Enigmatic Art

Brad Goins Friday, December 21, 2018 Comments Off on Enigmatic Art
Enigmatic Art

In the last column, the Up Fronter wrote about local artist Heather Kelley’s art works on the theme of the “midden heap” — an Irish term for communal garbage dump. From that, we can make a pretty smooth transition to some art that will be on display in Beaumont in coming weeks.

Beaumont’s Art Museum of Southeast Texas, or AMSET, will host the exhibit The Art of Found Objects: Enigma Variations from Dec. 14 through March 3. On Friday, Dec. 14 from 6-8 pm, AMSET will host an opening reception that will be attended by some of the exhibit’s 20 artists. Both the reception and the exhibit are free to the public.

Carved wooden heads by artist Marilyn Lanfear


The exhibit will, of course, focus on artists who create art with found materials. All the artists have some association with Texas. They’ve created work in a wide variety of forms. The following sentences may give you a rough idea of what you can expect to see. 

Artist Steve Brudniak has a long-established reputation for creating surrealist assemblages from found objects. More conceptual is a work by Dario Robleto that looks exactly like a sparsely filled junk drawer, whose items may or may not have been arranged by the artist.

Marilyn Lanfear offers a set of a dozen carved wooden heads, manikin heads or found objects arranged to look something like heads.

The Alchetron site’s entry states that artist Kelly Sears “gathers resources for images in her artwork and animations from discarded periodicals, books, encyclopedias, archival films, old magazines and advertisements.” She works them into collages which she then films for her works of animation. An 18-minute loop of three short films by Sears will run at the exhibit.

The show will include a large installation by Felix “Fox” Harris that’s part of AMSET’s permanent collection. You can see photos of his enormous installations made with found objects on Google Images.

According to a press release about the show, guest curator, Robert Craig Bunch selected the artists in terms of how well they represent the “enigmatic visual history of the found object realm.” Bunch told me, “all the works I’m including are in some way enigmatic.” Each of the artists is included in Bunch’s book The Art of Found Objects: Interviews with Texas Artists, published by Texas A&M University Press in 2016.  

Bunch also will write an essay on the AMSET exhibit that can be picked up by anyone attending it.

If you’re one of those “remember the date” people, you might want to make a note that the director of Lamar University’s Dishman Art Museum, Dennis Kiel, will give a talk about the exhibition at AMSET’s Taste of the Arts Lecture Series on Monday, Feb. 11, 2019 at 12:30 p.m.

Need more info? Visit amset.org or call (409) 832-3432. The Art Museum of Southeast Texas is at 500 Main St. in Beaumont. Hours are M-F 9 am-5 pm; Sat 10 am-5 pm; Sunday noon-5 pm. 

But What Does He Know?

I don’t place any faith at all in talking heads who make predictions. If I’d run across somebody who always predicted the future correctly, I’d follow him closely.

Louisiana AG Jeff Landry


I’ve never thought about how good I am at predicting. But I’m no shining star at it. I remember several sports teams of the past that I thought were so good they couldn’t possibly fail in post-season play. They couldn’t buy a score. In addition, throughout most of my adult life, I said these exact words: “No black person will be elected president of the United States in my lifetime.”

But there are times when I find it hard to believe things didn’t happen as I thought they would. One of those times was Thursday, Nov. 15, when Louisiana AG Jeff Landry announced he wouldn’t run for governor.

I (and everyone else) just took it for granted that a person with Landry’s ambition would want to move on up to the next rung on the ladder without even thinking about it.

So, why didn’t he? Well, I can guarantee you it wasn’t because he was in a blue funk because he got a bad bag of cracklins. No. Landry knows something.

So, what does he know? Does he know that U.S. Sen. John Kennedy will run for governor? Someone suggested to me that a person who’s aware of a skeleton in Landry’s closet recently threatened to let it out if Landry got in the race. I’d say it’s a possibility.

Another thing I’ve said most of my life is any person who’d give up a U.S. Senate seat for a governorship is a balloon head. That’s not a personal dig at Kennedy; it’s just an expression of one of my beliefs about where real power lies. As I’ve never had more than a smidgen of power, I’ll readily admit that there may be those who know more about power than I.

La. KOs Snooty Blue State

In this episode of Rare Creatures, we’ll look at the seldom-seen species Progressive Louisiana.

This curious creature was born on election day in 2018, when Louisiana voters overturned the state’s Jim Crow-era split jury law. The old law allowed guilty verdicts on felony charges even if the jury split 10-2 or 11-1. The old device had been intended to increase the likelihood of guilty verdicts being returned against black defendants. In the event there were one or two jurors who didn’t feel intense hatred of blacks, they couldn’t thwart the will of the majority.

