My day job takes me out on the road, and many times those roads lead to really good art. And, when I’m not traveling, local roads lead me to great art, as well.
I chronicled my favorite general local finds of the year over on my company’s blog, but felt that some of the art I saw deserved its own post here.
So, without further ado and in no particular order, my favorite artworks in 2022! Some are totally new to me, and some are new works by artists I was already familiar with. All are very special! The list focuses on exhibitions as a whole unless a specific work is indicated.
Best Art Shows of 2022 (According to me!)
Natalie Wadlington, “Places that Grow,” Dallas Contemporary
Wadlington uses my favorite color palette (hot neons against cool and dark colors) and a subject matter that I can relate to. I could almost hear the crickets chirping and bug zapper going when I looked at these paintings. That’s how much they transported me back to a summer night in the country! I also loved how she incorporated animal companions into almost every painting.
Jeffrey Gibson, “The Body Electric,” Site Santa Fe
I’ve seen Jeffrey Gibson’s work three times in three different states: at the 2019 Whitney Biennial in NYC, at the Blanton in Austin and now at Site Santa Fe. If there’s an exhibit of Gibson’s work that I can reasonably get to, I try my best. I love how his work spans such diverse media and genre to tell the many stories of his life and culture, and specifically how his bead and textile work adds such depth and tactile presentation, bringing his work to life even further.
Jason Cytacki, “Hi, Yo Silver,” Individual Artwork, Old Jail Art Center
This single-subject portrait’s spare background enhances the shirt detail and the expression on the cowboy’s face. In its gallery, it is a large piece that anchors a room of smaller artwork, tying the viewing experience together without overpowering it.
Ray-Mel Cornelius, Winnsboro Center for the Arts
This exhibition showed a dreamy take on often mundane scenes that are familiar on the surface, but with an uncanny presentation that is just a little out of the ordinary.
R.Gregory Christie, “Work and Whimsy: The Art of R. Gregory Christie,”
National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature
We saw this exhibition on our first trip to Abilene, the “Storybook Capital of America.” And Christie’s work was a prime example of what the best storybooks do — not just for children, but for all ages. He is an author as well, but his illustrations can easily stand alone in conveying the many triumphs, challenges, stories and legacies across our common humanity and histories. While his illustrations are “for” children, he finds a way to convey the beauty of a story or scene without losing the gravitas of the subject.
Jasmine Zelaya, “Sad Girls,” Art League Houston
I’ve been following Jasmine Zelaya’s work for a while, and was thrilled when my neighborhood shopping center, NorthPark, installed a mural with her art. But I was really excited to learn that she had a solo show at Art League Houston when we were going to be there. Seeing her paintings in person was really special, and I also enjoyed how she displayed the small ceramics that she had created.
Buffalo Bayou Cistern, Houston
Houston, known for its vibrant and innovative art scene, has dug even deeper (pun intended!) and turned an underground cistern into a beautiful public art piece. The space is striking on its own. Its many columns, water reflections and echoing walls give it the feel of a meditation room. Artists are invited to use the unique space to showcase their work to the public in Art in the Cistern installations that greatly enhance an already interesting landmark. There are many places we encounter that are special, but very few that are one-in-a-million. The Cistern in Houston is one-in-a-million. (And if you’re a bit of a claustrophobe like I am, I can say that it doesn’t feel confining at all. It is also ADA compliant and comfortable for most, with six-foot pathways, small group entry and sturdy guardrails.)
Okuda San Miguel, “Rainbow Embassy,” Public Art, Fort Smith, Ark.
Fort Smith, Arkansas is a public art town, with murals on almost every side surface — and some silos — all throughout its downtown. “Rainbow Embassy,” by Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel is a multidimensional piece, its vibrant stripes and colors splashing not just one wall, but many walls, the roof and the porch, and extending to an equally colorful accessory building. “Rainbow Embassy” is installed in the middle of a residential neighborhood just outside of downtown. Set among the homes, cars and yard ephemera of the surrounding blocks, it both enhances the neighborhood and serves as a bright, unassuming statement piece that all can enjoy.
John Cerney, “Giant,” Public Art, Marfa
We saw this roadside piece while driving out of Marfa, headed toward Alpine. Marfa is known for its “Giant” reputation — the movie was filmed in and around the town. This piece gives homage to the legacy. If you drive past, be sure to pull over and step out or roll down your window to experience the audio component.
Billy Hassell, “Continuum,” Irving Arts Center
If you’ve read this far, you can probably see commonalities in the art that stands out to me. Work by artist Billy Hassell is no exception. I first learned about him from a museum in Beaumont that I follow, and was disappointed that I couldn’t get there in time to see his exhibition. So, I was extremely happy to see that he was exhibiting work in Irving soon after. In this particular piece, I liked the colors and the delicate butterflies against the strong bison. The way that the animals are grouped seem peaceful, and goodness knows we can all use as much of that as we can get.
Nancy Friedland, “Highway of Diamonds,” Smoke the Moon, Santa Fe
I happened upon Smoke the Moon on Canyon Road on a cold, rainy afternoon in late August. As a Texan, cold and rainy in late August was a new concept for me, and I have to say I didn’t hate it. The Canyon Road experience itself was really special, and Nancy Friedland’s paintings were my favorite of the day. I love how she communicates so much using mainly shadows and light as the focal point. And the way these pieces glow! As an artist myself, it always amazes me how (more experienced artists) can evoke such realistic-looking light using only paint.
“Speaking With Light: Contemporary Indigenous Photography,” Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth
This group show at the Amon Carter in Fort Worth just blew me away. There were so many interesting pieces and interesting interpretations not only of the artist’s perspective and experiences, but also on the medium of photography. There were so many standouts, but these pieces by Sarah Sense and Wendy Red Star have been very memorable to me. I love how Sense weaves paper to make her finished pieces, and Red Star’s collages are so vibrant.
I saw a lot of art in 2022! This list is just the standouts in a year of standouts. Any time we travel for work or fun, I factor in some time checking out the local art scene. Art communities say so much about a place, especially in the case of smaller and regional museums, independent galleries and community arts centers. Through the artists they serve and elevate, viewers can learn local history, values and other details that make a place special, as communicated through artists’ perspectives.
As the opportunity for art adventures has stabilized, I would like to revive my art tour programs in some capacity in 2023. Not sure yet what that looks like or when! But please drop me a line if this is something you’d be interest in learning more about. (kcocustserv (at) gmail).