Conversations @ The Center 2019

Galveston Arts Center (GAC) presents its annual speaker series, Conversations @ The Center, featuring artists and arts professionals who speak about and show images of their work, practices, professions, or discuss timely issues in contemporary visual art. The 2019 series highlights four Texas-based authors who have published books on topics in contemporary art joined in conversation with individuals that give special insight into local and regional connections to their work.

All events are free and open to the public.

2019 Schedule:

Sunday, January 20, 2019
2:00 PM
Bruce Lee Webb, Artist, Collector, and Author
Kevin Thompson, Information Officer, Galveston Scottish Rite Cathedral

Author Bruce Webb will speak about his book, As Above, So Below: Art of the American Fraternal Society, 1850-1930, in conversation with Kevin Thompson, Information Officer for the Galveston Scottish Rite Cathedral.

Saturday, February 16, 2019
2:00 PM
Robert Craig Bunch, Author
Robert Dampier, Artist

Author Robert Craig Bunch will speak about his book, The Art of Found Objects: Interviews with Texas Artists, in conversation with Galveston-based artist Robert Dampier who is featured in the publication.

Sunday, March 31, 2019
2:00 PM
Jay Wehnert, Author
Recie Kraemer, Owner of Karol Virag’s Decoupage House

Author Jay Wehnert will speak about his book, Outsider Art in Texas: Lone Stars, in conversation with Galveston resident Recie Kraemer, owner of Karol Virag’s Decoupage House.

Sunday, May 19, 2019
2:00 PM
Pete Gershon, Author
Michael Tracy, Artist

Pete Gershon will speak about his book, Collision: The Contemporary Art Scene in Houston, 1972–1985, in conversation with artist Michael Tracy who lived and worked in Galveston during the 1970s. Tracy’s performance, Sacrifice I, 9.13.74 (The Sugar), which took place in the Imperial Sugar Warehouse in 1974 is documented in the book.

Bruce Lee Webb and Kevin Thompson

Sunday, January 20, 2019 – 2:00 PM

Bruce Lee Webb is an artist, collector, and the co-author of As Above, So Below: Art of the American Fraternal Society, 1850-1930. Webb has been a collector of fraternal objects for more than twenty-five years. He is a thirty-second degree Scottish Rite Mason, Royal Arch Mason, Cryptic Mason, and Knight Templar. He is also an Odd Fellow, and is a Royal Purple degree member of the Odd Fellows Encampment. He has also been initiated into the Order of the Eastern Star, the Rebekahs, and the knights of Pythias. He and his wife Julie Webb own Webb Gallery in Waxahachie, TX, specializing in the work of self-taught and folk artists.

About the book:
As Above, So Below: Art of the American Fraternal Society, 1850-1930
By Lynne Adele and Bruce Lee Webb, Foreword by David Byrne
University of Texas Press, 2015

Featuring more than two hundred outstanding objects gathered from private and public collections, As Above, So Below provides the first comprehensive survey of the rich vein of art created during the “golden age” of the American fraternal society.

Lynne Adele and Bruce Lee Webb introduce the reader to fraternal societies and explore the function and meaning of fraternal object, including paintings, costumes and ceremonial regalia, ritual objects, and an array of idiosyncratic objects that represent a grassroots response to fraternalism. Setting the art in historical context, the authors examine how fraternal societies contributed to American visual culture during this era of burgeoning fraternal activity. Simultaneously entertaining and respectful, As Above, So Below opens lodge room doors and invites the reader to explore the compelling and often misunderstood works from the golden age of fraternity, once largely forgotten and now coveted by collectors.

Kevin Thompson is the Information Officer for the Galveston Scottish Rite Cathedral. Built in an Art-Deco style in 1929 by the notable Texas architect Alfred C. Finn, the Galveston Scottish Rite Cathedral is home to a historically preserved four hundred seat vaudeville-era theater, a reading room within a library of near four thousand titles, an ornate banquet hall, as well as the famed Egyptian Room, considered by many the most beautiful Masonic Lodge room in the State of Texas.

The Valley of Galveston, founded in 1867, is the oldest Scottish Rite body in the State of Texas and is home of the Mother Consistory of Texas, where the “high” degrees of Freemasonry began in our great state. With an illustrious history going back one hundred and fifty years, the Galveston Valley of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite has survived in face of near insurmountable obstacles, from fevers, to floods, and fires. Throughout all of this the valley has continued to thrive and be of invaluable service to its membership and community.

