your dreams and your passions and what really makes you happy.
Making this film was actually really fun because it’s the only thing that I’ve ever done that had some kind of fantastical element to it. So it was a lot of fun trying to figure out the design. Also, because there’s no dialogue at all, I got to talk to my actors during actual shooting. So I was actually able to talk to her through the whole thing, like “oh, what’s out the window?” or “oh, let’s go look.” Things like that were really fun. My sound designer and my composer were also really close friends, so they cooperated really well. I also spoke with my composer about that Tim Burton-esque feel of magical realism.
On her most challenging short:
Quarter to Moon was probably the most challenging to make because it had more visual effects that we had to figure out and play with. We literally brought this huge window into a park and had to set it up and figure out all of that. That was in 2008 or 2007, it all feels like a really long time ago.
At the same time, Love Bug was really challenging because 9 year olds only last 4-5 hours and then they’re done. You have to kind of squeeze in everything you can into the first half of the day and then they’re out and wanting to go play their gameboy. But equally, they’re just a lot of fun and silly to hang out with and you get to do some really fun stuff with them.
On Indie filmmaking in Texas:
I think it’s something special. I’ve grown up with so many of the filmmakers in Austin and Dallas, from the time we were making shorts and our first features, to now when so many of us are having successes over the last couple of years. It’s been a really rewarding experience to share that with this many beautiful and unique voices from Texas. Each person has their own style and voice and is very different and I think that’s something that makes Texas filmmaking and Texas filmmakers very unique.
On her favorite Texas filmmaker:
I have so many! They’re all so great, from the Zellner brothers, to David Lowery, to Yen Tan, to Jeff Nichols, to the great David Gordon Green, to Heather Courtney, all of these folks are all really great storytellers who are taking interesting approaches to filmmaking; from the wacky kind of zany brand of humor, to the lyrical poetry of David Lowery, to the phenomenal storytelling of Jeff Nichols. We all support each other and help each other out – David just gave me notes on a new script, and I’m actually going to lunch with David Zellner in a little bit – it’s a really tight knit group of folks and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of the community. There’s no competition either, which I feel like you may find in other cities, specifically in LA and New York, which is very rare.
On her future projects:
I had a short called Black Metal that was at Sundance in 2013 and I am currently expanding that into a feature right now. I’m also reading a lot of books and writing scripts and trying to find something to adapt.
On being included in Frame of Mind
I think it’s awesome! In Dallas, Bart Weiss and KERA have been a part of my growing up as a filmmaker for well over a decade. I had a short in 2001 or 2002 that was on KERA, so it’s nice to go full circle and now have a collection of shorts to show as a full body of work.
You can find more of Kat Candler’s work on her website.
Congratulations to Neff Conner of Bedford, the winner of the Flickr Photo of the Week contest! Neff is a multiple winner to our little contest, he last grabbed the gold back in June of 2009. He follows last week’s winner, Marjan Smeijsters.
If you would like to participate in the Flickr Photo of the Week contest, all you need to do is upload your photo to our Flickr group page. It’s fine to submit a photo you took earlier than the current week, but we are hoping that the contest will inspire you to go out and shoot something fantastic this week to share with Art&Seek users. If the picture you take involves a facet of the arts, even better. The contest week will run from Tuesday to Monday, and the Art&Seek staff will pick a winner on Friday afternoon. We’ll notify the winner through FlickrMail (so be sure to check those inboxes) and ask you to fill out a short survey to tell us a little more about yourself and the photo you took. We’ll post the winners’ photo on Tuesday.
Title of photo: Dallas 9/19/14 7:18 am
Equipment: Canon PowerShot S110
Tell us more about your photo: As I settled in at the office with my first cup of coffee, I glanced out the window and this scene caught my eye. The unusually low, wispy clouds seemed to reach around the rigid architecture of the downtown buildings for a soft, pre-dawn embrace. Five minutes later, the clouds had cleared, leaving the stark structures alone on the horizon as the day’s first light poured over them.
