24 Frames


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.

AIRED: May 04, 2019 | 0:28:48

("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!"

You know...

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)

(synthesizer music)

- 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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