Ancient Impulse

Holly Moe, Bettie Ward, Sydney Yeager
at Helm Fine Arts Center
Showing through January 7

Mark L. Smith has done it again. The director of the Helm Fine Arts Center at St. Stephen's Episcopal School has asked artists to experiment in public. Smith commissioned three women to draw and paint directly on the walls of the school's Nancy Wilson Scanlan Art Gallery, just as he asked painters to create site-specific installations for a Texas Fine Arts Association exhibition a while back. "I think artists enjoy risks," says Smith. A three-day marathon work session produced the current exhibition, Ancient Impulse: Wall Drawings by Holly Moe, Bettie Ward, and Sydney Yeager.

The gallery looks something like an extra-wide hallway attached to the fine arts center. It has a stone floor, high ceiling, and a dark translucent covering over the windows against the sun. It is a cool, somber space, an atmosphere enhanced by a 50-foot-long gray wall. Smith's first act as "collaborating curator" was to paint away the gray on one side of each of three 8' x 8' partitions: red for Ward, blue for Moe, and ochre for Yeager. Each artist drew on both sides of her partition and on one-third of the long wall. According to Smith, a spirit of sisterhood prevailed as Yeager, Moe, and Ward shared materials and ideas. The long wall, however, clearly features the work of three separate artists. There is minimal continuity, but little dissonance. Yeager and Ward, both painters, adapt well to the new support for their drawings. Their transition from paper to wall appears natural. Moe, whose favorite medium is inlaid, shaped carpeting with gunpowder burned-line drawings, is at a disadvantage. Her wall drawings lose punch without the overall texture and color of carpet. Even so, "Ancient Impulse" is a fine experiment for students to observe and for artists to experience. The community is welcome to visit the school's Hill Country campus gallery. (Call 327-1213 for gallery hours.)

AIPP Exhibition

Group Show
at City Municipal Building
Showing through January 4

While you're looking for art in out-of-the-way places, check out the City Municipal Building. Austin's Art in Public Places Program presents the current exhibition in celebration of its 10th year in the business of purchasing art for city projects, with one percent of construction bud-gets set aside for that purpose. On display are 36 small works by artists who have been commissioned or had works purchased through the program. Labels describe the work and indicate where each artist's project is located.

City workers I talked to spoke enthusiastically about the show. In fact, most of the exhibition shines -- Fidencio Duran, David Everett, Jimmy Jalapeeno, Jake Gilson, Judy Jensen, and John Patrick Cobb's works are gems. Unfortunately, other artwork suffers from placement in the dark, cluttered rear lobby. Some is hard to find. Claudia Reese and Phil Martin's ceramic construction, Priscilla Robinson's handmade paperwork, and others are installed in the city manager's outer office. There's more in the city manager's conference room and second and third floor corridors. You have until Jan. 4 to see the show, and much longer to enjoy AIPP projects throughout the city. -- Rebecca Levy

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