Sto­ries bub­ble up in ‘Oil & Gas Show’

The Dallas Morning News - - ARTS - By HAN­NAH WISE Staff Writer [email protected]­las­news.com “The Oil & Gas Show” con­tin­ues through Feb. 28 at Level Gallery, 2722 Lo­gan St., Dal­las. Hours: noon to 5 p.m. Thurs­days-Satur­days or by ap­point­ment. Free. 312-848-7537. level-gallery.com. Nikki Moser, a

Texas is built on the oil and gas in­dus­try. Each bar­rel of oil, each cu­bic foot of nat­u­ral gas pro­duced creates a rip­ple ef­fect across the coun­try and around the world.

In that vein, “The Oil & Gas Show” at Level Gallery, for­merly known as WAAS Gallery, aims to spark a con­ver­sa­tion around en­ergy, how it is gen­er­ated and how it is used. The ex­hi­bi­tion fea­tures artists from Texas and across the coun­try work­ing in sculp­ture, draw­ing, pho­tog­ra­phy and mixed me­dia.

“I'm a col­lec­tor of sto­ries,” says Brian Wag­ner, a Philadel­phia-based pho­tog­ra­pher.

For six years, he has car­ried with him the sto­ries of Dean, Mar­garet and El­ton, all New Or­leans res­i­dents who sur­vived the 2010 Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon oil spill off the Louisiana coast. Wag­ner tells their sto­ries in the form of blackand-white pho­to­graphs with oil from the Gulf of Mex­ico spilled on them.

At the cen­ter of his ex­hi­bi­tion space sits an ecosys­tem unto it­self housed in a clear can­is­ter. The life form? Tar balls from the oil spill. As they have sat in the con­tainer, they have con­tin­ued to re­act to their en­vi­ron­ment.

Even years af­ter be­ing col­lected, they are still rec­og­niz­ably in­di­vid­ual pieces of tar.

Thomas Macker, a Wy­oming sculp­tor, uses the tools of the en­ergy trade to cre­ate his se­ries of work ti­tled As­ter­isk.

He bought used drill bits on­line and welded them to metal pipes. For each As­ter­isk, he welds six of the pipes to­gether to cre­ate a sculp­ture that is ren­dered in­ert — the drill bits con­vey a sense of move­ment out, while the pipes are driv­ing to the cen­ter of the piece, re­sult­ing in an im­plied ten­sion.

“Drilling is di­rec­tional,” Macker says. “This is six drill bits mov­ing in equal di­rec­tions op­pos­ing each other. There is no way to move in or out.”

He sand­blasts and coats each sculp­ture in two tones of paint: one a color-shift­ing bright paint, the other an in­dus­try stan­dard like DuPont tan. Each sculp­ture has a dif­fer­ent color variant and pedes- tal on which to stand.

The pedestals of­ten change each time the sculp­tures are ex­hib­ited. At the Level Gallery ex­hi­bi­tion, one As­ter­isk sits atop a cam­ou­flage floor re­cliner used for play­ing video games. Speak­ers play a sound­track of bats and moths us­ing echolo­ca­tion and de­cep­tion, what Macker called the “dance of the preda­tor and prey.”

An­other pedestal re­sem­bles a zig­gu­rat and is a state­ment on the hubris in­volved as artists try to cre­ate work that stands the test of time while the Earth’s nat­u­ral re­sources are be­ing mined over the course of months and then con­sumed in a mat­ter of sec­onds.

Macker hopes that if one of his pieces ends up in a pri­vate col­lec­tion, it will be a re­minder of the del­i­cate bal­ance be­tween the har­vest­ing of en­ergy needed to sur­vive and unadul­ter­ated con­sump­tion.

“A grace­ful wood­pecker in a col­lec­tion gnaw­ing at you as a re­minder of your con­sump­tion and place in the world,” he says.

Ver­non Bryant/Staff Pho­tog­ra­pher

From left: Founder Brandy Adams, cu­ra­tor Emma Saper­stein and artist Brian Wag­ner worked to­gether on “The Oil & Gas Show” at Level Gallery.

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