EAST, at Ease

The 2006 East Austin Studio Tour reveals 86 studios and one stacked pod art city with a shared alphabet

Ten storage pods, 17 film-industry set-making professionals, and a field too far north to be included even in the sprawling East Austin Studio Tour. Stacked Studios just bought a page in the EAST tour book, rented a crane, and built their own secret Marfa at 3506 Rogge (past 51st and Springdale). Spearheaded by Michael Abelman, they articulated sentiments common to all the artists participating in the Eastside tour. Jeff Poss wrote, "Our neurotic and obsessive qualities are what make each of us a craftsman." Then Abelman stated, "There is a shared alphabet amongst the group that feeds everyone's artistic needs. This alphabet is not just limited to the creative work. We are at ease with each other, and this is why the Stacked Studios concept is so progressive." Well put. This feeling of artists at ease with one another permeates the tour. How these artists' "groups" form varies: neighbors in a building, family relationships, aesthetic collectives, daytime co-workers, mentors with students. Even the solitary artists find the courage and strength in numbers for this weekend in which they generously open their homes to the public.

The annual East Austin Studio Tour is upon us: Saturday, Nov. 18, and Sunday, Nov. 19. Studios are different from galleries. They have no guidelines or editors, no market evaluations that inform what is displayed; commercial interests may be emphasized or nonexistent, depending on the studio. They are incubators, and not every artwork is "a keeper." Ceramic artists call those that aren't "seconds" – pieces with small cracks or flaws. For painters, identifying small flaws can be much harder – let's just say you don't know while you're making it. You trust in your process, you work, then you ask a couple of trusted friends. The fact that EAST artists allow the general public into their studios is a manifestation of Austin's unique sensibilities. Austin has a level of creative solidarity, of homey hospitality combined with a willingness to discuss openly vulnerabilities, strengths, and commonalities between enterprises and families. It's incredible how paintings and drawings of real beauty and a tangible sense of community have emerged from the crack-infested neighborhoods on the Eastside. How does art emerge, like a gem, from the rough? See for yourself.

Take the kids in the stroller and the dog, or bike over. If you drive, make sure you park and walk around. Cajun food, barbecue, and cafes – the food on the Eastside is easy on the pocketbook and solid in the gullet. Pedestrian and family friendly, EAST is also a chance to put faces to the names of these great local artists. They've made art and are ready to receive our questions and comments. For more information, visit www.eastaustinstudiotour.com.

Rachel's Top 15 in EAST No. 5

"Staff Infection" at Okay Mountain (7)

Peat Duggins continues to progress with his portrayals of progress – building development, that is. His art has discussed subdivisions and crowded highways. His newest work is clean and colorful, with hard graphic outlines waving through a monsterlike form. Perhaps it's a gryphon made of airplanes, cars, caterpillar-robot hybrids, and an Intel-like building shell. It feels alive, even though it's a landscape. He renders urban renovation so cheerfully that for once this topic is a pleasure. "Staff Infection" also features work by Sterling Allen, Tim Brown, Justin Goldwater, Nathan Green, Ryan Hennessee, Josh Rios, and Michael Sieben.

<i>Untitled (city)</i> by Peat Duggins
Untitled (city) by Peat Duggins

Bonnie Gammill Studio (80)

Gammill has a group of new landscape paintings. Her palette is serene yet crisp. She layers, she fades, and now she is mirroring images. She takes a nice branch and gives it the Rorschach treatment, then blows it up into a four-layer separation, creating something half-Gnarls Barkley video, half-oil painting. The delicate transitions and subtle yet high-contrast color choices keep my high expectations for this oil painting wunderkind utterly satisfied.

Lion Tiger Bear Studios (74)

The Uhlir brothers are getting in the game this year, and I can't wait to check out their studio. I always like it when brothers work together. In music and in painting, encouraged by the recognition of each other's vocabulary, complicated numinous qualities can flourish. But even without the telepathy of brotherhood, the beatific and bucolic imagery at work here stands out. Raymond Uhlir's paintings are kind of C.S. Lewis with an Asian twist, with characters richly rendered in a healthily populated imaginary world. Eric Uhlir has a more classical Turner-type painting technique but populates his seascapes with silly monsters.

<i>Verdant Valley Hara-Kiri</i> by Raymond Uhlir
Verdant Valley Hara-Kiri by Raymond Uhlir

Amazing Hancock Brothers at Bad News Bingo (22)

Speaking of brothers, Charles and John Hancock have been touring the state for years, and it's great to have them here during the tour. These siblings from Waxahachie call themselves "Lo-Tech Samurai Printmakers With Performance Aspirations," but they are masters of all print media. They also do "spoken word performances with ritualistic hi jinx and infomercial shuck-n-jive."

Barry George Sculpture Studio (10)

George's house is like a found-object museum. The sculptor makes animalistic characters that are at home in the garden or as pedestal pieces. His home-styled metalworks add interest to their locations, occasionally spinning or adding interactive activity.

