Susana Oliveros Amaya
May 14 – Sept 24, 2022
The Texas Blackland Prairie—the ecoregion where Dallas is located—is the most endangered large ecosystem in North America (currently, less than 1% remains). Sweet Pass Sculpture School artists conducted a broad survey of this lost prairie, exploring remnant parcels in the Clymer Meadow and Frankford Church and the manufactured prairie of the GW Bush library. They examined how Dallas' construction has shaped its surrounding ecology and how the city incorporates nature into its tangled mass. The works presented respond to this contemporary environment, ranging from self-contained sculptural objects to landscape interventions and movement-based performance video.
In prairie landscapes, bottomlands appear as depressions in the earth, sunken and soggy places sitting at a river's edge. The artists in Sculpture School found home in that metaphor, sinking their toes into the mire of the overlooked, unseen, and unloved. Physically and metaphorically mining the landscape, the artists in Bottomland present alternative understandings of the local, from monuments to native flora. Formal aspects of the show draw on extractive and additive methods used in the construction of the built environment, redefining topographies, installing announcement systems, and placing signage to direct traffic through the space. Performing burned prairie as spiritual rebirth, hybridizing gilgai as cardinal directors, and highlighting the mechanized maintenance of designed landscapes, the works interweave with the park to create a complex ecology of collective inquiry.
Press for Bottomland:Art Dirt (Glasstire Podcast)
A drawing in two-by-fours, House Down, Panicum Virgatum traces the shadows cast by the adjacent SP2 house. Built to the height of the house’s foundation, this skewed, minimal form also references its internal structure. The doors and windows are packed with cracked earth, inverting the mirrored voids into vessels. The remaining area is planted with “Heavy Metal” switchgrass seed, a native plant of the Texas Blackland Prairie — harnessing the duration of the exhibition and creating an ongoing conversation within the landscape.
An empty desk, recreated in plywood, appears as a low poly rendering in the landscape. A photograph of the Southfork Ranch, the location for the soap opera Dallas, is flowing across the surface. Birdseed encrusted armatures hold a sprinkler system that operates in 15 minute intervals. As the sprinklers sputter to life and fan across the ground, the desk becomes a sort of Manneken Pis. Accompanying the water feature, a broken monologue cheerfully illustrates the opportunity and pleasure that a nameless future development will bring. The royalty free music and soothing voice shower the space before falling away and being absorbed back into the landscape. Named for the over-the-counter color used to paint the desk, Coffee Beans by Susana Oliveros Amaya, is a humorous and poignant comment on the seemingly ceaseless development of North Texas.
Brook-Lynne Clark’s Big Tex is Burning (6:47) is a three channel video work installed inside Sweet Pass’s new media space SP2. Tightly interwoven like the monumental Texas highways, Clark intuitively collages found imagery, music, the body, and footage shot in shopping malls. Through a series of fleeting glimpses, superimposed performers glitch over the landscape and bloom across screens. The figure dances first in prairie scenes, then fire, before multiplying across the built environment. Partially shot and produced with the artist’s phone, there is a feeling of immediacy and provisional tension. The density of imagery across three channels is impossible to take in in total — leaving the viewer to navigate the sprawl of ideas and narratives across multiple viewings.
Three Porta Potty sculptures and their shocks of blue sit at varying depths within the foliage of the park. In a takeaway zine featured in “Bottomland”, Dunne writes: “In Learning from Las Vegas, Robert Venturi and Denise Brown wrote that Las Vegas architecture is distinguished in part by its “rhetorical facade and conventional behind.” It occured to me that the inverse might be said of cruising architecture.” At first glance this trilogy of sculptures can be read as a one-liner about the qualities of Phillip Johnson’s JFK Memorial which resembles a bathroom stall. However, this wink becomes a framing device for a set of interiors which reveal so much more.
Carved from a single piece of cedar, Emily Lee’s Four Floods and Drawing for a City Public reaches nearly 14 feet into the canopy. At the top, a sand casted aluminum hoop, craggy and charged, supports a stained glass monocle which overlooks the ground below. In total, the form resembles a freehand sketch of an iconic Dallas building on the tail end of the skyline across the river. Reunion Tower built in the late 70’s sits just 1000 feet from where JFK was assassinated. Its geodesic exoskeleton holds an animated LED matrix, while the ball contains a dance club, a rotating restaurant, and an observation deck to showcase the tower’s panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. The building’s name itself is a reference to a flash-in-the-pan 19th century socialist commune, La Reunion, whose historic boundaries include the present day park. Additionally, Lee’s installation features a series of pit fired ceramic vessels which are buried flush with the ground. A compass rose, gilgai, or shadows of overhead planes – this series of X’s pockmark the ground, collecting water from prairie rains and tracking the shadows of her vertical sculpture.
