Concerned Dallas Citizens Unite

Eating lunch outdoors this Saturday at the Nasher Cafe, here’s my view. Picasso’s staring at a patch of reseeded dirt where there was once lush lawn.

Nasher Sculpture Garden on an overcast noon | August 25, 2012
Artist: Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973) | Spanish
Head of Woman |1958
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Dallas has done so much over the twenty-five years I have lived here to elevate its cultural offerings and profile. The Dallas Arts District is a piece – a large piece – in the success of offering Dallas citizens and visitors visual and performing arts housed in note-worthy architecture. The District has grown to a 68-acre cultural and residential campus.

The Nasher Sculpture Center, which opened in 2003, is one of the District’s gems designed by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Italian architect, Renzo Piano. His team took time to study and understand the peculiarities of the Texas climate, especially the brutal summer sun. An arched glass roof with a perforated aluminum screen in an egg-crate pattern directs the natural light into the galleries and anticipates the sun’s daily arc from southeast to southwest. (See image below.)

Close-up of “egg crate”
(photo: Nasher Sculpture Center)

Another architectural firm, Foster + Partners of London, spent one year analyzing the arc of the sun before finalizing its design of the Winspear Opera House which is a 2009 addition to the district. A two-acre, steel frame canopy hovers over the Winspear as a mechanism to successfully deflect the Texas sun, especially in the summer months, and lower the ambient temperature. (See image below.)


Winspear Opera House in Dallas Arts District | 2009
Architect: Foster + Partners led by Spencer du Grey (photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

A recent addition still under construction and adjacent to the Nasher is Museum Tower, a 42-story residential building. Unfortunately, the design by Los Angeles architect Scott Johnson was not as sensitive to the climate and its impact on the surroundings as the other two architects’ previously mentioned. Clad in convex glass panels, the building is a giant column that magnifies and reflects sunlight onto its neighbors. (See image below.)
Museum Tower diverts sunlight into Nasher’s sculpture garden. Thus, the patches of dirt and brown grass at the Nasher this Saturday.
On a personal note: I find the building itself quite beautiful and elegant, but wish the surfaces accommodated the neighborhood and the James Turrell installation at the Nasher had not been ruined.

Museum Tower seen from Nasher (photo: Brandon Thibodeaux, The New York Times)

But, it is not only the Nasher that is hit. The impact is 360 degree.  I have concerns about:
  • The trees and plant life in the soon-to-be open Klyde Warren Park
  • Reflections into nearby buildings, like the Dallas Museum of Art, One Arts Plaza, Hunt Oil Tower
  • This conflict, which has received national and international press, setting back the hard-earned gains in Dallas’ reputation as an increasingly cultural place to live
  • Harming the reasons people will buy a home in Museum Tower. (Note: I want the project be a success for the Arts District, City of Dallas, its investors and the developers.)
  • Museum Tower becoming a scapegoat for any future sun damage in the area, regardless of the real cause.

There many bright minds – hopefully all are well-intended people – working on possible solutions and vetting possibilities. In my opinion, the sooner a workable solution is implemented, the better for everyone involved.

Having a personal long-term view of Dallas as a great place to live, I hope this messy, time-consuming, expensive conflict ignites a larger conversation about urban planning, communities and neighborhoods.

Why not have a thorough design review board in the City of Dallas? Why not have interested neighbors and citizens take time to review proposed buildings for any impact on their homes or institutions? In other places I have lived (granted smaller towns), a design that raised concerns and eyebrows, whether it be reflectivity or height, could be rejected by the town’s zoning commission. Why not here in Dallas?

Along the lines of a constructive dialogue, there will be a panel discussion on Saturday, September 8th at 2:30 pm at the Dallas Museum of Art.  KERA’s Krys Boyd will moderate Aesthetics and the City with panelists Veletta Lill, Executive Director of the Dallas Arts District, and Vel Hawes, a Dallas architect who served as Raymond Nasher’s representative for the design and construction of the Nasher Sculpture Center. (Updated on 9/1/2012: The panel has been postponed.)

Show your support as a citizen concerned with finding and implementing a workable solution before more damage is done to the Arts District by clicking on the petition, Stop the Glare. I have signed it because I believe this is a 360 degree issue that needs to be addressed.

I’ll be taking long weekend for Labor Day…be back on Sunday, September 9th.



Good films about art and artists

I am always looking for good films and documentaries about artists and art. Today, I thought I’d mention a few you might also find worth viewing, educational and inspiring:

  • Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child. This biopic was filmed by his best friend, Tamra Davis, over many years. I liked it because Tamra with her daily, unfettered access shows the intensity and frequency with which Basquiat painted.
  • Julian Schnabel’s biopic Basquiat. I also suggest three other films directed by painter, filmmaker, interior designer Schnabel: Before Night Falls, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Miral.
  • The Art of the Steal is a true story about the multi-billion dollar heist of the Barnes Collection.
  • The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History is a griping documentary about American and British army men who retrieved art stolen by the Nazis during World War II.
  • Gerhard Richter Painting.  Recently shown at the Modern Art Museum Fort Worth, this is a documentary any artist interested in the repetitive, slow process of applying paint to the canvas would find riveting. Really!
  • My Architect: A Son’s Journey is a film about modernist architect Louis Kahn’s life, work and personality.
  • The Woodmans. Documentary about photographer Francesca Woodsman, a talent who died too young, and her complicated family.
  • Pollack starring Ed Harris.
  • How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster? documents the British architect’s rise to prominence. On your next trip to Dallas’ Winspear Opera House, stop and study the building design, materials and engineering by Norman Foster’s firm, Foster + Partners.

