Black Box Lunch “Texas Tough”: Jill Bedgood and Sherry Owens

Jill Bedgood & Sherry Owens

Jill Bedgood & Sherry Owens

Well, Blue Star delivers once again.  The Black Box Lunch with Jill and Sherry was just great. What a fantastic way to gain insight to an artist’s work in an informal setting. The turnout was great – an enthusiastic gathering of artists, students, collectors and whatnot. Jill and Sherry did not disappoint. The personal connection between these two Texas gals is palpable. The generosity of spirit that comes not only from the fellowship of the path of the artist, but between two humans who genuinely know and like each other. That’s something special that doesn’t always happen. Yes, professional admiration and respect is not at all uncommon, but that genuine warmth of devotion in the admiration is simply not always something that the “spectator” gets to experience. This was our golden ticket.

Jill Bedgood on a roll.

Jill Bedgood on a roll.

Jill Bedgood opened the proceedings with a Powerpoint presentation that gave us a swift overview of her work and influences. Books of Hours – the lavishly illustrated and lettered devotional books popular in some areas of Europe in the Middle Ages. Memento Mori – remembrances of death, reminders of our fleeting mortality. Memorialization – the ways that we remember – takes so many forms and are literally an aspect of our daily lives in the forms of buildings, cemeteries, monuments, and other more intimate and personal objects and reliquaries. Past works ranged from full on collaborative installations such as Capella (a few of these panels were included in the show) to smaller, more personal works such as her Dictionary Drawings in which she used old dictionaries as the basis of artistic works that were her interpretations and extrapolations on the concept of books of hours.

"Book of Hours: Intervention"

“Book of Hours: Intervention” – detail

Her installation for “Texas Tough” is “Book of Hours:  Interventions.” It is almost startlingly spare, particularly in comparison to the other three artists represented in the show. It is very quiet, very personal. The work almost asks to be touched. There is a tactile quality that Bedgood captures in this series that is extremely real. You can almost feel the objects in your hands, as they were before their “memorialization.”  The white walls are lined very precisely with beautifully cast “books” that represent intervention. Stent, gauze, religious medal, lump… Medical intervention, spiritual intervention. The intervention of simple, familiar objects, quite ordinary and plain. It is very much a meditation on the intervention of crisis in one’s life. This was an excellent opportunity to really understand and absorb the work. Opening night was so boisterous, delightfully so, but it made it rather too easy to miss the very subtle impact of this piece. There is a video that I would like to share with you. It’s short and seems unfinished, but it will give you insight into how carefully and meticulously these works were crafted. Here’s Jill.

"Book of Hours" detail

“Book of Hours” detail

Sherry Owens just made me want to laugh out loud, and I wasn’t necessarily expecting that – artist as raconteur. She is an embodiment of what is best about Texas girls. Her East Texas twang and charming, chatty cadence made you feel like you had just drawn up to the supper table with your favorite auntie or cuz. Disclaimer: my people are from East Texas. I know. She put so many words in the air and set them whirling in the next half hour, it was simply fascinating. Anyway, she started by handing out the catalogue from her 2010 “West Texas Triangle” show. Every summer five West Texas museums band together to honor a Texas sculptor – it’s a wonderful thing and quite prestigious. It makes my head spin, though, to think about pulling work together for FIVE museum shows simultaneously. A heroic feat, truly. And of course, there are always cartons of catalogues left. Lucky us.

"I don't make stories up, 'cause life is so weird." - Sherry Owens

“I don’t make stories up, ’cause life is so weird.” – Sherry Owens

Sherry’s installation is essentially a mini survey of her work spanning the last twenty years, a number of which were also shown in the Triangle. Her chosen favored media is the wood of the crape myrtle tree. Now, once upon a time, Sherry was a weaver, and this clearly still informs her working technique. She lamented that the process was so time consuming, and so much being in one place for a woman like herself who thrives on moving around. There was more “immediate gratification” in wood…Whoa!


“Fresh Cut” – detail

Well, I invite you to take a really close look at a detail shot of her work. Each and every piece is meticulously whittled, shaped, colored, waxed, PEGGED. Talk about labor intensive and precise. It is just magical, really. She uses every part of the plant in her works, collecting the bits and pieces over many years, patiently giving the wood time to dry into its final resting place, freezing the insects out of it (of course there is a walk-in freezer for this purpose), and then the selection and building process. Jill very helpfully interjected at one point that, “Walking into Sherry’s studio is like walking into a Joseph Cornell Box.”  I am imagining that.  “It’s like walking into a drawing. There are sticks everywhere, and they grab at you. I feel really good when I am in the studio working.”

Working maquette for "Back In A Moment"

Working maquette for “Back In A Moment”

She also has works in bronze and steel (did I mention she also welds?) which are burnt-out in the casting process, resulting in a one of a kind original sculpture. The construction process varies from the outset, depending on the final result desired. Such a keenly detailed eye is a thing of beauty to behold, because, after all, it isn’t magical. It is quietly powerful, skilled, craftsmanship. A knowingness of where the hand lands and where the next piece must go, and which piece must go. The pieces are firm and sure and solid despite the reality of their ultimate fragility. And the next time you are at Dallas Love Field, check out “Back In A Moment,”  a tribute to fallen pilot Captain Mosley Love, for whom Love Field is dedicated. This piece took two years to bring to completion. As Sherry says, “The work is about time – how you live with it, how you address it.”

"We Dream of Intimacy" with "An Ocean Between Us" in background

“We Dream of Intimacy” with “An Ocean Between Us,” the bronze “Drought,” and “Man Brain/Woman Brain” in background

Well, if you were there you know what a great time we had. If you weren’t, I’m sorry you missed out. However, you don’t have to miss out entirely. “Texas Tough” is up at Blue Star until August 24th. If you haven’t yet seen it, you really should go. You owe it to yourself. This is one of the top art events in Texas this summer. What are you waiting for?

Please check out more photos from our visit here.

Opening Night “Texas Tough”


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