Salon of the Ignored, Underwater Photographer, CASP, Embers
First, Lubbock artist, James W. Johnson, reminisces on a painting that sparked some controversy in the West Texas Town back in 1994. Next we go behind the scenes with a local photographer who captures high fashion underwater. Then, circles are this CASP member's inspiration. Our episode concludes with the delicious dishes from Embers Barbecue.
("In the Morning of the Magicians" by The Flaming Lips)
- My very first art teacher said you make art about life.
The inspiration was always part imagery,
part what it's about, how do you want to make people feel,
how do you want them to react,
which is one of the big things I learned in grad school,
that you can control how people react to your painting,
to some degree.
(light percussive music)
Early on, I was just doing sort of all kinds of things,
you know, eventually, I settled on wanting
to do something that would confront you,
things that would draw you in,
but then subject matter that would push you away.
- Jim, his artworks are how should we say
they're bold statements.
He's such a great painter that even if
you didn't want to look at it you couldn't not look at it
when you walked by, you know?
His works have always made you stop and think, you know,
and that's the great thing about it.
Sometimes he would do it with elements
that are shocking to some people; violence, gore, nudity,
but those of us who are working at the festival
we were maybe taken a little bit by surprise
at the reaction, the public reaction that is.
- It didn't surprise me at all, I thought it was hilarious.
(light percussive music)
- You know, one of the largest paintings I did
in that series was called Dracula's Wedding.
It was kind of about the angst, and the ups and downs,
and complexity of being in a relationship.
I chose the kind of Dracula vampire setting
because you know, we at the time some of our love
is sort of eternal, so I kind of liked that,
and I always liked vampire movies.
(light percussive music)
- There were people who were concerned that that was
way too much, too difficult for children
you know, to look at.
- Lubbock (scoffs), Lubbock has some really...
We like, not me okay,
but we as a community lean toward
black and white answers to a murky world,
And so they feel many of those are offered
in a religious construct in terms of deciding
what is in fact what should be seen and what should be
part of a community-wide arts festival.
- But the next year they decided that
they didn't want to deal with that kind of controversy.
They didn't want to worry about that,
so they canceled the competition part
of the Lubbock Arts Festival.
Which meant there was you know, they brought in
a traveling show of photos from Houston
or something like that in its place.
- I don't remember that.
I don't think we got rid of having a jury gallery.
Now we could look it up that would be easy enough
to figure out, but...
Okay, so here is 1995,
this may explain part of it.
It looks like maybe the gallery in '95 was all photography,
so there were no painters, no sculptors.
- I think that was a response because, you know,
basically people don't want to be in a sticky wicket,
they don't want to be in a mess, so was it in response?
Yeah, kind of, sort of, yeah.
- What it meant was there was no outlet
for local contemporary artists to show something
at the Lubbock Arts Festival, you know,
if you didn't get a booth, you know,
pay hundreds of dollars for a booth,
and you had little things you might sell, you know,
for a contemporary artist there was nothing.
So I got together with a couple of friends and said,
"Why don't we do our own show?"
- What happened was it spawned for a couple of years running
an alternative to the Lubbock Arts Festival.
- We ended up putting together a show called
Salon of the Ignored.
We had over a hundred artists.
It was open to anyone who wanted to participate.
- So the fringe festival sort of gave an opening,
or an opportunity for a lot of other artists.
I and many, many of us saw it was a great deal.
I wish it was still happening.
- One of the Bush presidents, I think it was the first one,
always said Lubbock was like the ...
Basically, Lubbock has always been average American.
It's a great place to live.
I really appreciate the quality of life here,
and the people here, but also being sort of average America
for me it's wonderful to react to, you know
either trying to piss them off, or trying to please them,
or just trying to interest them I mean,
and even that's challenging.
- A lot of people worry about what does it mean
to the artist, and really the important thing is
what does it mean to the viewer or the listener?
He's such a great painter and drawer,
and his sense of composition is so good.
And his use of color is so good.
And Jim's work is also so compelling in its craftsmanship.
And so I think because he is so good,
and he does make such a great statement,
and draws such a great question mark in your mind
when you look at it that the reaction was stronger
for his work than it might have been for someone else's.
- It's artists' responsibility to me,
or seemed like something worth stopping and noticing,
and thinking about.
("The Angel and the Fool" by Broken Bells)
- That's good in there, Cherie you need to get me uh,
the fake guns and the coat and we need to get it submerged
so that they'll float easy like we did last time
It's Jodie, she's always, she's always fifteen minutes late.
