Mary Pat Waldron
at Apple Annie's Gourmet Cafe
Showing through October
There's nothing like a downtown high-rise bank building to suck the soul from an art hanging. It's that same sterile, stultifying professional property management aura that somehow renders food from the eateries in those buildings utterly tasteless.
Fortunately, Apple Annie's, located in the subterranean courtyard level of Bank One's headquarters, delightfully defies all those dreaded norms. An oasis of inner urban sanity, the place is filled with real food, real people, and great walls for hanging and viewing artwork.
On the day I went to see Mary Pat Waldron's photographic exhibit, Apple Annie's was cranked up a notch with anticipation of the noon verdict on the O.J. Simpson trial.
As if in direct contrast to the theatric travesty our judicial system had played out over the electronic media for months on end, Waldron's photographic prints depict a different life, a different set of values she'd come to know during a year-and-a-half of travel through Southeast Asia. Her works lovingly reveal a simpler, older, more spiritually connected people and place.
"Spending that much time in any environment draws you into its own rhythm," she says, "I found an acceptance, where my persona no longer intruded on my surroundings. I felt I became invisible." Waldron was able to take in her surroundings with a patience few visitors can afford, capturing everyday scenes in black-and-white and color images with uncommon intimacy.
Her color prints reveal a magic and mystery in her subject places and people. In a stunning print of early-morning mist over Nagin Lake, looking out on the cityscape of Kashmir, India, a vendor with his young son begins his daily journey, poling a small wooden boat loaded with the brilliantly colored flowers that illuminate an otherwise monochromatic scene of gray. A cityscape in Varanasi shows Hindu holy men before a bright green wall, murals and octagonal turrets in the early-morning misty light that softens the picture with a mysterious, dreamlike, painterly quality.
Waldron, originally a University of Texas Journalism major, says this journey and the resulting body of work prompted her decision to pursue photography as a career and art form.
The Theater Cat and Other Recent Work
Phillip E. Wade
The Gallery at Concordia
Showing through October
In contrast to Waldron's foreign world documentation, Austin painter Phillip E. Wade's The Theater Cat and Other Recent Works, offers an escape into comfortingly familiar places. His places are filled with enchanting gardens, cats, bright-eyed innocent young men, and women in flowing dresses.
Wade is undoubtedly one of Austin's most accomplished painters. A native of England, trained at Pennsylvania's Academy of Fine Arts and UT's MFA program, he adopts a bold brush stroke that gives his figures the full, three-dimensional realist look of early impressionism -- before the likes of Van Gogh and Monet obliterated all attempts at realism in their images. To explain the non-reality of subjects and settings, Wade uses theatrical trappings -- masks, model stages, ballet sketches and poses.
"Southard Home" harkens back to a romantic, genteel era. A mother and child in turn-of-the-century garb stroll along a lake, the front end and hood ornament of a classic Rolls Royce jutting into the background. Theatrical stage curtains frame the entire scene to let you know it's all just make-believe.
In "The Joy of Cleaning," a woman, clad in floral pastel house dress, leg raised in perfect balletic arabesque, smiles ecstatically while thumping an oriental rug with a beater she wields like a fairy's magic wand. Background brush strokes in colors echoing the dress define a dazzling circular motion that makes the entire canvas dance.
Wade's aims are modest, and they hit their mark. He offers a refuge from the ugly, demanding everyday, to a beauty that may exist only in our clouded memories -- or in our Hollywood-addled imaginations. -- Cory Walton