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.
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.
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.)
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.
RON AND CHRIS MARRS
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.
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.
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.
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.