Archive for May, 2012
There wasn’t much of a visual arts scene in Austin when Stella and Leon Alesi moved here from New York in the early 1990s.
Sure, there were a few galleries and some museums, albeit mostly smaller iterations of the museums we know now.
“But Austin seemed more a music and theater town then,” says Leon Alesi, a portrait photographer.
Jump ahead nearly 20 years, and the creative landscape has some shape now, thanks in no small part, the Alesis posit, to the explosive popularity of the East Austin Studio Tour, the annual art crawl that brings thousands out for casual visits to more than 300 artist work spaces and other venues.
The self-proclaimed Live Music Capital of the World is a live art capital, too, with plenty of indie artists doing their own thing.
“For many people, EAST proved that this was much more than a music town,” Leon Alesi says.
Of course EAST — started by artist collective Big Medium in 2003 — is all well and good for those who have studios in the tour’s well-circumscribed area of East Austin.
But artists work in many places in Austin. And that, coupled with the seemingly ever-growing popularity of EAST, led to the creation of the West Austin Studio Tour, which continues today.
The Alesis are stop No. 50 on the roster of 162 official destinations on what organizers have given the acronym WEST. The couple served on the steering committee for WEST, helping to identify artists and appropriate exhibition venues in the rather large swath of Austin included on the tour. The boundaries are west of Interstate 35, east of MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1), south of U.S. 183 and north of Ben White Boulevard.
From their home in the Bouldin Creek neighborhood, the couple watched year after year as the crowds flocked to EAST. And yes, it did cross their minds that maybe they should consider moving to or establishing their studios in East Austin. (Stella Alesi is a painter.)
But a few years ago they found a ramshackle rental property on West Milton Street around the corner from where they were living at the time, and the place just begged to be renovated. After a lot of work, the Alesis now have a sleek home and studio that also serves as Blackbox Gallery, their informal art exhibition space.
The process of working on WEST revealed what they had been observing for a while.
“I think WEST just demonstrates that there are artists working everywhere in Austin nowadays,” Leon Alesi says. “There are 12 tour stops just in our immediate neighborhood.”
Though the couple are displaying their own work for WEST, they kickstarted Blackbox as way to give other artists a moment in the limelight. Exhibits are comparatively informal, and the Alesis don’t handle art sales. They simply try to give exposure to art and artists they feel are outside the formal gallery system.
“There’s lots of good artists out there whose work is not represented in galleries and so therefore isn’t seen by a lot of people,” Stella Alesi says. “We wanted to have a voice in what we thought was good in Austin.”
Different from its east side counterpart, the West Austin tour features more studios in private homes and not as many warehouse hubs that house multiple studios.
“I think WEST will be a little more relaxed,” Leon Alesi says. “People might not feel so daunted walking into a home studio as they do walking into a gallery.”
Leon Alesi is exhibiting large-scale color photographs from his “Personal Space Project,” an arresting series of portraits taken in the subjects’ private environments. Stella Alesi is showing the latest from her series “The Wheels,” colorful, intricate paintings based on the sacred mandala circular form found in Buddhist and Hindu religious art.
“I’m leaving all my paints and brushes and things out for everyone to see,” she says. “I want this to be a real studio tour where people can see the tools I use to make art.”
Contact Jeanne Claire van Ryzin at 445-3699
WEST: First West Austin Studio Tour launches May 19-20
By Jeanne Claire van Ryzin | Wednesday, May 16, 2012, 12:09 PM
Organized by the same folks at Big Medium who’ve made the East Austin Studio Tour one of the most popular arts events in town, the West Austin Studio Tour kicks off Friday with a party at the People’s Gallery at Austin City Hall.
Like EAST, the free, self-guided West Austin tour champions the eclectic abundance of Austin’s artistic talent, offering visitors the chance to take a peek in artists’ working studios to learn about their techniques, tools and inspiration.
If EAST is in a fairly circumscribed area, WEST sprawls out to include a vast swath of Austin west of Interstate 35 and east of MoPac and north and south of the Lady Bird Lake.
There are a whopping 162 designated destinations that are officially part of WEST. And while many destinations on the tour are individual artist’s studios, some are established galleries, some are temporary pop-up galleries and still others are special events.
West Austin Studio Tour
Kickoff party: 6 to 8 p.m. today at the People’s Gallery at Austin City Hall, 201 W. Second St.
Tour: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Tour headquarters: 241 W. Third St.
Cost: Party and tour are free
Information: Catalogs available at Austin Public Library branch locations and tour headquarters.
Downloadable maps and a guide at www.westaustinstudiotour.com
Image: “#195 from “The Wheel Series,’” oil on panel, 2012. Stella Alesi. No. 50 on the WEST map, artists Stella and Leon Alesi will be showing work at their Blackbox Gallery, a residential gallery in South Austin.
Pilgrimage Sites in India 1988-1990
On view through the first week of June, 2012—M-F, 8-5, West Gallery
Reception on May 17 from 5:00-6:30 pm (come and go)
© Rick Dingus
After photographing petroglyph and pictograph sites throughout the American Southwest, TTU Art Professor Rick Dingus became interested in the parallels between Native American and East Indian beliefs., practices, myths, and rituals. He received a grant from Art Matters, Inc., in New York, NY, which he used to travel to India. While there, he visited and photographed Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain caves, temples, and shrines. Ten prints from this project will be in the International Cultural Center’s West Gallery through May, 2012.
Dingus has participated in over 24 solo shows and over 100 group exhibitions since 1977. Dingus’ photographs have been collected by over fifty public collections including Amon Carter Museum, Ft. Worth, TX, Getty Museum, Malibu, CA (Sam Wagstaff Collection), Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, NY, Museum of Modern Art, NY, NY, National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., and various international museums. A recipient of numerous grants and purchase awards, Dingus most recently served as co-investigator with Robin Germany to create a “Millennial Collection” at The Southwest Collection with the aid of a Research Enhancement Funds grant at Texas Tech University, 1999-2000. More than 100 works have been published or reviewed in books, catalogues, and periodicals. Dingus is author of The Photographic Artifacts of Timothy O’Sullivan, UNM Press, 1982.
© Stella Alesi © Stella Alesi
The word “mandala” is from the classical Indian language of Sanskrit. Loosely translated to mean “circle,” a mandala is far more than a simple shape. It represents wholeness, and can be seen as a model for the organizational structure of life itself – a cosmic diagram that reminds us of our relation to the infinite, the world that extends both beyond and within our bodies and minds (from The Mandala Project).
An Indian Odyssey
© Naveen Rajendrapandian © Naveen Rajendrapandian © Naveen Rajendrapandia
I have just completed this 42×42 inch oil on panel painting. Part of a series I have titled the Wheel series, referring to one of buddhism’s eight auspicious
symbols, the wheel. This more specifically is a wheel of life, depicting the life cycle of the monarch butterfly, as well as the Texas native flowers shown,
the prickly rose and the indian blanket