Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art at the Blanton

Walking into the Blanton, walls alive with Australian Aboriginal art,  one enters into a multidimensional conscious, dreaming and ancestral energy landscape. The images compel the body to enter into the dreamtime.  It’s one of the most vibrant collections I’ve seen, showing through September 9th.  If you go to one art exhibit this year, see this one!

From the Blanton

“The word landscape, derived from the Dutch landschap (region or tract of land) and first recorded in 1598, describes a way of depicting the natural world developed by European artists. Australian Aboriginal artists offer an entirely different vision, in which they forgo Western conventions of horizon lines and figure-ground distinctions. Instead, they give form to their mental maps of sites. The new version of landscape painting was most famously practiced by artists in Papunya, a government settle for displaced Aboriginal groups. In 1971, artists there began painting walls boards, and canvases to educate outsiders about their land and the obligation of “caring for country.” This defiance of government policies that forced people into artificial communities and taught children to ignore their ancestors sent shock waves through Australia.

Papunya artists painted swiftly and retained a commitment to secrets embedded in their system of learning. Their innovation helped spawn a modern art movement in Austraila. The resulting paintings “represent” the desert in ways that maintain the artists’ control over what is seen and what can never be revealed. While many of the sacred symbols and stories in the paintings may be explained to audiences outside the community, some remain accessible only to the individual, kinship groups, or peoples who share a particular Dreaming, an ancestral realm comprising spiritual beings, governing laws, and their narratives.”

SOBRO – keeping it real in South Austin The Barn and Sam’s Town Point

SOBRO (South Brodie) is sprouting some legit “old Austin” venues. For those who have seen the decades transform our fair town, I take pleasure in reporting  two of these  Austintatious spots. Evangeline’s deserves a shout out as well, but that’s a story for another day. I’ve been watching The Barn develop into an intriguing music and food trailer haven. Last Sunday they offered a Bluegrass Scramble and Garage Sale with some tantalizing new food trucks.

Soul of a Hick, serving fresh fried chicken and fish accompanied by flavorful side dishes, has been garnering rave reviews for a year. The latest additions, Parisian Crepes and Chico Jr.  BBQ are right at home among the rustic picnic tables. I was torn between the sweet and savory crepes, made with wholesome, fresh ingredients. I opted for the Pesty Chicken, which was scrumptious and satisfying.  Our chefs, Sigi and Roger tempted me with dessert, another time.

With several outdoor seating areas, a bar, barn and food trucks, it’s a South Austin must see and taste.

Sam’s Town Point is another recommended sound and taste experience. I’ve enjoyed the music and the classic dive bar ambiance and am looking forward to sampling the retro supper club menu, courtesy of Cucina Serafina. The food is not offered every day, so check their FB page. Sam’s bookings are diverse and parking is good. The trip down Riddle Road alone is a tribute to keeping it weird in South Austin. Here are two favorites from my recent visits. Snaps for the Charlie Christians who got Bruce and Tanya from Colorado dancing. I asked them how they found out about the band and they said they just asked people on the street where a good place to dance was and here they were.

Speedy Sparks and the Koolerators play weekly, featuring the venerable Speedy Sparks, Larry Lange, Steve Wheeless, Grady Pinkerton and guest artist Eve Monsees in this Bo Diddley tribute.

SOBRO, it’s Austintatious.

Vaudeville @ the Harry Ransom Center

Vaudeville: novelty, naughtiness, noir at the HRC

Vaudeville broke sexual, gender, racial and cultural taboos and continues its evolution today in performances by Colbert, on Saturday Night Live and in many live venues worldwide. I was also struck by it as an early prototype of the internet – browsing  an oddball collection of incidental entertainment.

Comedian George Gordon Fuller created the Vaudeville Managers Association, or White Rats Union, originally open only to white impresarios.  As the demand grew and the shows evolved, women and black entertainers started circuits and shows of their own. Both white and black actors used black face and minstrel formats, some black artists ironically.  You can see some of the musicians and stars who progressed into the movie and TV era with much more power than their Vaudeville predecessors.

Drag shows are nothing new. Few performers had careers that were as vaunted and long lasting as drag sensation Vander Clyde/Dora Kallmus from Austria, known internationally as Barbette.

Sex, music, magic, comedy and drama still exert their fascination.  The exhibit is up until July 15th. Go see the show!

Sauntering the Austin Central Library

I’ve been looking forward to seeing the new Central Library, an evolutionary leap into the future of community reading and reflection.  To get the most from my visit, I walked from the hike and bike trail, a luxury I truly enjoy.