William Deresiewicz is best known these days for his anti-Ivy League manifesto, Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life – which has been causing all kinds of furor ever since an excerpt appeared in July in The New Republic with the headline: “Don’t Send Your Kid to the Ivy League.” His name might be familiar to Dallasites, however, for something before that: Last year, he was a winner of the Hiett Prize, the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture’s $50,000 award for promising writer-scholar-thinkers in the humanities. These days, Deresiewicz is on a speaking tour of, you guessed it, Ivy League campuses.
eighth blackbird, the Grammy-winning, Chicago-based, contemporary music sextet, was one of the first winners of SMU’s Meadows Prize — which had them performing and teaching here in Dallas in 2010. Now they’re performing Columbine’s Paradise Theater in New York, a 60-minute fantasia on the commedia dell’arte that “combines instrumental music, singing, speaking, sputtering, movement, dance and all manner of comedic and intense physical gyrations.” Composed by Amy Beth Kirsten, Paradise opened the new season at Columbia University’s Miller Theater — and got a rave in The New York Times.
Finally, Dan Knechtges, who directed and choreographed the premiere of the musical Give It Up! at the Dallas Theater Center in 2010 — and then did the same off-Broadway and on-Broadway when it was re-named Lysistrata Jones — is now directing former SNL regular Rachel Dratch in the political satire, Tail! Spin! Set to open Oct. 1 at the off-Broadway Lynn Redgrave Theatre, the show uses actual reported dialogue from various political sex scandals, with Dratch handling all the female roles.
For this week’s Art & Seek Spotlight, we’re going all over North Texas to check out art at the 29th Annual DADA Fall Gallery Walk and Bike Swarm. From Denton to Oak Cliff, there are more than 35 galleries to stop at showing everything from paintings and sculptures to colonial era tribal art and works by North Texans.
For the first time in 15 years, the Dallas Opera has announced it’s now balanced its budget two seasons in a row. In 2012, the opera’s finances were seriously hurting. Having moved into the Winspear Opera House, the company was forced to cut back its regular season from five shows to three. The new season, which starts next month, returns to five full productions, including Everest, a world premiere.
Dallas Opera general manager Keith Cerny says the financial turn-around has been the result of company-wide changes: “One of the things we’ve been working on the last several years has been re-orienting the opera’s mission around community service. We have launched a major public simulcast series which has really helped build support in the community. We’ve refreshed our programming — with more commissions and lesser-known works. And we appointed a new music director about 18 months ago, Emmanuel Villaume, who has had a big impact on the company. Taken together, these different areas have allowed us to really improve our profile in the community and increase donor support. ”
Cerny says, all of this has led to balancing Dallas Opera’s $15 million budget twice — ahead of schedule.
Watch Gabriel Dawe create Plexus at 2100 Ross, in Dallas.
Dallas artist Gabriel Dawe makes physically imposing and yet nebulous sculpture of thread stretched between the points on the ceiling on the floor. He creates a multifaceted geometric shape, the color changing like a rainbow as the viewer’s eye shifts around the form. Essentially a simple concept, like the nail-and-thread art that many children make, Dawe has taken this idea to its extreme, in his words “doing that same idea but in space, and pushing the boundaries of what drawing could be, putting steroids in them. “
Originally from Mexico, Dawe moved to Dallas from Canada, to transition from a career in graphic design to one in art. He’s created installations around the U.S., in Canada, Mexico and London. Dawe is one of three Dallas artists included in the massive State of the Art exhibition at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Closer to home, his next show, Requiem for a Fallen Structure, comes to Conduit Gallery in October and will explore what happens to his work post-installation.
We caught up with Dawe a few months ago to watch him install a piece inside 2100 Ross, just across from the Dallas Arts District. Dawe’s Plexus inhabits the building’s main stairwell, and is his tallest creation so far.
“It’s going to be a structure that is formed completely with sewing thread, a geometric structure that reaches from the ceiling to the floor, in the central staircase,” he says, as the project began. “I don’t know exactly how much thread I am going to be using, but roughly around 40 and 60 miles of thread. The thread is in 16 different shades, and it starts with blue on the outside, edges and angles, to green then yellow. “
Dawe uses large spools of regular sewing thread, that he selects in turn based on their color to create his rainbow, that fools the eye into thinking the tones fade without seam or transition into the next.