Robert Craig Bunch and Robert Dampier

Saturday, February 16, 2019 – 2:00 PM

Robert Craig Bunch is a Houston native living in San Antonio. After a 26+ year career as a librarian, he is guest curating his first exhibition, at the Art Museum of Southeast Texas in Beaumont (through March 3, 2019): The Art of Found Objects: Enigma Variations. He is also working on his second book for Texas A&M University Press: Dreams, Visions, Other Worlds: Interviews with Texas Artists. His first book, published in 2016, was The Art of Found Objects: Interviews with Texas Artists. It is the only book of interviews with artists from across Texas. Craig was Assistant Librarian at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio from 2011 to 2018.

About the book:
The Art of Found Objects: Interviews with Texas Artists
Texas A&M University Press, 2017

In this first book of interviews with visual artists from across Texas, more than sixty artists reflect on topics from seminal influences and inspirations to their common engagement with found materials. Beyond the art itself, no source is more primary to understanding art and artist than the artist’s own words. After all, who can speak with more authority about the artist’s influences, motivations, methods, philosophies, and creations?

Since 2010, Robert Craig Bunch has interviewed sixty-four of Texas’ finest artists, who have responded with honesty, clarity, and—naturally—great insight into their own work. None of these interviews has been previously published, even in part. Incorporating a striking, full-color illustration of each artist’s work, these absorbing self-examinations will stand collectively as a reference of lasting value.

Robert Dampier is a self-taught artist who lives and works in Galveston, TX. He creates assemblages from old and discarded found objects and natural materials. His work is featured in Robert Craig Bunch’s book, The Art of Found Objects: Interviews with Texas Artists, and has been included in exhibitions at venues throughout Galveston, as well as exhibitions at Williams Tower Gallery, Houston; ARC Studio and Gallery, San Francisco, CA; and Gallery M2, Houston.

Jay Wehnert and Recie Kraemer

Sunday, March 31, 2019 – 2:00 PM

Jay Wehnert is the Director of Intuitive Eye, a Houston arts organization he founded in 2011. An independent curator, writer, collector, educator, and collaborator in a wide range of venues, he has curated shows for galleries and institutions in Texas, written for exhibition catalogues and other publications as well as his own website, presented at conferences, and worked directly with artists to present their art in a variety of settings. He resides in Houston, Texas.

About the book:
Outsider Art in Texas : Lone Stars
Texas A&M University Press, 2018

In Outsider Art in Texas: Lone Stars, author Jay Wehnert takes readers on a visually stunning excursion through the lives and work of eleven outsider artists from Texas, a state particularly rich in outsider artists of national and international renown.

Recie Kraemer is an islander by choice, having lived in Galveston for over twenty years. In the early 2000s Kraemer purchased an unassuming house off 19th Street in Galveston with some historic merit in hopes of saving it. The home was the former residence of Czech immigrant Karl Virag who transformed the entire interior into a visionary folk art environment. The house has been featured in tours by the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art and in a recent article in Coast Monthly Magazine.

Images: Photo of Jay Wehnert by Jack Thompson. Decoupage House image by Jennifer Reynolds for Coast Monthly Magazine.

Pete Gershon and Michael Tracy

Sunday, May 19, 2019 – 2:00 PM

Pete Gershon is the program coordinator for the Core Residency Program at the Glassell School of Art of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the author of Painting the Town Orange: Houston’s Visionary Art Environments. He resides in Houston.

About the book:
Collision: The Contemporary Art Scene in Houston, 1972–1985
Texas A&M University Press, 2018

Drawing upon primary archival materials, contemporary newspaper and magazine accounts, and over sixty interviews with significant figures, Gershon presents a narrative that preserves and interweaves the stories and insights of those who transformed the Houston art scene into the vibrant community that it is today.

Michael Tracy first achieved international recognition in the 1980s, exhibiting in the 1982 Venice Biennale and in London’s Tate Gallery’s New Art exhibition in 1983. He has had solo exhibitions at P.S. 1 (New York), the Menil Collection (Houston), the Mattress Factory (Pittsburgh) and the Centro Cultural de Arte Contemporáneo (Mexico City). His work is found in public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Art, Houston, the High Museum (Atlanta) and the Menil Collection.

Michael Tracy’s life and career are bound up with the state of Texas. After receiving his MFA from the University of Texas, Tracy moved to Galveston in the early 1970s. In 1978 he settled in San Ygnacio, a small historic border town on the Rio Grande, where he has resided ever since. He founded The River Pierce Foundation, which works to identify, conserve, and advocate for the cultural heritage of San Ygnacio and the borderlands in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The foundation’s work includes artistic, educational, and oral history programs; environmental activism; and a major program of restoration for the historic buildings of San Ygnacio.

Images: Photo of Pete Gershon by Erica Nix. Photo of Michael Tracy by Molly Glentzer for the Houston Chronicle.

This program was made possible in part with a grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.