I started photographing water (seethes),
I guess early nineties?
And I never even photographed a human being
outside of water, talking digital until 2008.
And I never really gave it any thought until a buddy of mine
photographed someone on a glam, he approached me about
doing doing some of this stuff for some of
his "glamor models" and stuff like that,
that's when we started doing this.
And I mostly do this just for fun.
("The Changing Lights" by Broken Bells)
Now rule one, if I was, when I used to
teach a lot of classes and like that, it's like,
don't mess with the camera.
You know if your battery's fine, if your card's aren't full,
if everything's hunky-dory, don't.
Because these things, it's like all it takes
is a piece of lint, all it takes is a hair,
a piece of sand, something like that get
in one of the o-rings, it makes for a delete.
Fortunately I haven't had a catastrophic flood
in a very long time.
It's not a matter of if, it's a matter
of when it will flood.
Most people don't like it when you say that.
♪You gotta lead your life
♪ When you're not sure you know the way ♪
- Most of the uh, people here been working for years.
Poor Ann here, it's like yeah, she always gets stuck
last minute, "Hey do this, do that!"
And it's like, everyone here's done this long enough
and they watching what's going on,
watching this and that you know,
they know where the lights should be,
I can communicate with them really well.
Um, you know safety factors are involved.
A lot of time's they're watching me too,
if I get myself in trouble you know...
- It happens (laughs)
It does happen. - It does, It does happen.
He holds his breath a little too long,
and he comes up and he's like (pants),
"Don't do that." - It's like, "Don's not
"coming up, yeah he's kind of prostrate at the bottom
"of the pool there, you think we should get him out?"
We come up with a couple good projects every year.
A lot of times you just take something
that's land-based and stick it in the water.
And I've kind of over the years I do spoofs
off of different movies and things,
we did one a couple of years ago from
The Fifth Element, that turned out really cool.
That was a long night, girl drove in from LA
all night, got here, taped her up, threw her
in the water and then she nailed it, we got lucky with that.
Like I said, I'm setting these top-side
based on where I think the water level is gonna be
and then I'll make my adjustments under water.
Because like I said this thing is basically
just a giant mirror so anything we fire into it
guess what most of it's going to bounce right back at me.
And that's one of the things that's really cool
about photographing underwater is you do have
this 800 square foot mirror to play with on top of it
and if you look at a lot of work I do
there's almost always a reflection of stuff in the wall.
It really adds a lot, it also lets you indicate
that you're actually under water.
("Leave It Alone" by Broken Bells)
♪ All this time I've never let you go ♪
♪ And now the same chains that I kept you in ♪
♪ They're holding down my soul
- So pretty much it is just like normal makeup,
I'm going to do what I would normally do
and then we'll just make sure that we
seal it for the final part.
We do have to make sure that we don't use
any hairspray, any kind of products like that
will totally make the water foggy
and a lot of people like to see glitter
and stuff like that, a lot of shimmer,
you have to be so careful because it will
totally ruin the water.
So I have to remember not to do that.
- You know the big thing is that you want it
warm, you want them comfortable, you want
them relaxed, anything you can do
to get them calm, get their heart rate down,
not using a lot of energy, the better they're
going to hold their breath, the better they're going to do.
So, this whole process is extremely calm
if you've ever looked at free divers that go down
4 or 500 feet, they lay on the surface
and listen to Mozart for 15 minutes
and just get everything just chilled out.
This process is exactly like that because
she's got to hold her breath, in this case
she's probably going to be good for about
20 or 30 seconds but the calmer she is
especially with the dress you'll see it.
So it is, it's really about being chilled out.
Now when I work with the professional mermaids,
free divers and stuff like that, they out hold me.
I have a ballerina I work with and this girl
can go down for like four minutes at a time,
I'm good for about 30 seconds on a good day.
And Jillian's done this enough she knows,
she'll know where the lights are at,
she'll stay in the lights,
that's a big thing too with currents
and stuff like that it will push them out and away.
Because this stuff only works in a small area,
you've got four feet by four feet
and if you're not in that area
it's just simply not gonna work.
("Lazy Wonderland" by Broken Bells)
♪ I'm down by the fire
♪ At the ocean side
♪ Just waiting for that underwater world ♪
♪ To say goodbye
- And then so I'll have you do that
and then we'll do some shadowing.
