Tag Archives: Blood Over Texas

State of the Gallery: September

Six months after the emergency move, and everything is coming together. New plants are adapting quite nicely to the new gallery conditions (including the honestly impressive bladderwort Utricularia calycifida “Asenath Waite”, which threatens to take over the place), and every enclosure that leaves gives an opportunity to try a new species or genus. Combine this with a flood of new shows and events, and it’s hard to believe how far everything has come from that little Deep Ellum booth ten years ago. 


On that note, the first serious gallery exhibition of the year, “Relics,” is still running on October 13 and 14, with the gallery opening on subsequent weekends by appointment. This includes a series of never-seen enclosures created specifically for this exhibition, ranging the gamut of carnivorous plant genera. For those who haven’t been to the gallery yet, this will probably be the perfect opportunity, so make plans now.

Before going into upcoming shows, a little note about Houston. It’s absolutely impossible to avoid discussion of the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and it’s particularly heartbreaking because of the number of longtime customers and good friends (and the Venn diagram of the two is pretty much one circle) from Houston who are having to pick up the pieces. Instead of publicly pledging a certain amount of Triffid Ranch sales going to Houston relief, which usually falls apart with a bad show or two, I’m instead going to do what the rest of us do: making contributions from sales and from Day Job wages as often as possible, to the folks who can do the most good. I’m also not stating how much, because that isn’t the point, and instead I’ll just let you know that the good folks at Operation BBQ Relief are probably some of the best morale boosters this side of the Cajun Navy, and for the same reasons. The people of Houston have shown me incredible support and love over the last ten years (one of my first sales was to a Houston native who was in Dallas for the weekend, and I honestly want to run numbers on how many Texas Frightmare Weekend regulars are Houstonians), and I for one won’t stop until the whole city is back on its feet. I owe all of them that much.

With that in mind, the show schedule over the next few months became considerably more complex, due to events throughout southeast Texas. September 9, of course, is Small-Con, a one-day event in Addison dedicated to furthering interest in STEM careers, and there’s always more room in the next couple of generations for botanists. The very next week, gears switch slightly and the Triffid Ranch sets up in the two-day Dallas Comic Show in Richardson, literally two exits on Central Expressway north of the gallery. After that, things go quiet on the show front until after the gallery exhibition, and we’re still awaiting word on a show in Oak Cliff on the last weekend of October. And then…

November will be a very busy month at the gallery, and not just from getting ready for holiday sales and events. November is when several big shows in 2018 approve or decline a vendor space, and it’s also the month in which the Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays show runs in Austin. Even with it running right after Halloween, last year’s show was an absolute joy, and the BOT crew was happy to take my booth fee, er, I mean, welcome back a returning vendor. The love is reciprocated: a great central location in a very funky venue, and while I can’t drink, the Bloody Mary bar was very appreciated by everyone else attending. With its improved date on November 19, the weekend before Thanksgiving, it serves that part of the population that would otherwise spend that Sunday alternating between Halloween withdrawal and dread of the subsequent shopping weekend. Either way, this year, I’m getting set up extra-early so I can visit the other vendors, because I saw a lot of interesting items that I couldn’t view because of the crowds. (And yes, there are crowds. Great crowds.)

After that, it’s back to Dallas, with the gallery open on Thanksgiving weekend and subsequent weekends until the end of the year. (New Year’s Eve Weekend is especially important, because it marks 15 years of marriage to a very special someone, and you can never have too many people at a crystal anniversary. Now I just need to find good copies of Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins Crystal Palace dinosaurs for the anniversary cake.) With scheduled shows in the first half of 2018, I just have to quote the comics artist Matt Howarth: it may stop, but it never ends.

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State of the Gallery

Well. We made it. We had to get through the first half of the year to get there, but the Texas Triffid Ranch is set and situated in its new home. The gallery’s soft opening (the art world’s equivalent of a dress rehearsal) occurred on June 30, with the only problem being everyone coming early. Not that this was a problem: the early attendees included Nicholas Bostick of the Dallas Observer, and his assessment of the soft opening gives a lot of ideas for future plans. Combine that with commentary and suggestions from other attendees, and it’s off to the races for the next big exhibition, Relics, starting on October 13.

In the interim, in addition to the Small-Con and Blood Over Texas shows in September and November, the Triffid Ranch goes on the road. Of course, it’s just down the road to the Half Price Books Mesquite store, with a lecture and presentation starting at 12:00. Admission is free, and this may be the start of many at Half Price stores through the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Emphasis on “may”: everything depends upon the attendance at this one, so feel free to come out and gaze upon South American and Australian pitcher plants and other surprises. (Later this month, I hope to share news about upcoming shows for the next year, but a lot of that involves confirmation of acceptance. For instance, next year would mark ten years of the Triffid Ranch at Texas Frightmare Weekend, this is dependent upon making it past the juried acceptance process, and neither I nor any other vendor at TFW will make that kind of assumption. We have too much respect for the TFW crew to even think about it.) 