Barbara Irwin (84)

Irwin's birdcage series is epic. An avid collector, she assembles delicate feminine sculptures, with found objects and handmade pieces shown in combination.

Lisa Crowder and Lance Bradley at Flux Studio (24)

Metalsmith Crowder makes great-looking jewelry. Her shop also has a fine track record of hosting guest artists and holding boutiquelike openings for under-recognized, high-caliber local artists. Decking the walls for the tour will be Lance Bradley, the punk rocker with awesome fuzzy clown hair. He has recently shown with Gibby Haynes in NYC and is perhaps in the Tim Kerr school of mixed-media, free-association art-making. His assemblages can be humorous or darkly heart-wrenching. His painting is spontaneous and raw.

Shady Tree Studios (35)

Shady Tree Studios has flourished this year. Home to 18 or so artists, it is also the central distribution point for all things Cantanker, the new magazine focusing on the local visual arts scene. Stop by and pick up issue two, then check out the wide variety of work on display. John Mulvany's oil paintings have an old-world, sepia-based paranoia in them. The mobile and motivated collective known as ars ipsa will also be exhibiting here, as will feisty building tenants like Megan Jaster.

Splinter Group South and North (33) & (34)

For me, EAST means an annual pilgrimage to the Splinter Group, which is always chock full of woodworking and metal pieces. Mark Macek and his peers continue to design for top-notch clients. Metalworker Hawkeye Glenn just finished a commission for Austin's first full Neiman Marcus store. Macek, known for his intricate veneer work and restrained use of unusual woods, is producing several limited furniture lines. What goes with good furniture? Good paintings, of course. Andrew St. Martin will exhibit his loose, organic-based abstracts that have an airiness to them that's difficult to achieve. His strokes are gestural, with some depth coming from washy tones, some from line quality. And his use of color keeps me coming back.

Mark Macek
Mark Macek

Fisterra Studios (6)

Jennifer Chenoweth – furniture designer, mother, independent curator – has officially rekindled her inner painter. Her new paintings show an airiness and simple beauty akin to that in Andrew St. Martin's work. However, her oil paint is thicker, juicer, oilier, and her palette more earth-toned. While thoroughly abstract, they make me think of the Milky Way or a lightning storm. Husband Todd Campbell will show his hand-forged iron sculptures. This home is the perfect blend of heavy metals and soft upholstery, of functional efficiency and clever decoration.

Pandora Studios (68)

Another home with a husband-and-wife team who do everything up big. Sun McColgin welds, grinds, powder coats, and pours concrete. Ryah Christensen makes glass mosaics, garden landscapes, and large oil paintings. She refers to their home as a test site, noting that "new experiments include a mosaic fountain, wacky landscaping, and slick concrete countertops." She also extends a call to visitors: "An ongoing project is my 'wall of beloveds': portraits of animals who have guided and shaped our lives. If you would like your furry or scaly or feathered friend featured in this wall at my next show, please bring a photograph for me to work from." This is a cool way to get to know your local artist and even influence her work. Lovers of mosaics should also visit Pascal Simon Studio (83). Simon and Christensen have collaborated on impressive large mosaics.

Philippe Klinefelter (48)

Klinefelter's studio is always impressive to visit, not just because of the chickens but because the sculptor works on a huge scale. This year he promises to show a 10-foot-by-10-foot-by-10-foot block of granite from the granite quarries of Marble Falls that will eventually be transformed into a piece called Earth Fountain. It was commissioned by the city of Fort Worth for a site on Camp Bowie, a couple of miles west of the Kimbell Art Museum. Klinefelter will show models of the work as well as other recent sculptures.

<i>Earth Fountain </i>by Philippe Klinefelter
Earth Fountain by Philippe Klinefelter

GAT5 Studios (79)

Speaking of great hosts, GAT5 Studios really go for a full weekend. They're offering a rambunctious group painting show full of diverse, edgy, and politically relevant 2-D and 3-D works. This will include a collaborative piece, I Hate You. May I Please Kill You?, as part of a series dealing with artists' angst and general disgust with most of the world. These folks will throw down with refreshments and live music in the backyard.

Gallery Dv8 (72)

Another spot that is quite the rockin' hangout scene is Gallery Dv8. Curator Wade Beesley provides rock, refreshments, and a rebellious group show. Beesley shows all media, including graffiti and political effigies.

Bolm Studios (46)

Large-scale chaos is sure to break loose at the warehouse of tour founder Bolm Studios, home to 10 spaces, all hopping with activity. Sodalitas will exhibit solo works and collaborations. V-Jay and video installation artist Michelle Mayer, who wowed audiences last year with her pharmacy-oriented piece, is sure to show something creepy-cool this year. And Bolm Gallery will host a group show with the current studio tenants.

<i>Pharma-Visions, Something for Everyone Installation View 2006</i> by Michelle Mayer
Pharma-Visions, Something for Everyone Installation View 2006 by Michelle Mayer (Photo By Matt Cowan)

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