The Austin Chronicle

After a Fashion

By Stephen MacMillan Moser, August 11, 2006, Columns

ARS GRATIA ARTIS OK, so I got all artsy last week and went to the opening reception of "Women in the Studio @ Idea" at the Dougherty Arts Center. @ Idea ( is a studio and gallery of works by women founded by Benné Rockett (Chronicle Visual Arts Listings editor) and housing a revolving array of talent currently including Deanna Miesch, Suzanne Dulany, Tina Weitz, Jacqueline May, and Elizabeth Underwood and formerly Deborah Carter of Pink Hair Salon & Gallery, who is not only an artist with hair but an accomplished painter as well. I was afraid the reception was going to be full of hippies and other "artistic" types, and there was indeed some of that there, but I was surprised to see a number of people I know, including the extraordinary glass designers Barry DeCola and Alexandra Eusebi (; the rakish SXSW and Texas Film Hall of Fame wrangler to the stars and independent filmmaker Werner Campbell (; and Werner's glamorous paramour, social worker, and now artist's model Julia Cuba who starred in Ellen Spiro and Karen Bernstein's fabulous documentary Troop 1500 ( Underwood showed a number of pieces relating to Hurricane Katrina during which she lost everything. Notable were her journals that she salvaged – sodden and molding – which she displayed in plastic bags as a living and continually decomposing reminder of that horrible experience. Weitz showed photographs of Paris, and May showed paintings, prints, and a video/braille installation that was as fascinating as it was creative. But to me, Rockett was the star of the show with her brilliant and haunting papier-mâché torsos, faces, and breasts embellished with cutwork, freshwater pearls, beads, metallic embroidery floss, and appliqué. I particularly loved the piece called …she was tired… and raved about it to Mme. Julia who said, "Did Benné tell you to say that?" "No," I told her. "It just spoke to me." Then Julia told me the piece had been cast from her own face and body. I should have known. The show runs through Tuesday, Aug. 29.

TOO DARN HOT It shocks me to see men in suits or sport coats in this treacherous heat. It's positively barbaric that to be well dressed; men are expected to wear an undershirt, a dress shirt, and a suit coat comprised of several layers of outer fabric, underlinings, interlinings, padding, and linings. These days, women of course can practically wear pasties and a thong and be considered dressed, but men are relegated to ancient customs that dictate the wearing of something that is tantamount to body armor. Not that I'm advocating swim trunks and flip-flops in the boardroom, but surely there's a solution. Of course, to many executives, the outdoors is only something they pass through when going from their air-conditioned home to their air-conditioned cars, so it might be a moot point to them. Every couple of years, some designer attempts to address the situation by offering a suit coat with matching tailored walking shorts, but the look is fraught with complications, not the least of which is what shoes and socks are appropriate with a coat and shorts?

PARTY POOP I went to the annual fete put on by dashing attorney Mark Mueller and the Mueller Law Offices – always an amazing event, but even more so the last couple of years since he has been hiring Kevin Pruitt and Christian Moore of Strike Productions ( and design magician Heyd Fontenot to produce the party. Last year's theme took us from under the sea to high in the sky as we "evolved" over the course of the night, but this year we went to the dark side of New Orleans – bordellos, voodoo, funk, and jazz with contortionists, burlesque, and card readers abounding. I've never seen the Austin Music Hall look more luxe, draped and swagged in red satin with glorious chandeliers hung everywhere and the tables loaded with skulls, feathers, flowers, statuary, and assorted bits of New Orleans-iana. I hung with Susan Antone, Anne Elizabeth Wynn, Karen Kuykendall, and a bevy of beauties like Maria Groten and Kimberly Thomsen and seven others who were wearing dresses from my new collection. Kickass party – can't wait to see what they pull off next year.

AGENDA The Super Bowl of Spoken Word, aka the National Poetry Slam, is happening in Austin through Saturday, Aug. 12, and includes our beloved Antone's as a venue and sponsor. See for details... Saturday, Aug. 26, 7pm, at the Texas Disposal Systems Exotic Game Ranch & Pavilion in Creedmore (just south of Austin off I-35), the charitable organization Wonders & Worries, which strives to increase communication within families dealing with chronic and life-threatening illness, presents its annual fundraiser, ÁQue Maravilla! Featuring wonderful auction items including trips and a SeaDoo watercraft, the event also has music and dancing to Memphis Train, as well as closest-to-the-pin and skeet-shooting contests. For more details and sponsorship opportunities, see

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