And future plans for the gallery? As mentioned previously, a new exhibition, Relics, opens on October 13, full of new enclosures and displays, and expect hints and in-progress shots on a regular basis. Until then, keep checking back, because reality stretches, and things currently invisible may emerge if reality stretches enough.

State of the Gallery

The big buy-stuff-and-get-drunk holidays are done. At the day jobs, everyone’s starting their first full week of work, and already planning vacations to get away from co-workers without the promise of violence. The kids are back in school, which in Texas means dodging the dolts who are terrified of thunder birds swooping down and stealing their children away, so they have to park in the middle of the street at rush hour and walk their kids directly to the front door. This being Texas, the weather keeps fluctuating between “black ice on the bridges” and “you’d think it was spring if you didn’t know better.” Yes, January is here, and preferably with as little pain as necessary.

With the new year comes the regular evaluation of where the Triffid Ranch is going, because we’re not sure ourselves. To answer the incessant questions: yes, we’re still at the old Valley View Center in North Dallas. Yes, we know the mall is going to be demolished. No, we don’t know when it’s coming down, or when we’ll have to vacate the space.With the incessant TV news segments involving someone who hasn’t been to the mall in 30 years, with closeups of the shock on their faces to discover that Wicks ‘n Sticks and Kay-Bee Toy and Hobby are shut down, you’d never know we had a thriving gallery community out here. Tell some people where we’re located, and they react as if they’ll be hit with demolition charges and buried in loose bricks the moment they step inside.  (I had to explain that to a niece who had to comment that “the mall is coming down” as if we’ll be caught in the destruction the next day, explaining that just because the mall will eventually be brought down, but it won’t be brought down today.)  This isn’t being helped by coverage in the Dallas Morning News by the self-styled “James Lipton of Fandom,” where you have to wonder exactly how many times he had his head flushed in mall toilets during his high school days that he’d dedicate so much time and effort gloating about the mall’s demise. (As someone who also once had a career at a weekly newspaper involving writing about nothing but science fiction movies and comic books, yes, it sucks that nobody can afford to pay for that coverage any more. Get over it.)

So here’s the situation as we know it so far. Yes, Valley View Center is facing demolition. Everyone knew that going in, and we specifically knew that when we opened the gallery nearly two years ago. No, we don’t know when demolition will start: that information hasn’t been shared with us or any other gallery owner. Yes, some galleries have cleared out, but most of that was because of the hype about the demolition last summer, where patrons worried about flying bricks stopped visiting. Right now, what we know is that the AMC Valley View 16 cinema, which I’ll add is the best first-run movie theater in the Dallas area for the price, signed a new lease for at least the next six months, and demolition can’t be completed so long as the theater remains. The old Foley’s building at the southwest corner of the mall is beginning demolition, but as that space had been empty for years, this doesn’t affect anything with the main mall and won’t for a while. For the duration, until we specifically hear word otherwise, the Triffid Ranch will remain at its current location, and we’ll be continuing with events at that location until we get that final word.

On that subject, the next Midtown ARTwalk is scheduled for Saturday, January 21 from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m., with this month’s theme being “January Green“. This one will be a bit different: besides premiering a new commission for famed voice actress and dear friend Clarine Harp, this show features guest horticulturalist Christian. A local high schooler, Christian first came out to the gallery last year to see Nepenthes pitcher plants in situ with his large and very enthusiastic family, and then invited me to see his collection of rescued plants. Folks, seeing Christian’s work with cuttings and plants previously rejected as being “too rough for sale” made me remember what I was like when I was 17…and makes me want to invent cheap and effective time travel to go back and kick my previous self’s lazy butt up around his shoulder blades. January Green is an exhibition and sale of Christian’s best houseplants, and all sales will be matched by the Triffid Ranch with a donation to the charity of Christian’s choice. Yes, he’s THAT good.

As for the rest of the year, the show season is going to be a bit sporadic, and only partly because of the mall situation. For those unfamiliar with the glorious fiasco that was the Marvelous Nerd Year’s Eve event last month, we didn’t dodge a bullet by not attending. We dodged Slim Pickens riding the bomb. We missed this, but after last summer’s InfiniCon, combined with more and more local conventions and shows having issues with attracting attendees, it’s a matter of cutting back on outside shows and concentrating on the gallery. That said, All-Con on March 16 through 19 and Texas Frightmare Weekend on May 5 through 7 are still essential. As for the next Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays show at the end of the year…if they want to put up with me, I’ll be honored to show off plants. Until then, ARTwalk is always open, and expect a special surprise involving the Dallas Arboretum in March. Details WILL follow.