Tucked into the back of the park sits a hole larger than a grave but smaller than a swimming pool. Dug by the artist with an excavator, Schlumberger’s gesture reveals the soil horizon down to the sandy loam of a prehistoric river bottom. The ground pulled open with the teeth of a tool reflects a historical refrain on the face of the prairie. It also mirrors the rapid development which surrounds the park and region. Bracketing the hollow, a series of signs narrate your encounter; The Approach, The Descent, The Hole, The Climb, The View, and The Marker. Part roadside attraction, part park interpretation — the signs codify the experience of the hole without prescribing explicit meaning. Instead, their installation calls attention to the ways in which we frame and transact with nature and place.
SCULPTURE SCHOOL ARTISTS
Alfonso currently lives and works in South Florida. Unseen work and the exercise of emotional control are central to Alfonso's practice. The qualities of invisibility and visibility become the foundations from which she develops drawings, installations, performances, and videos. Alfonso holds a Master's Degree in Fine Arts from Southern Methodist University, Dallas TX, and a Bachelor in Fine Arts from Florida International University, Miami FL. Alfonso has exhibited and performed her work in galleries, universities, and public spaces, such as NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale, Dimensions Variable, Spinello Projects, Art and Culture Center Hollywood, The Projects – Fat Village, Sweet Pass Sculpture Park, Marymount University. Alfonso received the South Florida Cultural Consortium (SFCC) 19/20.
Oliveros Amaya has exhibited her work in Colombia, the US, and recently in Ecuador. In 2021 Susana was selected to participate in the Banff Emerging Visual Arts Residency and Nave Residency. She has been recipient of the Scholarship for Emerging Artists (COL., 2018), the Sylvia Leslie Young Scholarship and RISD Fellowship (2018-20), and the RISD Graduate Commons Grant (2020). She holds a MFA from Rhode Island School of Design (RI, US) and received a BA in Art, Minor in Literature and a BA in Art History from Universidad de los Andes (Bog. COL).
Clark, is a Dallas-based artist creating performances and videos that draw inspiration from the movement and sounds of black culture in the south. Originally a studio trained dancer, she is focused on re-evaluating the artist-audience relationship and blurring lines between the and is invested in creating work that is only ever in and of the present moment. She is currently working towards her BFA in New Media Arts and the University of North Texas in Denton, TX.
Dunne is a Brooklyn, NY based artist working in sculpture and drawing. He received his BFA from Hunter College in 2019. He has exhibited at The Walter Elwood Museum, 601 Artspace, P.A.D., and Dorsa Brevia. He was once moved to tears at a gay bar by the sight of an AC unit covered in tinsel.
Lee is a chinese-american artist, writer, and organizer based in Austin. Lee’s work investigates form’s relationship to time, public space, and social activism. Lee earned a BA in Art History Honors, a BFA in Studio Art, and a certificate in Museum Studies at the University of Texas at Austin after completing a gap year at the Marchutz School of Fine Arts in France. Lee is a founder of All the Sudden, a DIY project space in Austin hosting experiments in visual art, music, performance, and community work. She has exhibited her work in Texas and NYC, and she has co-curated outdoor exhibitions in Austin for Northern-Southern Gallery, Co-Lab Projects, and All the Sudden. Lee has been awarded the Roy Crane Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts, the Rhodes Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Art, and The Creative Future of Texas Fund’s Microgrant. Her essay, Place Versions, has been published by French & Michigan.
Schlumberger holds an MFA from California College of the Arts in Social Practice and a BFA from Tufts University in conjunction with the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Her experience as an immigrant informs work that deals with translation and the bridging of human connectivity over physical distance. Her sculptural works, sometimes interactive and sometimes reliant on visual metaphors, are often made in common building materials, and many are like stages anticipating their performers; their potential is realized when people use and activate them. Recently Hélène has focused on a series of holes, focusing on their metaphorical potential, and making small, intuitive sculptures mostly from scrap materials. These more immediate works consider small gestures and their psychological, interior impacts. Her work extends to a long-running collaborative practice with her wife Elizabeth Eicher where the duo explores power dynamics, ideas of time and effort, and the embodiment of social roles.
PRESENTERS & LECTURERS
The Sculpture School Reader was produced as a primer and reference book for the Sculpture School artists. It is a 290 page collage of site history, memes, gossip, marginalia, and theory produced to give background on the history of Dallas, the Texas Blackland Prairie, and site responsive sculpture theory. The reader was printed and assembled in the living room of Sweet Pass founders Tamara Johnson and Trey Burns with generous research and writing help from Allison Klion, Tino Ward, and Finn Jubak.
Sweet Pass Sculpture Park is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts organization which provides space and support for experimental and large-scale outdoor projects by a diverse set of contemporary voices. Founded in 2018 by Tamara Johnson and Trey Burns, as an extension of their own art practices, they envision this project growing to be a permanent space for temporary projects. Geographically located in a one acre lot in west Dallas, Sweet Pass exists in the gaps between ideas of gardens, green spaces, and public spaces while supporting contemporary art dedicated to site, experimentation, and community engagement.