“Photographs don’t do the pieces justice,” says Dawe. “They do make beautiful photographs, but I think with my pieces you have to see them in real life to catch the subtleties. They change as you move round them; they are almost kinetic; the lines … really start messing with your depth perception, and it comes to life when you move around it.”
How he does it
I asked him how he plans these works.
“Every time I have a new installation, I start a dialogue with the space. I have to take into account architectural peculiarities of the space, and see where I can accommodate the hooks that the thread it attached to. It’s always a result of that dialogue that I form, what the installation will look like.
Once I know what I am going to do, there’s a lot of planning to see how much time I am going to need, and how much thread to order. Once I am in the space, I install the hooks. This is the most challenging part, the part I like the least. Using power tools is not my forte. But once they are in place, I start stretching the thread back and forth, one at a time.
I have a plan that I write on paper, so I know what precise steps to make – the plan is basically is a bunch of numbers, one row that are the hooks, then I have a series of numerical sequences – it’s a plan of the connections between the books.”
For this particular installation, the height presented challenges. Dawe’s assistant stands in a cherry picker, and Dawe uses scaffolding to reach. With the extension pole, he reaches towards the ceiling, and his assistant takes the thread and runs it through the hook. This process continues, over and over.
“It becomes very zen-like, because you get in the zone, and I am counting in my head as I have to be aware what hook I did last. One of the challenges here is that it’s a construction site. I have to focus!
It feels like running a marathon, in that you get into that head space. The best bit is where you are close to the end, and you have only a few hooks left. Finishing a piece is really satisfying. By the end of the installation I need a massage”
It is a very labor intensive process. And it seems a little obsessive.
Yes, it is. Most of my work has a big emphasis on repetition. It’s something in my manner of being, it’s just also this desire of pattern making, and pushing a certain thing to its limit. Like, you know I used to do drawings when I was a kid where you draw a line, then you shift and draw another, and you make a curve. At some point it hit me while I was doing these installations that I was doing that same idea but in space, and pushing what drawing could be, putting some steroids on them.”
From designer to artist
Dawe’s shift from pens to thread has been a lifelong transition. “You know you grow out of your childhood drawings, and then the way life leads you, you suddenly realize that you are coming full circle to something.”
He worked for a while in Montreal in Canada as a graphic designer, work he initially enjoyed until one day, it was too restrictive, and he felt the need for creative freedom. He quit his job and decided to be an artist.
“Very naively, I thought I could make a living right away. After a year of doing this, I realized it would take a little longer. I was experimenting with collage and painting, and one day I decided I would explore embroidery. “
What prompted that leap?
“When I was a kid in Mexico, my grandmother would teach my sister to embroider, and I never asked her to teach me because I knew it wasn’t allowed for boys. So in my mid twenties, I decided to explore that.
Then I went to grad school and everything started leading me to creating bigger stuff. Embroidery can be very small, and so I wanted to make something bigger than I could do with just a needle and thread. It all came together during my residency at CentralTrak, (University of Texas at Dallas), when Charissa Terranova asked me to do a collaboration with an architect to create a piece. The aim was to explore the relationship between fashion and architecture.
At first my process was a bit crazy. It took me several months, probably five weeks of the actual process of installation. But then, for the next project, I had only one week to install at Conduit. It forced me to look at the process. I came up with a tool that I use so I don’t have to go up ladders, it holds the thread and extends my reach. The tool has had several incarnations but has remained pretty much the same. ”
When I asked for more details, Dawe said it would be like giving away trade secrets.
Roots in Mexico, home in Dallas
Dawe felt constricted as a child, and began to search for a new home with more room to experiment and grow.
“Growing up in Mexico I always felt like an outsider. My family was outside the norm. My father’s family is English, and my mom was the black sheep of her family, and so that combination made me feel I couldn’t fit in. I guess that same feeling is what made me really sensitive to that environment that was limiting. Very restricted in what gender norms are, like with the embroidery. It really affected me. These restrictions were prohibiting me from being myself. Part of that feeling was what lead to me to explore life outside of Mexico.