After that recent progressive Louisiana vote, there remains only one state in the U.S. that still allows a non-unanimous jury verdict on felony counts. What state do you reckon it is? West Virginia? Alabama? Mississippi? Arkansas?

Well, you’re never going to guess, so I’ll just tell you. The state is Oregon.

That’s right. Blue on blue Oregon. The state that some consider the most progressive in the country. The home of Gus Van Zant, Chuck Palahniuk, Katherine Dunn, Chelsea Cain, Lisa Loeb, microbrews, sourdough bread, non-parking downtowns and a coffee shop on every block. That Oregon.

The Times-Picayune’s Jarvis DeBerry speculated that Oregon’s legislators will be “motivated by embarrassment [that] Louisiana, a deep red state, has taken a progressive step that Oregon, a bright blue state, has not.” I think he’s probably right on that one.

Another Shocking Weather Story

On Nov. 15, the temperature in Lake Charles dropped to 31 degrees. Calcasieu Parish Schools did not close, and McNeese State University remained open. Keep reading Up Front to learn about these breaking bizarre weather stories as they occur.

An Even More Shocking Story

On Nov. 14, our governor, John Bel Edwards, Tweeted this very unlikely message:


“Great to be w/ @KimKardashian, @VanJones68, @GovMaryFallin, & @GovMalloy

“[At the] office to talk about our bipartisan criminal justice reform efforts …”

Terry L. Jones, city hall reporter for the B.R. Advocate, Tweeted “I Have Questions.” I guess everyone who read the guv’s Tweet had questions.

But I could see how Edwards would wind up posting that Tweet. I went into Tasterite for dinner the other night and was shocked to see that the place was chock full of celebrities.

It was great to talk to Justin Bieber about neuroscience, Miley Cyrus about biodiversity and Jon Gosselin about the notion of the null set in set theory. I tried to engage Jessica Simpson in a discussion of non-Aristotelian logic, but she said she was immersed in a big research project on tectonics and couldn’t really concentrate on anything else. Her loss. I directed her to Edwards’ office.

And A Wondrous Story

The City of Lake Charles is proposing a big new Lakefront building to be called Port Wonder. The cost would be somewhere north of $20 million. No new taxes would be levied for PW.

And what would be housed in this major tourist draw? Well, that would be the Children’s Museum and, possibly, the Louisiana Dept. of Wildlife and Fisheries’ Science Center and Educational Complex. The results, the official press release told us, would be “thrilling.” Yes, that very word was used.

There’s been some talk about how the name Port Wonder was chosen. I think I figured out the answer. The original name for the proposed attraction was Port Wonder Why Any Tourist Would Ever Stop Here Except To Use The Restroom. But that title was way too long, so it got shortened.

Spend $20 million if you want, but if the only things you have in that big building are the Children’s Museum, a Wildlife and Fisheries educational program and some restrooms and drinking fountains, the tourist traffic there is going to be virtually nil. Now, if you throw in some things like boudin, funnel cakes and a Texas steak and chili den, I can see how there might be some draw. 

The News

Christmas is coming early this year for Up Front readers. It’s just the first issue in December, but The News section is extraordinarily long. It’s nothing I planned. It may be that journalists are going through a silly season for some reason I don’t know.

Let’s get started. Here are your first hard news headlines:

“Girl foils kidnapping by doing this”

“Photos of the royal babies”

“Don’t panic about iPhone sales just yet.” 

Those all came from CNN on Nov. 14. On the same day, CNN added a special news section to the regular news sections — you know, Health, Tech, Politics, Travel and so forth. And what was the name of this special section? Now, don’t laugh when you read this. The section was called, “Come On, Get Happy.” That’s right — it was an entire news section devoted to a Partridge Family song. You wouldn’t think such a thing would have a big news pull in 2018.

In addition to the title of the special news section, one of its headlines merited exceptional praise for its silliness: “A wooden bench is starting a mental health revolution.” Hey, I always say, “Vive la Revolution!” But somebody better check that bench to make sure the carpenter bees haven’t gotten to it yet. I don’t care if you are a revolutionary; if one of those things stings you, it’s going to foment a violent upheaval in your behind.

Sadly, we’re just getting started here. Consider these extra hard news headlines to be your stocking stuffers:

“We finally know when ‘Game of Thrones’ season eight premiers.” Lead headline on Nov. 13 on VICE News.

“Carrie Underwood reveals her baby’s gender” — CNN headline, Nov. 15.

“’Dancing With the Stars’ crowns shocking winner” — CNN headline, Nov. 21.

Now if you’re really lucky this Christmas season, I may skip The News section altogether in the next issue. But don’t get your hopes up. You probably won’t get that lucky.

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