Knowing I would cover art flicks this week, I sent an e-mail to three friends who are fellow movie buffs and artists. They kindly responded with their film recommendations which I now pass long to you, starting with Karen Weiner.

Karen Weiner, arts advocate and owner of Dallas gallery The Reading Room in Deep Ellum, Dallas sent these:

  • Her “top” pick is Pina by Wim Wenders, a documentary about German choreographer Pina Bausch.
  • Ai WeiWei: Never Sorry. WeWei is today’s most famous Chinese artist because he uses social media and art to very publicly criticize the country’s political system and suffers brutal consequences.

Anita Horton, arts educator, artist, blogger and world traveler

Anita teaches a 12-week class on Architecture and Design at her school. Her objective is to expand her students’ definition of architecture to include interior design, urban planning and landscape design, and consider these as a potential careers. She recommends these films on architects as “must sees.”

  • Sketches of Frank Gehry was directed by Sydney Pollack who was an avid fan and used this documentary as a way to get to know his friend the architect, Frank Gehry, even better.
  • A Strong Clear Vision about Maya Lin. How her Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC almost got derailed has edge-of-the-seat suspense.
  • Louis Kahn, My Architect: A Son’s Journey. Again, I loved it too.
  • Frank Lloyd Wright, a PBS film directed by Ken Burns.
  • Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio. I’ve seen the documentary too, about found this inspiring man. Samuel “Sambo” Mockbee (1944 – 2001) dedicated his life, as a teacher and as an architect, to creating architecture that elevated the living standards of the rural poor and also provided “shelter for the soul.”

Here are a few more from Anita:

  • Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working with Time. I also like this documentary and sculptor. So much so that I purchased the DVD for my permanent home library.
  • Brothers Quay, Street of Crocodiles (Note: an exhibition featuring the work of the Brothers Quay, “On Deciphering the Pharmacist’s Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets” is showing at MoMA  from August 12, 2012 to January 7, 2013.

Designer, website master, photographer and networker among the creative set, Elle Schuster of Elle Studio suggests:

  • A recent film Untitled captures the art gallery business side. Set in Chelsea area of NYC.
  • Fanny and Alexander is Ingmar Bergman’s four-time academy awarding story “about a theatrical family and MUCH more.”
  • Baroque female painter Artemisia Gentileschi is the subject of Artemisia, a beautifully filmed, loosely-based biopic which I also vividly remember.
  • Camille Claudel recounts the troubled life of this 19th century French sculptress.
  • Of course, the biography of British painter, Francis Bacon seen in BBC’s Love is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon.

Please share your favorite films with me and others by posting them in the Comments Section. How to post? Either Look for the bubble on upper right corner. Click to access the comments sections and fire away. Or, find the “Reply” box at the end of the post and fire away.

Thanks so much for posting comments. Until next week,


Animals Galore

Friday night I attended the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) annual awards dinner. I was there to root for my many friends in the design community, particularly Gus Hinojosa and his team at Hinojosa Architecture & Interiors. They won top prize in the Design Excellence Award Institutional and Educational Category for the new SPCA of Texas facility. From first-hand experience, I can tell you it’s a beautiful building with an interior design that invites people and animals.

Hinojosa Architecture & Interiors | Dallas, Texas 
Winner of 2012 IIDA Design Excellence Award 
SCPA of Texas | Dallas

This building and the good works done at the SPCA and Dallas Animal Services (both on N. Westmoreland Road off I-30) inspired me to adopt (rescue) two kittens last week from the shelter. Here are the new furry additions to my home. Welcome “Midnight” and “Reuben.”

“Midnight” | The black short-haired cat is a very lively spirit. He thinks my house is an Indy 500 race track.

“Reuben” | Ruddy short-haired cat. With a more reserved personality, Reuben hid in a clothes closet for two days.

And, there was another animal-related activity this week.  My website was revised to include examples of the animal paintings I have done over the years. Click here for the new gallery tab.

Many of these paintings were commissioned.

The English Bulldog, “Lola,” was a surprise gift from a husband to his wife to celebrate their first wedding anniversary.  And, “Lily,” a St. Bernard, was a “just because I love you gift” from another husband to his wife.

English Bulldog “Lola” | acrylic on panel | 24” x 13-1/2” Private commission | Tampa, Florida
Artist: Meg Fitzpatrick

St. Bernard “Lily” | acrylic on canvas | 20” x 24”  
Private commission | Sarasota, Florida
Artist: Meg Fitzpatrick

After I had finished another St. Bernard portrait, commissioned by a Massachusetts couple, I painted “Doggie Day Care” (see below) for the fun of it.  The owners told me where they boarded their dog during the day while they were at work. The place took only Black Labs, Bernese Mountain Dogs and St. Bernards.  Intrigued with camera in-hand, I visited the daycare center. The source image for the painting below is a small section of one photo, tightly cropped because I liked the composition and how the dogs formed a carnival conga line and smiled at me.

“Doggie Day Care” | acrylic on canvas | 44” x 44”
Available (price on request)
Artist: Meg Fitzpatrick

Until next week, enjoy your animals, families, friends and the Olympics Closing Ceremony tonight.


Assignment – Abstracts from Nature

Remember the art consultant who gave me an assignment based on her client’s specs? She asked me to snap images that organically suggest Texas outdoors. Here is a collage of some of the photos I took over last week, undeterred by the 100+ weather.

Notes on the Olympics:

Gabby Douglas makes Team USA Proud and lives up to her last name which is an anagram, “USA Gold.”

Michael Phelps deservedly sets an all-time record winning his 22nd medal.

PDA between Kate and Will. I really find them exemplary in many ways – a classy couple having a lot of fun together.

Until next week. Enjoy the Olympics – Go Team USA. Closing ceremonies are this coming Sunday.