Kent and Tracy Rathbun’s 9th Annual Art Party – Tickets Sold Out

Since this was the 9th year for the Rathbun’s Art Party, artist Scott Harben used the Chinese symbol for nine in his invitation design.

Back in 2001, the restaurateurs and art connoisseurs Kent and Tracy Rathbun threw a housewarming party to thank the crew who helped build their new home. For that night, they created a “pop-up gallery “ – well before this term and art venue were all the rage – by inviting local artists, some of whom worked in the couple’s restaurants, to exhibit their art for sale.

 Kent said he saw the event as…”a business model for a new way of selling art…artists can be presented with so many obstacles and financial barriers. Why not just make it fun? The way it ought to be.”

Ever the visionaries and known for pushing the boundaries, Kent and Tracy asked themselves: “Why not make this an annual event and raise funds for a good cause and continue showcasing local artists?”

The idea took hold and worked.

Tonight’s 9th Annual Art Party’s tickets sold out weeks ago. All proceeds raised from ticket sales benefit the Dallas March of Dimes whose mission advocates research, programs and education to ensure stronger and healthier babies are born.

 The line-up of featured artists proves the Rathbuns have an ongoing loyalty to a stable of local talent. Some of whom have worked for the couple in their restaurants and catering business are invited back each year:

  • Mindy Collins, painter
  • Rick Griggs, painter
  • Scott Harben, sculptor and photographer
  • Ron and Chris Marrs, glass workers
  • Tamara White, painter

Here’s more about each artist.


Tracy Rathbun called this piece, which was a surprise gift at the 2001 housewarming party, “delicious.”
(photo: Mindy Collins website)

Her paintings large and small are hard to miss, and you don’t want to because the colors are arresting and the resin adds a slick, textured sheen.


Artist Rick Griggs tonight in front of his paintings. (photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Rick earned a reputation in Dallas among the “foodinistas” as a notable pastry chef for his culinary creations first at The Mansion on Turtle Creek and then at Abacus. Scott paintings are shown at Abacus and Jasper’s, both Rathbun enterprises. Kent has said that “Rick has always been one of the greatest pastry chefs I’ve ever worked with and turns out, he’s an incredible artist as well,”

Between painting and baking, Rick says “I see a lot of similarities. I use a palette knife because I realize there is a technique similar to putting icing on a cake. A lot of my work also has that splattered paint like I have used with sauces. It’s a lot of the same fluidity and control.” (On a personal note: His desserts tonight were delicious.)


“Onomatopoeia” Series | powder-coated 16 gauge steel
(photo: Scott Harben website)

The Rathbun’s are a catalyst for established commercial artists like Scott to experiment. For him, the 7th Annual Art Party marked a change in work style. He created 3-D powder-coated, 16 gauge steel wall sculptures of words known as “Onomatopoeia.” Words like these have been used in comics and graphic novels for years to create a visual sound effect, like “BLAM” or “KRUNCH.”

Tonight Scott presented his metal assemblages. See image below.

“LS-Cell” | Artist: Scott Harden
(photo: Scott Harben website)


“Platters” | hand-blown glass | MarrsArt
(photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Ron and Chris, a father and son team, are both practicing architects – with degrees in Architecture from Texas Tech University – and glass blowers. They’ve worked in their studio on weekends for the past 15 years, steadily building a reputation and gaining commissions.

Chris notes that “Kent’s been incredible, even outside of the Art Party, in connecting us with clients who might be interested in our art, in our style”. Their patron base has exploded in part thanks to the Rathbuns’ support and the rise of artists such as Dale Chihuly who has single-handedly changed the perception of glass into a fine art medium.

“The Light of God” | blown glass | Ron and Chris Marrs, owners MarrsArt
Congregation Shearith Israel Dallas
14’ x 5’
(photo: AIA Dallas website)

Not on display tonight, the commissioned “The Light of God” (see image above) is worth experiencing in person at Congregation Shearith Israel Dallas. Before tonight’s party, I ran across a picture online, and told Chris I admired this work. Chris shared with me this was a labor of love for the patron, Peter Fonberg, who hired MarrsArt to make a glass sculpture commemorating his deceased wife.  Made from 49 hand-blown pieces with seven pieces representing a menorah’s flames, “The Light of God” took more than a year to produce.


(photo: Tamara White website)

Before we both became members of The Art Menu, I had seen and respected Tamara’s work at friends’ homes, such as the beautifully appointed rooms at Josy Collins, co-owner of Scott+Cooner, and public places, like Abacus Restaurant on McKinney Avenue. Tamara currently has a solo show at the Belmont Hotel.

Curious about her process because her work is a tribute to the thickness of oil paint, I had the opportunity to talk with her about her process. I was not surprised with the comment, “I believe the more the merrier; there is no such thing as having too much paint on my canvas.” Using the palette knife as an extension of her hand, she allows each color to determine what happens next. She prefers painting straight from the tube, keeping the paint as dense as possible. She’s disciplined, in the studio every morning working on many canvases at a time. When paint is left from scraping one canvas, she adds another layer to a nearby painting or begins a new one. “Each painting inspires the next.” I find her finished work like an archaeological site, connoting a geological dig with evidence ready to carbon test to determine what period in Earth’s history each layer represents.

A few weeks ago we had an excellent lunch at Rosemont, which is Tracy Miller’s new restaurant in Deep Ellum, and Tamara reminded me that I needed to buy my ticket to the Rathbun’s Art Party. And, glad I am for her notice because of the “Sold Out” status. Glad I went tonight.

