Returning to… if not normal then what?

“In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.”

― Friedrich Nietzsche

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart;

the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

—-William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming

The line to buy artwork immediately grows to fill the gallery.

I forget how long it has been since the world has gone mad. When I go out, I am astonished to see how mad it has gone.

Every year I like to go the the For the Love of Kettle competitive shopping event at The Kettle Gallery in Deep Ellum

The best way to understand this is to read my 2014 Blog entry, The Weird and Wicked World of the Singing Cowboy

The Weird and Wicked World of the Singing Cowboy by Clay Stinnett

I went every year, sometimes successful, sometimes not so… I didn’t write about it every year, but sometimes I did.

2016 Getting A Ross

Tethered to an Upside Down Giant by Richard Ross

2019 A Competitive Shopping Event

Painting #1 – by Brad Allbright
Day of the Dead skull by David Pech.

2020 A Very Human Way of Making Life More Bearable

“How We Measure Our Days” by Lisa Huffaker

Last year, of course, they did not have an event. I was excited this year to go back again.

Candy looked over the paintings that were listed on the facebook page and gave me a list of four to look for – pick one. There is no guarantee.

The DART ride down there was awful. Post COVID – the trains are overrun with insanity. I used to enjoy riding public transportation, but not any more. The cars reek of weed. Every car and every stop has at least on lunatic screaming and cursing.

There is track maintenance going on so the train had to empty and one stop, load onto a shuttle bus, ride to another stop, and get back on. The trip downtown took me almost two hours.

The worst was at the Lover’s Lane station. A lunatic roared across the platform pushing a stolen shopping cart full of shit – mostly broken pieces of plywood – cursing and screaming. He stopped a few yards down the line and stood there screaming and throwing stuff onto the tracks. When the train arrived, loaded and left, it paused at a street, waiting for the bar to lower, right next to this guy. He continued to scream the most awful obscenities while beating on the driver’s window with a big hunk of plywood. The train held several families on their way to the Mavericks basketball game – I doubt they will take the train again.

I made it to the gallery about an hour before the event was to begin – later than I planned, but I still was about the tenth person in line.

Line in front of the Kettle gallery starting up, an hour before the doors open.
The rules of the competitive shopping event, posted in the window.

I always enjoy talking to the people in line and the hour went quickly. Luckily the weather was good – only a little chilly.

We all ran in and I chose my artworks. Unfortunately, the numbers were small and black on silver, and my ancient eyes could not make them out. I had trouble finding the artworks Candy had picked out – this slowed me down and by the time I reached the counter, three-quarters of the artworks were already sold. I discovered that I had written a number down wrong, and had purchased a random artwork (this has happened to me before – my handwriting is so bad when I’m rushed).

In the end, I had a good time, though I’m not completely satisfied with the two artworks I bought. But they will go onto the wall where my choices from the past are arrayed… and will look fine alongside the others.

But I still have this frightening feeling that everything is spiraling out of control… the world is going to shit.

Getting a Ross

“Sergeant Spearman, you are positively glutinous with self-approbation. You might as well speak out.”

—-Alfred Hitchcock, Frenzy

For several years now, each February or so, I have travelled down to the Kettle Art Gallery in Deep Ellum for their For the Love of Kettle affair. This is a “competitive shopping event” where two hundred or so works of art, all 8×11, are displayed on the walls. About three hundred people are unleashed through the opening doors at once and grab the paintings they want. If you desire something by a particular artist, you have to be quick, decisive, and efficient. I wrote about it three years ago – you can read about it here.

One of the artists that I have always wanted to get at the show was Richard Ross. He is a very well-known local artist, with a distinctive personal style. His murals are found on walls in Deep Ellum and other spots.

Richard Ross mural in the Deep Ellum Art Park (detail)

Richard Ross mural in the Deep Ellum Art Park (detail)

Richard Ross Column Deep Ellum Art Park, Dallas, Texas (Click to Enlarge)

Richard Ross Column
Deep Ellum Art Park, Dallas, Texas
(Click to Enlarge)

In the years past, I was always too late to get a Ross, even though he usually donated a handful of works to the show. I always wait in line for an hour before the opening (I’m usually fifth in line or so) but I get overexcited and confused and fail to grab the good work fast (it’s OK, everything at the show is cool – I probably should buy something at random). His stuff always sells immediately and I took too much time (around thirty seconds) making up my mind. By the time I made it to the table with my list of numbers his were gone. This year I was extra quick and decisive – at my turn only two of his three were purchased. So I bought his Tethered to an Upside Down Giant.

Tethered to an Upside Down Giant by Richard Ross

Tethered to an Upside Down Giant
by Richard Ross

I like the little drawing on the back of my painting.

I like the little drawing on the back of my painting.

Now, months later, I saw that the Kettle Arts Gallery was having a show, Hireath, of paintings by Richard Ross and Jessie Sierra Hernandez. The opening was on Thursday night, which is really tough for me. I’m exhausted at the end of each work day, but I try to do what I can – life is too short. I finished up at work and caught the DART train downtown. I fortified myself with a cold wheat beer at Braindead Brewing and walked across Main Street to Kettle Art.