There is always construction in downtown Austin, an eager beaver metropolis bent on eliminating the very things that made it so delightful.  The new Central Library, however, is an investment in our collective soul.  It’s shiny and new, but mindful of our need to find a shared sanctuary.  This is  a cathedral of libraries, a stadium among warehouses. The reading rooms are varied, the design flows aesthetically and there are good reading nooks everywhere.

Art and music spaces and rooms to write and collaborate are sprinkled throughout. The Lance Letscher and the Armadillo Art Squad exhibits were authentically weird and brought back fond memories of great Austin eras in music and art.

With so many nooks and crannies to explore, the Austin Central Library is a perfect place to rediscover your joy in reading.  For many screen junkies, this will be a great way to fall in love with a good book and get off the endless cycle of bad news.  Saunter over, it’s a beautiful day.

 

 

What will catch the sauntering eye?

It’s impossible to resist the allure of a sunny autumn day, so I took my camera with me to the hike and bike trail at Ladybird Lake. Since you never know what will catch your eye, I started architecturally and flowed into the colors of fall vegetation. Rest in joy Chris, remembering your sweet smile and SRV tearing it up at Auditorium Shores.

Jim Waltrip – Color Pops at the Graeber House

I was introduced to the Graeber House at 410 at It’s Environmentally Inspired, another pop up show featuring a variety of artists, sculptors and potters.  This weekend show: Color Pops – Portals Within in partnership with Pecan Street Gallery, featured visual artist Jim Waltrip in his first solo show.

Jim, a native Texan, grew up in San Antonio and has lived in Austin 20 years. He captures organic imagery such as flowers, fruits, herbs, and leaves using high resolution digital scanners and macro photography. The images are rendered onto metallic substrates and mounted under acrylic glass and resins. The resulting pieces are detailed, vibrant, colorful images that celebrate the infinite complexity of life.

Jim is the owner of the Graeber House, an architectural marvel tucked between the 512 Bar and the Museum of the Weird, at once in the thick of the action and yet, a sanctuary of good taste.  If you have been to dirty sixth lately, you know what a rarity that is. Fortunately, it’s a block away from 5th street with Antone’s, Eddie V’s, Russian House  and Trinity Hall.

Keep an eye out for more weeknight pop up shows and cultural events from Jim Waltrip and Suzy French.  The Graeber House is well worth the visit.

Beauty in all directions

As part of the practice of being in beauty, I sauntered Ladybird Lake during our fall butterfly season. On such a gorgeous day,  walking in beauty came easily. I was surrounded.

Sometimes you just feel like dancing. This town.

B3 Summit @ Antones – snaps from Austin music nerds

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Click on photo for snaps

The B3 Summit at Antone’s this Saturday reminded me of why I love this city.  Where else will four internationally renowned jazz, rock, soul and funk influenced organists share a bill designed for music nerds and musicians? I predict we will not see the likes of a groove this deep for some time.

The Hammond B3 is part of the soundtrack of our lives, from its heyday in the 50’s and 60’s in jazz or rock. From Ray Manzarek of the Doors to the incomparable Jimmy Smith, it’s the “take me out to the ballgame” sound of classic Americana.

Ike Stubblefield has played with Motown legends like the Four Tops, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Martha Reeves, Stevie Wonder and Rare Earth. His soulful R&B style helped forge the sound of Al Green, Ike & Tina Turner, Curtis Mayfield, B.B. King, The Pointer Sisters and George Benson and more recently, Cee Lo Green. Ike’s band is the first featured in the video highlights below.

Luckily, three of these four B3 masters live in Austin. Red Young has played with musicians ranging in style from: Eric Burdon, Linda Ronstadt, Dan Hicks, Joan Armatrading and  George Clinton to Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, Dolly Parton, Tanya Tucker with time in between on the Sonny and Cher show. More entrepreneurial than most, he has owned nightclubs and performs throughout the world in many different formats – both piano, organ, on vocals, conducting, producing and arranging his own and others’ compositions.  See upcoming gigs for the many flavors of Red. Brannen Temple, the drummer featured in the video has worked with Eric Burdon, Lizz Wright, The Dixie Chicks, Sheena Easton, Chaka Kahn and too many Austin acts to name. Look for him at the One 2 One, Elephant Room and Antone’s with Red Young and many others. Mike Malone, the saxophonist featured in the video, plays with NuJazzSwing and often with Brannen Temple and other jazz musicians in town.