- The trench coat has a lot of weight to it
and so as soon as it touches the air
it inflates it's like an instant life jacket
and so it's like you're trying to go down
in the water and it's just like pulling you back up
so then you have to bring it all out
and it's really heavy, and I could go on and on.
We don't like the trench coat but it is really pretty.
- [Petra] It is cool, it is cool.
("Perfect World" by Broken Bells)
- I mean in a lot of ways the pieces
that I've been making for public art
aren't necessarily conceptual in nature,
I mean they're really formal pieces.
You kind of roll the dice, I make these spheres
and I make them in a way where there's
not a lot of pre-planning and then to put
these spheres together and connect them
with all these other different pipes
that's part of the joy of it for me that's part of the fun.
I was actually a biology major with
a chemistry minor in undergraduate school
and to get out of the lab setting
I took an art class and it was a ceramics class
and I enjoyed working with my hands
and then I kind of kept taking an art class
every semester until I graduated.
After I got out of school I discovered
this spherical form which I'm really excited about,
I'm trying to get a residency now
with CERN with the Collide program
where I can work with some scientists about how
to make these things levitate with electromagnetism.
I teach astronomy during the day,
I'm a high school physics and astronomy teacher.
I really dig circles and spheres as a perfect form.
So, years ago I started actually working
with nails and welding nails together
and the little circles at the top that
I could put all perfectly together
and what was happening over time is that
those little circles, all the points
were coming together on the inside
but all the circles were forming a sphere,
a spherical shape, or at least a piece of that,
and I really thought that was super cool
and how could I emulate that in another way.
I went out to the studio one day
and I sat there and I cut this pipe
and it just, little pieces, little half inch
or one inch rings, so I did it for hours
and then I thought, "Well how can I make this work?"
and I thought back to the nails,
how those circles became a sphere
and then I started working on how I could make that happen.
Over the last six years I've gotten pretty good at it.
But the thing I think that kept me in metal
is that it's just, it's incredibly practical
as a media, I mean you've got the guy,
the custodian in the hallways, just like,
"Man, can you help me fix my barbecue grill?"
and you can, you want to build really cool
shelves for your album collection
that need to be sturdy, you can.
So there's just a lot of benefits to it
and then of course it's incredibly durable.
So these last few years I've been making
public sculpture and then smaller metal objects for gallery.
Now a lot of ways you can characterize me
as a process-oriented artist, there's something
about it that I found out years ago,
I really enjoyed that kind of meditative process.
Even though each individual type of art making
has a different set of processes each time
that I go to do some art, at art
I have a modus operandi I know what I'm gonna do
in that situation, frees up my mind
to think about something new creatively.
I do have a 17-foot tall sculpture in front
of the art building at Texas Tech University
and it's the, to date, the largest thing I've ever made.
It's an amazing honor to be part of that,
that program, in a lot of ways I think
I was lucky, it's heated competition.
They wanted an alumni and so that brought
the field down considerably and luckily,
honestly Lubbock is a fantastic place
for an artist to prosper, I mean I've been
working here at CASP since its inception
and I'm just kind of a fixture here.
There's a sense of community I think
would be the most important thing that I would
tell someone to search for and the other thing
is you just gotta turn on the lights everyday
you just kind of have to do it.
I don't know, there's not a lot of advice
for how to do it well that I would have
because I don't think that matters,
but I mean if an artist is really
working at making something that's brand new
in the world than I respect that,
whether I like the work or not.
So as long as you're doing it and you're doing it
with authenticity, you're doing the right thing.
- [Andrew] I come up here to start cooking like 6 p.m.
start prepping and stuff.
Oh, you're working all night from the time
you wake up it's go, go, go, go, go.
It's rare whenever, I mean I try to give myself
extra time but there's always something
that happens to where that's gonna buy your time.
("Sandusky" by Uncle Tupelo)
Once you get your fire right and your
brisket's trimmed and then seasoned
and you get it on, then it's like, "Well what's next?"
I got to get my ribs ready and get those seasoned,
and then what's next, oh I got to check
the brisket and get the fire back up
after I opened the doors, it's just constant.
("Sandusky" by Uncle Tupelo)
Right before the sun's gonna rise
I always get so cold, I can, it can be
20 degrees outside and I'm like rolling
throughout the night, prepping, and cooking
all night long, and then but when it hits
like 5:30, 6, like the sun's gonna start coming up
it is so cold right then and there.
