Monday, January 28, 2013

My Take On Artopia

Houston Press hosted its fifth annual Artopia event on Saturday evening at Winter Street Studios. Billed as Houston's confluence of trendy culture, fashion, art, music and food, event tickets sold for $50, our local PBS station was the beneficiary and three MasterMind Awards were bestowed. This year's honorees are Karen Stokes Dance, Opera in the Heights and Stark Naked Theater Company.  I was invited to be one of 27 local artists to display work and was happy to be included. May have been asked because I was one of Houston Press 2012's 100 Creatives? Artopia gave me a deadline to produce new collages and it has been a great way to start the new year.
Everything about Artopia 2013 sounds wonderful. Yes? Well, this post is definitely written from the perspective of a couple in their seventh decade. We and the young are in different worlds. And I would not trade worlds or ages. 70 is good.  But wow, we are of a different generation from the rest of the folks at Artopia.
Here are some fleeting impressions. I had few expectations, except that I knew the event would be overwrought with decibels. And it was. I also knew that if ES and I waited until 8:00 p.m. to leave for the party, we'd never make it out of the house. Too late to begin an evening. We'd make excuses to each other and end up staying at home. So, I delayed voting for the State Senate seat in my district until after 6:30 p.m. and then we went to a movie at Sundance. All to avoid packing it in before Artopia even got started.  This tells you something about our ages. We like daytime and very early evening events. Late morning is also a very good time.
When we arrived at Winter Street Studios at 9:30 p.m., the huge space was filled with 20 and 30 -somethings seeking a party and bands thudding with overdone amplification. As my heart tends to want to entrain with heavy amplification, it is never a good idea for me to be anywhere near those body slamming thuds.
We diverted to the food tables, wending our way through a long line for samples from Phoenicia, Haven, Sorrel Urban Bistro, The Cajun Stop, The Counter and Cacao & Cardamon. There was very little left. Had we arrived at 8:00....?  However, Cacao & Cardamom's chocolate samples were divine. Put me on their mailing list.
I think it must be tough to feed minions from just six tables for four hours. Thirty minutes in line got us a cup of Phoenicia mousse. We said no to craw fish, because how do you eat craw fish standing up when one hand is holding a paper plate? At The Counter, they'd run out of samples and we were given cards offering free hamburgers, should we stop by their place. I repeat, it is more than difficult to serve free food samples at such an event. Bravo for trying.
What I did have fun doing in that line was photographing shoes and legs. Obviously, I don't get out often in a crowd like this where women are wearing high, high heels with two and three inch platforms. Most of the women at Artopia were balancing well, others looked as if their feet were bound and aching. These days, most of my friends are buying shoes at the shop in Rice Village that sells padded comfort and arch support.
Winter Street Studios is a cavernous two story warehouse just northeast of downtown with tall white walls. One gallery space winds into another and yet another. ES and I hung my collages mid-Saturday and my thought at the time was that most of the art would be merely a backdrop for party time.
When we returned that evening, the place was jammed and we were mesmerized by high glittery platformed shoes and skirts that were shorter and tighter than those we ever wore in the 1970s. Does everyone wear Spanx too or are their bodies just about perfect? The guys were mostly stuck in tee shirts and jeans. Few were as 'dressed' as the women. Too bad.
Almost everyone was texting and taking photos of one another, except those who appeared to be on 'real dates'. From my perspective, it appeared Artopia was the place to be on this particular Saturday night, texting, tweeting, wearing elevated shoes, showing off great legs. Looked as if a lot of folks were having a fine time living life through Instagram.
I have to say, I felt my body was way too covered with clothing. Elegant I was, but I could have worn shiny and more voluminous pants and chunked up my neck with a Harwin Drive special or two. I'd still have been very much covered, but more on point. Though one man approached ES and me late in the evening to say "You are so elegant and I love your hair." Thanks to my hairdresser Kat Cotta for maintaining 'the look'. Here's a photo of ES looking elegant too.
Back to the art. I had a good stretch of wall, but the vendor nearest me had folks circling with clipboards, gathering signatures for a Las Vegas drawing. If a party goer was waylaid by a clipboard, then there were certainly no moments remaining to ponder artwork. It was time to move on. As I watched the crowd pass by the collages, I knew that my work is too intricate and intimate for a quick once-over. In my case, party goers needed Cliff Notes.
Patrick Medrano and Katy Anderson, artists on the opposite wall, showed large scale black/white photographs in dark baroque frames with strange human/animal sculptures and masks. I liked them and their work and went on line to see more.
This husband and wife team won one of Artopia's first year MasterMind Awards for creating The Fodice Foundation, a non-profit aimed at transforming a WPA-era school building in East Texas into an arts mecca. Happy to meet them and see their imaginative work, much of which has an aura of enchantment.
Also liked Chuy Benitez panoramic photos of South Texas. Loved Laura Burlton's black/white photos of her children placed against sidewalks covered with chalk drawings. They are suffused with creative nostalgia.
Jermaine Rogers filled a wall with some of his 800 rock/pop posters and prints. His work is in the Experience Music Project in Seattle and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. I noticed there were always folks stopping in front of his work.
The party thinned out just before 11:00 as folks moved on to the Artopia After-Party on Washington Avenue. We took this as a cue to de-install my collages which we accomplished in five minutes and then headed for valet parking. Met Houston Press art director at the valet station. She'd taken off her pair of high platformed shoes. ES inquired how her feet were feeling. "Not good," she said. She was happy with the party though and said she helped in the artist selection process. She thanked me for participating and I thanked her for being asked. A nice end to our evening.
ES and I arrived home at midnight, felt our age, took blood pressure readings for good measure, took our pills and fell into bed. I'll bet we were the only party goers who ended the evening in exactly this way. Heck, we were probably the oldest guests at Winter Street Studios, both of us totally wide eyed watching those shoes and legs. Thanks again, Houston Press for inviting me to the party.

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