Dry Hopped Wheat beer from Braindead Brewing in Deep Ellum

Dry Hopped Wheat beer from Braindead Brewing in Deep Ellum

The show was positively glutinous. Kettle Art is such a crackerjack place.

I talked to Richard Ross for a minute, he said the characters in his painting are “Keyholes” – I suppose that is a term that can represent a limited view into their souls.

From the Internet: The “keyhole” figures represent the locked inner conscience we have in our public appearance. Basically the “keyhole” says that there’s more inside than just the facade, and it’s protected. Some of these figures will appear two faced to show more complexity in the character.

Richard Ross and some of his work, Kettle Art Gallery

Richard Ross and some of his work, Kettle Art Gallery

I shuffled around the gallery several times, ogling the art. I am usually good with my lifelong poverty, except when I’m visiting art galleries. I have this fantasy where I strut around with a big douchebag expression on my face braying, “I’ll take this… and this… and this.” Alas, it is not to be.

In addition to the paintings in his familiar style he also had some interesting early works and some smaller paintings.

The little ones were really nice – the ink lines gave them a strong graphical emphasis.

But what I really liked was a series of 12 medium-sized artworks, arranged in a grid. These were framed by random smears of painted color – precious views into a hidden world or a different dimension. They shared the strong lines of the small works, but the extra bit of size allowed them additional layers of complexity. Each one told a little bizarre story. Actually each one tells hundreds of little stories – different for every person that sees them.

Does this make sense? I’m afraid you’ll have to go down there and see for yourself (the show is open until September 17). I wished I could slide out the cash and buy the lot of those mediums – display them on my humble wall like they were at the gallery.

I didn’t stay long – it had been a long day and I was fading fast. It was a short walk through the dark to the train station and the ride back home.

Forty Thousand Years of Art in Fifty Eight Minutes

Plaza of the Americas
Dallas, Texas


During the week, after work, I am so tired. All I can think of is getting home and falling into bed. The whole world feels dim and tilted – sloping toward the land of nod.

This is not a good thing – I don’t want to sleep my life away. I try and figure out something to do after work every day. I’m not always successful – but that doesn’t mean I can’t keep trying.

So I saw that tonight was an Art History lecture at Kettle Art in Deep Ellum (this is the gallery where I bought my bargain painting a month ago). Painter and educator Justin Clumpner was giving a talk in BYOB Art History:

Justin Clumpner’s titillating presentation on this-thing-we-call-art kicks off the final weekend of “Love, Death, + The Desert”. Join us tomorrow night at 7 for the first installment of Justin’s behind-the-scenes glimpse into the strange and mysterious world of art through the ages.

That sounded like fun – so I decided to go.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Art History. I took a year of it in college, as a break from my chemistry classes (and in a vain attempt to meet women). It turned out to be a revelation.

My instructor was an interesting person. On the first day of class he said, “We are supposed to go from ancient art to the present, but we are going to stop at 1860, because there hasn’t been anything worthwhile done since.” He lived in a world of his own – a world filled exclusively with the art of yesteryear. He talked about the Roman Colosseum and how it had canvas shades that would extend out over the audience. He asked, “Those astro-dome things nowadays have that too, don’t they?” The man had no idea what a modern sports stadium was.

But he was able to teach. I was fascinated by how, with a little instruction and after looking at thousands of projected 35mm slides from a rotating carousel in a darkened room (these were the days before powerpoint – and possibly better for it) – I could look at a totally unknown painting and tell who had painted it and in what year, give or take a few.

My biggest problem is that I would have four hours of chemistry lab before the art history class. I had to make a difficult left brain-right brain switch in only a few minutes of walking across campus. I remember looking at a slide of a beautiful Byzantine Mosaic and all I could think of was, “What pigment did they use to get that blue?”

One day I left my lab, walked to art history, ate lunch, studied on campus for a few hours, then walked the two miles to my apartment. I started cooking dinner when my roommates came home. They stared at me and said, “Bill, what the hell is that on your face?” I realized I still had my big heavy laboratory goggles on. I was so used to them I forgot to take them off and still felt normal. I can’t believe nobody had said anything to me yet that day – I must have looked like an idiot.

Today, after work, I caught the Red DART line downtown and then transferred to the Green to get to Deep Ellum. The Transit Gods smiled on me and I didn’t have a wait – so I arrived early. The talk was billed as BYOB and I wish I had gone to pick up a growler of local beer – but I settled for a little metal flask loaded with a few draughts of precious Ron Flor de Cana.

The Altamira Bison

The Altamira Bison

The talk was really interesting. Of course, it could only be a quick overview, from cave paintings of forty thousand years ago to post-modernism in one hour is a tough and fast voyage – but Justin Clumpner is a high school art teacher and knows how to bring an audience along with him.

He said he wanted to make the BYOB Art History Talks a regular thing, maybe once a month. I hope so – it will be cool to hear him talk about some themes and topics in a more detailed, comprehensive way. If you want to give it a shot, like Kettle Art and watch their feed – I’ll see ya there.