Dr. James Polk & Centerpeace may keep a more relaxed pace than his counterparts, but he is no lightweight on the national music scene. Polk is best-known for his work with Ray Charles, touring as an organist, pianist, writer, arranger and conductor from 1978 to 1985. He’s Texas born and bred, with roots in Deep Elum, along with Ornette Coleman. He moved to Austin in the 1970’s, forming James Polk and the Brothers, featuring Angela Strehli, with WC Clark on bass and John X Reed on guitar. These days, his main focus is on the Dr. James Polk Academy of Arts and Technology and helping to hold down the jazz scene in Austin.

Mike Flanigin is the fourth B3 player in the video. His latest project, The Drifter, was described as “the perfect record for late-night parties or all-day drives through the desert” by Rolling Stone. Billy Gibbons, Alejandro Escovedo and Kat Edmondson are among the supporting artists. Mike has regular gigs at the Continental Club Gallery, C-Boys Heart and Soul and Antone’s.

While this was a truly exceptional show, there is fine music happening every night in this town. Go out and support our incredible local talent!

Final homage to the B3 from Jimmy Smith, enjoy.

Austin Music Summit – The FeedBak

Two months ago I attended one of the  Austin Music Summit meetings at Strange Brew and met Bak Zoumanigui, an Austin podcaster and blogger. A veteran of Austin’s nightlife, his website The FeedBak features videos and podcasts from 2 am interviews, stories in the night and most recently, three excellent shows highlighting the City of Austin’s process of soliciting feedback from citizens at art and music summits. The recommendations for stabilizing the Austin creative ecosystem can be found here.

I’ve been here since the 1970’s, going to school, working at UT, the Austin Public Libraries, as a waitress, gallery assistant and unpaid artist and writer.  Artists and musicians created what is a now storied entertainment scene during a time in which housing and the cost of living was kind to creatives.  The same two bedroom cottage I rented in Travis Heights for $125 a month in 1976 would sell for at least $500,000 now.  Affordability is one of the biggest challenges working artists and musicians face in 21st Century Austin.

This is an ongoing conversation, in the meantime check FeedBak podcasts to catch up:

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FDBK Ep. 098 – Save Austin Music Part 1 – Work With The City. Do Not Rely On It

Interviews with Rebecca Farrell, an attorney at Austin Music Law and Tee Double, the founder of Urban Artist Alliance, helping urban artists learn about the business side of the music industry.

FDBK Ep. 099 – Save Austin Music Part 2 – Bet On Music Tech

Bak talks with Chris Bush, the CEO of TipCow, and Dan Redman, founder of Mosaic Sound Collective about how their ventures fit in Mayor Adler’s Omnibus Resolution to preserve the Austin music scene.

Yesterday, Bak talked with Music Summit organizers at City Hall in his 100th podcast for the Feedbak.  If you were not able to attend the meetings, these conversations are the next best thing.  Please give them a listen and use the link in the photo below for the last in the series.  Austin is striving to find ways to keep the city livable for artists and musicians. Thanks Bak, for getting the word out and please consider joining the fight and donating to the FeedBak!

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Thornton Road – West Austin Studio Tour

ThorntonWestAustinThe collective at the Thornton Road Studios, located by ABGB at Oltorf and Thornton Road boasts an important victory for artists trying to live and work in Austin.  In February, the Austin City Council decided 10 -1 in favor of denying a request for a zoning change, which would have razed the studio complex in favor of a mixed use development (read more condos).  It seems that every available parcel of land in South Austin is being gobbled up, transforming lush, green tracts on  Del Curto Drive and Clawson Lane into crowded, condo tunnels. Mayor Steve Adler has launched  the Austin Music and  Creative Omnibus Resolution which seeks input from the creative sector on keeping Austin artist friendly, stemming the tide of increasingly unaffordable housing and venue loss. In short, a battle for the soul-y of our city and I don’t just mean our “brand.”  This is one of a series of posts about the summits, which The Austin Chronicle reported on in April.

In addition to the creation of a Cultural District downtown on Red River and the thinkEAST living and working development, I would encourage cultivating creative corridors that are already developing organically in South Austin (SOCO, SOLA and SOCHACA)  and in North Austin (BURO).  Rather than building new units, it might be wise for the city to reclaim and upgrade apartments and offer grants to venues (like Strange Brew) that share an intention to grow collaboratively with other vendors or partners like ACC.

The West and East Austin Studio Tours are a great way to get an impression of just how many artists are meeting the affordability challenge in pursuit of their passion.  I offer a few in the gallery below who have made Thornton Road Studios their creative home. Featured artists include: Creative Side Metal Works, Wyss Bronko – Drugparty Collaborative, Cindy Corkill, Rita Marie Ross, Jacob Colburn, Mindy Graber, Sandy Muckleroy, Christine Gilbert and Greg Davis.