My first opportunity to leave was when I lived in the UK for one year during college, and that really reinforced my desire to travel. After I graduated I went to Montreal as a designer. I guess one of the things that I really liked about Montreal was the freedom of spirit that town has; it wasn’t so much culture shock, but it really helped me with that feeling of not being an outsider anymore. I think I even have that feeling even more here in the US. That I fit in.
I really felt at home here in Dallas. Texas has this reputation of being this “Red” state, not progressive, and particularly coming from Montreal, which is a very progressive place, people would ask why I chose Texas. I like it, people are really welcoming in my experience. The art scene here is really exciting, and I’ve seen it grow in the last six years. It has offered me a back entry into the artworld at large. Especially being part of CentralTrak and from there having opportunities to show here in Dallas with Conduit Gallery; it started pulling me to the art world.”
As an artist, his influences include light artist James Turrell – he saw a piece of his work in Mexico City as a kid – as well as Anish Kapoor, a British sculptor who “captures what can’t be touched, and makes the infinite visible.” Dawe’s description of Kapoor’s work is strikingly similar to how I would describe Dawe’s own work.
But his two main influences are perhaps less obvious: Vaserely, an influential Op Artist (Optical Art gives the viewer the illusion of movement in still images through color or pattern), and Dawe’s mother, who “loved handicrafts, and had a pretty nice collection of handicraft fabrics, really colorful, so I think that really influences me in my use of color.”
Examining the breathtakingly beautiful Plexus series – the word Plexus describes a network of nerves in the body – it would be easy to conclude it is a cleverly realized exercise in materials and perception alone; what I discovered in talking to him is the extent to which the artist’s life is expressed in every part of it. In every thread is woven his heritage, his mother and grandmother with their handicrafts and embroidery in Mexico, through to his desire to experience something bigger and more challenging than his upbringing allowed.
In a very real sense, Dawe’s work is a visual biography of the artist.
Alison Jardine is an artist from the UK, now based in Dallas. She is a painter in both old and new media and explores the human experience of nature. She’s currently studying for her MFA.
- Watch award-winning shorts from David Lowery on Frame of Mind at 11 Thursday on KERA TV
- Read a longer interview with Lowery by Art&Seek’s Mashal Noor.
- Listen to The Big Screen, which aired on KERA FM
I got to sit in for Stephen Becker on “The Big Screen” this week. (Don’t worry, he’ll be back next week.) Dallas Morning News critic Chris Vognar and I spoke with David Lowery, whose work will be featured Thursday on Frame of Mind. Lowery told us he’s on his way to New Zealand to shoot Pete’s Dragon for Disney. And after that, he’s hoping to shoot Old Man and the Gun here in Dallas. (Watch out for Robert Redford sightings!) Lowery also chats about his shorts, like Pioneer and My Daily Routine, which we’ll air on Frame of Mind Thursday.
- This week on Frame of Mind, we will be featuring a set of short films by North Texas filmmaker, David Lowery. Tune into KERA TV on Thursday, September 18 at 11 PM to catch this week’s episode.
I had the chance to speak with David Lowery on the phone about his films that are being shown:
On My Daily Routine:
I made My Daily Routine at a point where I was just really frustrated with where I was and I wasn’t even making things. There was a lot of red tape I was trying to cut through with other projects, but I really wanted to make something and this film is what I wound up making. The drawings came first and t last thing to come together was the narration.
I sat down and did a bunch of drawings that I felt would convey the story – which is basically what I was doing every day – and then I stitched those together and wrote the narration around them.
I used this specific type of animation partly because I was just lazy – the part where I’m running is about as animated as it gets, it’s as far as I was willing to push in terms of drawing. I don’t consider myself an artist or an animator so I didn’t want to bite off something that I wouldn’t be able to chew. I also just wanted to make something quickly, so if I had done a more traditionally animated movie, it would have taken months.