I'd say the lack of sleep is the most difficult,
(laughs) the most difficult thing about barbecue.
Barbecuing's fun, the outcome it's fun,
but I mean at the same time I just sliced you
a platter of barbecue but I've been up all night
and I'm still up that same day serving.
In Levelland we were open three days
so I would start on Wednesday night
and I wouldn't go to sleep literally
until Saturday evening after we cleaned up shop
and it wore me out, that was another bad thing
about doing business over there actually
and that's another reason why traditional
barbecue joints are open only limited hours
at the end of the weeks most of the time.
I was in school for art but after our first
baby was born that's whenever I decided
we're doing barbecue, we were open six months
in Levelland and now we've been over here
going on four months, some might say we're
10 months deep but we're 10 months and two years
you know, deep, didn't know it was going to take
two years to open up over there but
we're trucking right along.
So we usually truck through January when we had
good crowds coming in and now it's just
at a point where we're getting new customers
over and over again each week, building up
a new following in Lubbock, it's cool.
We got a lot of new people figuring out
about us, sharing the love of barbecue.
- [Andrew's wife] We didn't start our business with a giant
lump sum of fallback cash so that was
definitely difficult, especially in Levelland
when we realized okay, this isn't working here.
I don't think that we've necessarily overcome it
it's just different, I think, not necessarily easier.
With the following that we have and the people
who are finding out about us and coming
to eat and supporting us we can see,
almost like a light at the end of the tunnel,
you can see where your work pays off now,
whereas some days there, we didn't get to see that.
It's an expensive business.
- [Andrew] There's a break even point and you got to sell
a lot of barbecue before you even hit that,
and you already bought your wood,
and you're giving away pickles and sauce and all that.
That's the goal, this time next year
to build up our clientele and be cooking
a lot more so we can actually turn a good profit
because right now we're just cooking
just to make people happy pretty much. (laughs)
I've done a lot of work for myself,
just side jobs like some carpentry for somebody,
or mowing lawns, or painting a house or something,
but nothing that we got a business license
and had to pay taxes on, that was one of the
biggest learning curves I would say for us.
My wife does a lot of it, so speaking on her behalf.
A lot of the time when people will come up
to me and be like, "Man, that was so good."
'cause I have a large hand in cooking the meat
but what people don't realize about
any barbecue operation, there's a saying,
"It's a barbecue family." if I didn't' have her
helping me all the time with any, even idea,
does this taste good, should we do this,
should we post this picture, what should we say,
anything, I'm just lost.
So FYI, in case you care, or didn't care,
me and my dad built this pit it was a tank
that was sitting on my grand daddy's property
so I actually when I was a kid I used to
climb all over this tank and daydream
and look at the clouds and whatnot on it.
Didn't know that one day it would be my pit
and provide for the family, it's kind of crazy.
So the pit's name is Quinton after my grand daddy.
It burns. (laughs)
But I'm telling you, it's the only way.
We can temp it but it might read,
might read a temp and be a little underdone,
might read the same temp and be perfectly done,
or a little overdone.
Sometimes it's hard to tell through the paper
which is why you got to do it almost bare handed.
("Wicked Twisted Road" by Reckless Kelly)
We're usually not this prepared. (laughs)
I grew up poor, my wife grew up poor also
so barbecuing was just like something
we did growing up that's for fun because you had to eat.
But you know, also get together with family and have fun.
- [Andrew's Wife] Hi, how are y'all?
- Hello. - How y'all doing today?
- Good. - Good.
- You know, I didn't even realize that I loved
barbecuing until later in my life.
I actually, one of my first jobs was
Bigham's barbecue in Lubbock and I ended up
working there off and on for about nine years
between school or going to work a construction job
I'd always end up back at Bigham's
just 'cause I enjoyed serving people and cooking.
I think that can come out.
I don't know, I think around those years
is when I realized I really love barbecue,
then I realized why, because of growing up
poor and having family time and it's the same thing
when people come here to eat they come
with their friends or their family and they'll
sit at a table with a stranger and they'll
enjoy the food together and they can sit there
and talk about, reminisce about other good
barbecue they've had.
- [Andrew's Wife] Thank you.
- [Andrew] It's just good to get together
over food and barbecue does it at least in Texas for sure.
I love the way it tastes and I love how primal it is,
cooking with just wood, but it's also
about bringing people together.
("In the Morning of the Magicians" by The Flaming Lips)
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