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Commentary: Mystery on Woodall Rodgers

By Joan Davidow, KERA 90.1 Commentator

Dallas, TX –

Driving around the bend of the Woodall Rogers access road on Memorial Day, I saw two wooden pods on a parking lot slab. There on the corner of Ross Avenue, next to Central Expressway, sat this unsuspecting sculptural couple that was clearly under construction.

My Art Think brain went into full throttle: What's going on in this work of art? What do I see that tells me that? What else do I see? These two teardrop pods, lined in wood slats, were stately and symmetrical. They reminded me of the work of Andrea Zittel, who builds compact little environments for her to live, work and play in. I'd just seen her work at the New Museum in New York - her intriguing environments - compact, spare trailers she builds for herself in the middle of a barren desert.

These two open wooden shapes look like I could crawl in and be protected and content. I remembered my first Zittel experience: In Munster, Germany, I crawled into one of her pedal boats to cruise around the quiet lakefront in my own little vessel. Then I recalled another memorable Zittel experience. At P S 1, an old brick public school morphed into a contemporary museum in Long Island City, Zittel's art was to be checked out as though you were in a library. She'd made simple black aprons for visitors to wear. There I was walking around the exhibition swathed in black fabric gleefully feeling protected, special and a bit strange all at once.

For me to imagine these pods as Zittel's was natural. They also looked like a naturally made space capsule, another safe environment made for a journey. Even sitting inside, under the manic hum of speeding vehicles on the Central Expressway overpass, I felt safe and protected. No, they can't be anything as wonderful as art for art's sake.

What might they be? On the construction lot of the Friendship Church's renovation, they must relate to the building - maybe its bell towers; or those two elegant shapes could be hoisted upon the roof, looking like dignified Russian onion domes.

Still in my memory bank, I stopped the next day to talk to the construction crew about the mysterious wooded sculptures. "They're tulips," one of the green-vested workers claimed. "Oh, that's fun," I said, and to another worker I asked, "What do you think they are?" Nope, they really are to be tulips I learned, designed and built by Beck Construction - three of them to be hauled to the Dallas Arboretum.

They are sculpture; they'll have an earthbound home and will be a human nest similar to Zittel's designs. So I will have a chance to visit them, as will you, when the trio of tulips sits on the lawn of the Dallas Arboretum. Though you must know, I liked them better as a mystery, as I dreamed of possibilities, and I created my own world within the protected form. You can, too, if you give yourself half the chance.

Joan Davidow is director of the Dallas Center for Contemporary Art.

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