Are you an art lover who can't make it to the galleries? Would you like to meet some local artists and see where they work? Are you just looking for something a little different to do on Wednesday evenings? Bob Russell can fix you right up with Art Tours, a new project devoted to introducing local artists to folks like you.
Every Wednesday for five weeks, Russell leads a tour group to meet Austin artists -- two to three each night -- in the places where they create their work. On a recent outing, the tour visited Malcolm Bucknall in his house full of beautifully bizarre Raphael-meets-Audubon paintings, and Sinclair Black, wunder-architect of Austin. Each artist provided engaging details about his work, and the experience was enhanced by the fact that their works are vastly different -- a fact that is important to Russell. His tours include artists of diverse styles and media: painters, photographers, ceramicists, sculptors, and soon, performance artists.
"What I'm trying to do is give people in Austin a chance to go into artists' studios," Russell says, to discover first hand the processes which take place in creating art. "The response," says Russell, "from the artists to the people in the classes, has been great. It's a great situation for everyone."
Art Tours is a great program, both for the rare opportunity it provides to understand artists and the thinking behind their work but for the introduction it offers to many of Austin's finest artists. In addition to Bucknall and Black, Art Tours has already visited Sydney Yeager, Bob "Daddy-O" Wade, Dan Sutherland, and Stella Bernstein, and tentatively slated for future visits are Tré Arenz, Sam Coronado, and Julie Speed.
Austin's visual arts scene is often accused of having no solidarity or "community" -- more a result of the scene's infancy than the implied complacency. Programs like this are an excellent way to counter that; they involve art lovers more actively in the scene and help local artists realize that there is a viable community of art lovers here. Call 708-0577 for info on the Tours.
W.H. Passon House
through November 24
Tutu Egun is an African term that means "being in harmony with our ancestors' spirits." Within that meaning lie traditions and beliefs that many African-Americans are trying to retain, despite their submersion in Western culture.
Austin has a strong network of artists doing just that, and Tutu Egun, an exhibit of small works, is an offering and tribute by them to their African ancestry. Eight artists, including Arleen Polite and Michael Ray Charles, each created a work specifically for the show that makes a statement about black heritage.
"The honoring of the dead has been a part of our culture since Africa, where you didn't do anything without honoring the ancestors, from harvesting the fields to naming your kids," says exhibit director Nailah Sankofa, who is "Chief of Tribes" for Black Artists' Support Network and Co-op, the sponsoring organization. "With this, we wanted to do something unique to honor our ancestors that would bring artists together."
The works vary in tone; some convey an element of anger, others contentment, others -- such as Steve Jones' "Thunderstone"-- aren't so easily categorized. The multimedia sculpture contains, among other elements, a bent saw covered in spiky screws. "Thunderstone" has layers of meaning that deal with appeasing not only ancestors, but also "Shango," the traditional Force of Nature.
Sankofa's contribution, an elaborate altar/shrine, pits Old World objects of worship (bird feathers, a carved flute) against New (a Barbie Doll, a cassette tape). "This is a reminder of how modern times make us forget our culture," Sankofa says.
That is what these artists want to prevent, and they need your help. They're seeking gallery sitters for two-hour shifts. It's an excellent way to get involved in an enlightening project. Call 477-4247. -- Cari Marshall