The Aftermath: Blood Over Texas Horror For The Holidays – 5

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Well, that does it for the overview of Horror For the Holidays, and now it’s a matter of getting word about next year’s show. If it remains a one-day event, I’ll make the trip, and make sure that the hotel doesn’t “accidentally” lose the reservation this time. If it ever becomes a two-day show, the problem will be getting me to leave. I’d avoided Austin for years because of horrible experiences in the past with certain elements of Austin’s fan community, but I obviously never met any of the horror fans. They’re good people, and comparing them favorably with Dallas’s horror fan community is the highest compliment I can pay. Selah.

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The Aftermath: Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays – 4

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For folks in the Austin area, this is Bunny, the vendor liaison for the Horror For The Holidays event. Please buy her drinks, or whatever she wants, and put them on my tab. Whatever it costs, it’s not enough to compensate for her kindness and professionalism. Thanks to her, Horror For The Holidays was as much fun for the vendors as the attendees, which is saying something.

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I’d also like to give a shoutout for Dan and Courtney above: Dan used to be my editor for a while at the long-dead comics activism Webzine Savant (it wasn’t the venue that created the term “Cat Piss Man” to describe the worst members of comics and science fiction fandom, but, to steal from Bette Midler, it certainly brought it to its high level of popularity), and I owe him for not killing me when he had the chance. Courtney deserves the same credit, because of the fact that she was never an editor of my work. They both deserve both deserve free drinks, too, for his taking the bullet she dodged.horrorholidays_11132016_15horrorholidays_11132016_16

The Aftermath: Blood Over Texas Horror For The Holidays – 3

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One of the reasons I love showing plants at horror shows are because of the kids. Having had 40 years to look back and see the end results, horror movie fan kids usually become the most well-adjusted kids you’ve ever seen, and they become well-adjusted adults. I don’t recommend going for the heavy stuff first (there’s no reason to start out with Dawn of the Dead when The Creature From The Black Lagoon is a great introduction), but speaking as a kid who bawled his eyes out at the end of Alien when the most interesting and well-developed character besides the cat was blown out the airlock, it honestly depends upon the kid. Twenty-three years ago, when The Nightmare Before Christmas first premiered, a few of us watching it had one big issue with the movie’s resolution: if we’d received any of Jack Skellington’s gifts, we’d have shivved Santa if he’d tried to take them back. Nearly a quarter-century later, we’re now parents and grandparents, and our descendants are Just Like Us.

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The Aftermath: Blood Over Texas Horror For The Holidays – 2

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A not-so-subtle peeve about many shows and events is the presence of an on-site DJ. We’re not talking about professional DJs: we’re talking about the friend of the  organizer who is willing to do the job for free in exchange for the exposure. This also isn’t a problem, unless the DJ is one of Those. “Those” entail the trilby-wearing twerps with a Macbook under one arm with playlists composed either of high school top-40 hits played “ironically,” or the worst sort of Portland whiner rock. (You can only listen to so many covers of “Waaaaah! Mommy Won’t Let Me Buy Heroin With Her Credit Card!” Before death by tree mulcher loses its sting.)  Either way, since the venue isn’t a bar, people are there to converse instead of dance or drink, so they talk over the music, and the DJ gets so peeved at the neglect of his art that he cranks up the music to cover over the background noise. The cycle repeats until the only communication possible is with text, semaphore, or random sharp objects thrown at the DJ, and it only ends when either the venue organizer pulls the plug or random commenters scream a rejoinder enough to offend the DJ’s paper-thin ego. Based on several experiences on this line, any show that advertises “Live DJ” is an automatic rejection, because people can’t and won’t buy plants unless they can ask questions, and they can’t get their questions answered if their screams can’t be heard over the DJ’s theme song, Beck’s “Loser”.

The exception? Horror for the Holidays. A little music to get people into the mood is always welcome at a holiday show, and the DJ here had an excellent list of appropriate music for a dark holiday event, including some choices that actually stopped people to exclaim “I’ve never heard that before!” I honestly wish that I’d been able to break free to tip this DJ (something I have NEVER done at a previous show), because anybody who could play Concrete Blonde’s “Bloodletting” and Richard Cheese’s cover of “Get Down With The Sickness” is someone who deserves someone buying him or her drinks.

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To be continued…