Glass Bottom Boat”| 8’ x 4’ | oil on canvas
Artist: Tamara White
(photo: Tamara White website)

“Rise Above” | 16” x 20” | oil on canvas
Artist: Tamara White
(photo: Tamara White website)

You can continue mixing and mingling with art and gourmet food at one of Kent’s or Tracy’s restaurants. Just make a reservation or find a seat at Abacus, Blue Plate Kitchen, Jasper’s (Note: Kent named this place after the artist Jasper Johns), Shinsei and DUO – All Things Culinary (Note: I recommend trying the freshest tasting juices made at DUO’s Gem Bar until 2 PM).

Enjoy your week.


Extras on “Lucian Freud: Portraits” at the Modern

This is a quicker check-in than I had anticipated because my week became full of unplanned and fun activities once I bought a weekend pass to the 25th Dallas VideoFest.

So, I want to share a short anecdote about one of the Lucien Freud’s paintings. One of his smallest portraits captures a likeness of Queen Elizabeth II. It’s only 9.3” x 6” – tiny on the easel below.

Lucian Freud Painting the Queen at St. James Palace | 2001
(Photo: David Dawson)

Typically, Freud required his subjects come to his studio, housed in his Kensington London home. The Queen of England was an exception to this rule. He set up a make-shift studio at St. James Palace, not in a grand room with scarlet brocade curtains and ancestral paintings as the backdrop but in a modest, drab room that is used by the Royal’s art conservators. The setting was more akin to Freud’s own shabby studio space.

The Queen, given her responsibilities, could commit to a limited number of sittings between May 2000 and December 2001. To minimize time in the studio, a female staff courtier placed the royal crown on her head and filled in for the Queen because Freud knew that the number of faceted diamonds and complexity of the setting would be very time-consuming to paint. While there, the Queen sat and chatted about their mutual love of horses and betting at the horse track as Freud captured the likeness of her face and hair and studied her inner spirit. The work was a gift from Freud – done for free, not as a commission which was Freud’s mode of operation, giving him full artist freedom. The portrait was hailed as brave and clear-sighted by some and condemned as a travesty by others.

The painting was first shown to the public in a 2002 inaugural exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace. (Photo: Royal Collection)

How do I know this inside story? It comes from a reliable source: specifically, David Dawson who was Lucian Freud’s assistant for 21 years and inherited Freud’s’ home and studio space as bequeathed to him in the final will. (Note: Freud died last year in July 2011.)

Dawson was the first guest speaker at the Modern in conjunction with this exhibition.

The next speaker, scheduled for October 9th, is Martin Gayford who sat for “Man in the Blue Scarf” (see image below). This promises to be another enlightening talk full of back stories.

Martin suggested himself as a sitter to Lucian Freud over tea in the kitchen – not really expecting a positive answer. The best Martin hoped was for Freud to hesitate and say: “Perhaps?” Instead, Freud replied: “What are you doing next Tuesday evening?” What unfolded was 130 hours of sitting sessions in Freud’s studio, between November 2003 and April 2005, and a book about the experience.

Painting: “Man in the Blue Scarf” | 26″ x 20″

The portrait of Queen Elizabeth is not included in the current show at the Modern Art Museum Fort Worth titled Lucian Freud: Portraits which closes October 28th – it stays in her Majesty’s Royal Collection – but there is still much to see in this show, including “Man in the Blue Scarf.”

Enjoy your week.


Pay It Forward with Art

Dick Solomon, President of Pace Prints, wanted his New York-based business to make a difference, in a memorable way, when his gallery exhibited at this year’s Dallas Art Fair.

He did so when he offered Greenhill School art students a chance to work side-by-side with the well-known, Texas-born artist, John Alexander, and Justin Israels, one of Pace’s master print makers (see image below).

Pace Prints | Live demonstration of making a monoprint | 2012 Dallas Art Fair (photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

To start, a faint pencil sketch of a monkey guided John Alexander (above right) and Justin Israels (above left) as they began painting on a thin aluminum plate, which has a rough-toothed surface to better absorb the printer’s ink being applied by John with a brush (see image below).

Print titled "Sitting on the Throne" begins

The painted metal plate and a wet paper were pulled using a press, lent by UNT’s College of Visual Arts and Design, to print the painting. Here’s an incredible tidbit – the pressure was 600 tons per square inch (see image below).

The method of making monoprints means that no two prints are alike. It’s the most painterly of all the printmaking techniques; it is essentially a printed painting.

With each technical step, John and Justin bantered with the wide-eyed Greenhill students. Here are some of the comments I found interesting:

“Being an artist is a lonely job.” John came to print making a decade after he was established as a painter. He welcomed the printing process because he liked working with another human being. Justin and he sometimes break into a dance with a James Brown song blaring in the studio. Legend has it, according to John, that deKooning played a TV in his studio as a substitute companion to ease the silence.

“Draw from life.” He recommended that the budding Greenhill artists go the Museum of Nature and Science and sketch the stuffed animals. He still visits zoos and museums to carefully observe the anatomies of flora and fauna and replenish his mental data bank of visuals.

“Give the monkey (any animal) a personality.” John imbues his animals with spunk. Some of his friends have commented that the creatures bear a resemblance to John, specifically his eyes.

“Sitting on the Throne” | Artist: John Alexander (2012) |monoprint: printers ink on paper (photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

“Sitting on the Throne,” the final piece of art, is to be sold with a portion of the proceeds benefitting Greenhill School to further fund the kids’ education.

Pay it forward…with this Art Fair twist, everyone wins

…until Sunday, April 22th.

(PS: You can have a John Alexander creation in your freezer. With business partner, Dan Aykryod (of Saturday Night and House of Blues fame), John designed the skull bottle for Crystal Head Vodka. The legend of the 13 skulls, referenced by Indiana Jones in the movie franchise, was the inspiration for this concept.)