Maybe I’ll be able to get a growler of beer to bring. Some fresh local beer and an art history lecture… that’s a good way to spend a work night. Better than collapsing at home.

The Weird and Wicked World of the Singing Cowboy

One of the surprisingly few times that I regret being poor is when I think about how I can’t afford to support artists or collect works of art as much as I would like… – especially local work.

Because of that, whenever an opportunity presents itself for me to pick up something affordable – well, it’s a good thing. For a long time, I have been a fan of Kettle Art in Deep Ellum and the artists they support. So I read about an annual event they put on For the Love of Kettle – I jumped all over it. It’s a fundraiser for the gallery. Participating artists donate a small work which are sold off for 50 dollars each – with the funds going to support the gallery. It is billed as a “competitive shopping event.”

I can come up with fifty bucks. I can pack a sack lunch for a couple of weeks.

On Facebook, over three hundred people has said they were going, but there were only going to be a hundred and fifty works of art. Looking through the selections on the website, I realized that there was going to be a feeding frenzy on this stuff when the doors opened, so I went down there an hour and a quarter early and stood in line. There were only a half dozen folks there when I arrived, but the line stretched out down the block, getting longer by the minute.

Most of the people in the front part of the line were participating artists – it was fun talking to them. Also, a lot of people said that this sale was popular not only for the price, but for the small size of the art. So many said they had art they couldn’t put out because they were out of wall space.

These were my kind of people.

Looking into the windows of the Kettle Gallery, waiting for the show to start.

Looking into the windows of the Kettle Gallery, waiting for the show to start.

Everybody peered through the windows at the art on the walls. The rules of the sale were distributed on little slips of paprer. You had to get the number (printed on the wall beside the painting) of the piece you wanted and then register with the volunteers. You wouldn’t necessarily know if someone had already bought the one you chose until you get to the desk. Later, your name would be called at the cashier station and you would pay. Then, you take your receipt to another desk to get your purchase. These careful rules were necessary to handle the surge of people desperate to buy something.

One woman said she fought somebody for a painting a couple years ago. Wouldn’t that be cool? I’d love to have a painting hanging in my hall that I could boast I punched someone for… maybe a splotch of dried blood on the back for proof.

We all talked about the art we could see from the sidewalk and the works that were in the back room. The cry went out, “One Minute!” and everyone tensed. I began to get nervous – this was going to be a lot of pressure to find and purchase the exact right painting under these competitive conditions. I had a three by five card in my had and a pen at the ready.

The door swung open and we rushed in. I went to a spot I had chosen from outside and started to look at the art up close. Knowing I didn’t have much time, I wrote numbers down on the card – paintings I liked in order… 26, 28, 30, 7, 136. Surely one of those five would be available. The line at the volunteer table was quickly growing so I jumped in. Within three more minutes the line reached the length of the gallery behind me.

A man was standing in line right in front of me. An out-of-breath woman came up and lifted up her phone. They had gone in with a plan. He had grabbed a spot in line while she ran up and down the walls taking shots of the paintings (with their associated numbers) with her phone. Now, the two of them were going over the artworks and deciding which one(s) they wanted to buy.

After a few minutes (I was the twentieth in line) it was my turn. Number 26, my first choice, was available. It was a work I had noticed on the website… and it had looked even better in person.

For the Love of Kettle Looking at the art

For the Love of Kettle
Looking at the art

For the Love of Kettle

For the Love of Kettle

For the Love of Kettle

For the Love of Kettle

Now, finally, I had time to leisurely push through the crowd and take a careful look at all of the hundred fifty works. They were all good. I thought that they could have sold them at random and I would have been happy – there were no more than two or three that I actually didn’t like. Still, I was pleased with what I chose.

The crowd was thick and happy. A lot of artists were there and some folks were taking pictures with the artists posing next to the artwork they had bought. That’s pretty cool.

A lot of people crowded into the gallery.

A lot of people crowded into the gallery.

They called my name and I went to pay. Since I was one of the first I had a discount and only paid forty two dollars. I milled around talking to people about what they had chosen, until the paintings were starting to disappear and I turned in my receipt and picked up my artwork.

A row of paintings. I chose the one in the middle.

A row of paintings. I chose the one in the middle.

Clay Stinnett painting on the wall at Kettle Gallery.

Clay Stinnett painting on the wall at Kettle Gallery.

On my way to the door, someone looked at my artwork and said, “Oh, you’ve got the Clay Stinnett,” then he read the text off the front – “Tumbling Tumbleweeds.”

The Weird and Wicked World of the Singing Cowboy by Clay Stinnett

The Weird and Wicked World of the Singing Cowboy
by Clay Stinnett

The title, written on the back, is The Weird and Wicked World of the Singing Cowboy. I really like it.

Clay Stinnett Tumblr
Clay Stinnett’s Honky Tonk Mind
Clay Stinnett Is Painting A Collection of Big Tex On Fire Pictures
Art We Like: Clay Stinnett at Smoke and Mirrors

I’m definitely going back next year… and I’ll be there early and near the front of the line.