Gail Sachson owns Ask Me About Art offering lectures , tours and program planning. She is the former Chair of the Cultural Affairs Commission and former Vice-Chair of the Public Art Committee.
Pamela Nelson. Photo: Gail Sachson
Until she was welcomed at the Arts District’s Fairmont Hotel as the twelfth Artist -in-Residence last month, recently widowed Dallas artist Pamela Nelson says, ” I didn’t even know I was lonely at home.” She is lonely no more. Until mid August, Nelson is enjoying a Penthouse bedroom view, abundant studio space on the hotel’s lower level and a light filled Akard Street lobby gallery space to show her work. And..oh yes… there are chef-prepared meals, Fairmont amenities, such as air conditioning, which she doesn’t have in her downtown loft and..most important… a family of new friends, from the housekeepers to the dining room staff to the hotel guests who peek into her glass enclosed working studio. Old friends visit and peek as well. Girlhood friend Laura Bush stopped in recently along with another artist, husband George.
The Nelson/ Fairmont union seems a perfect match. (The artist points out that one of her favorite artists, Matisse, also made art from a hotel room.) Even the casual viewer will notice the similarity in Nelson’s motifs of repeated patterning, which she calls “Improv Geometry” and the patterns on the hotel’s upholstery, wall covering and carpeting.The rhythmic order and repetitive designs of scrolls and squares and circular elements encourage a restive response in the viewer- composed, but far from comatose – appropriate to a hotel environment, as well as to an artist who meditates.
But Nelson won’t be looking down at the floor patterns very much. Instead , she will be looking out. She is mesmerized by the view from her 23rd-floor penthouse and keeps her bedroom curtains open to awaken to the lights of the city. To the West she points out a number of above ground parking lots and traffic-congested criss-crossing highways. She hopes that area can be developed to look more like the view to the East, in which she sees Klyde Warren Park, green spaces and roof-top gardens , newly discovered from her high perch. She is inspired by the city view.
But inspiration from the energy of our city is not new to Nelson. An ardent Downtown living advocate, she walks everywhere, works in her Harwood Street studio, volunteers at the Stewpot and shops at Farmer’s Market. When chosen as the 2008-2009 mural artist by the Dallas Catholic Foundation, she created “Magic Carpet”, her tribute to a strong city, a golden glowing mural of the grid of the Arts District, a view, fittingly, she sees now from her bedroom window. “New City Planning”, a six panel work, is displayed in the Fairmont gallery and promotes in paint Nelson’s vision for Dallas: more green space, two way streets, park benches and trees.
Collage fabric works fill the gallery. Works on paper dominate the studio. The walls and tables there are filled with works in progress.”I love the immediacy of working with paper”, she says. “Piece of My Heart” is a four piece suite which is especially powerful and poignant. In it, Nelson has cut out pieces of past work, as if they were pieces of her heart, after losing husband, Bill. She then painted them black and reinserted them into new work, perhaps symbolically attempting a new life for the work and for herself.