Drawn to art at a young age, but raised in rural South Texas with very little access to any art education, Roberto Benavidez followed a secondary interest into a BFA in acting at Texas State University. After a few years of moderate acting success in the Texas market, Benavidez found himself drawn back to sculpture and headed west to California. He reorientated himself with art classes at Pasadena City College in sculpting, drawing and painting, extending into bronze casting where he initially worked in an abstract, figurative style and exhibited in group shows. He and now specializes in sculpturally elegant and fantastical piñatas.
Dallas based artist Dan Lam (previously featured here) has made a name for herself innovating sculpture using polyurethane foam. Her alien works are known for their remarkable vibrant colors as well as their illusionistic appearance. Lam enjoys the unpredictable quality of her process. This is seen in the way she manipulates the foam structures and handles the resin. She couples this with the tedious and controlled placement of her acrylic “spikes” and surface designs. This opposition is crucial to her work. Whether seen in the process itself, or the final result, which exudes both an intense beauty and an intense uncomfortability, Lam plays with these polarities and examines them closely.
Born in Manila to a Vietnamese family who relocated to Texas when she was a child, Lam spent her formative creative years in Dallas with her mother. She received her B.F.A. in 2010 from the University of North Texas and later completed a Masters of Fine Arts degree at Arizona State University.
San Antonio, Texas based Jason Limon is a painter who has exhibited his artwork in galleries across the U.S. and in parts of Europe. He studied Fine art and Communication Art in San Antonio and later began working as a graphic designer. His current art follows stories based on mythological creatures and paranormal cryptids portrayed with a hint of humor with a dose of strangeness. You can often see his characters brought to life in dimensional form through his complex sculptures.
Blanco, Texas based Adrian Landon Brooks‘ latest body of work presents universal themes of love, loss, and redemption placed within unique surreal worlds that transcend race or creed. Influenced by the purity of Folk Art, Brooks strips illustrations to their minimalist core and uses found materials such as wood, metal, and old photographs as repurposed canvases to instill an underlying sense of history for each piece.
In his paintings, huge statuesque heads hover over multi-color blocks while hands of worship float into the void. Sorrow and yearning are conveyed through the hunched postures of his figures and captured through ceremonial acts of giving and receiving. Each scene offers a fragmented tale and forces viewers to immerse themselves into the framework of the narrative.
Buddy Holly is the reason why we wear big black/tortoise shell eye glasses. And J. Davis Armistead is the reason why Buddy Holly wore those thick frames. He was the optometrist from Lubbock, Texas who saw the kid with 20/800 vision in both eyes, and now at age 96, remembers watching the “‘he Phil Silvers Show’ one night on television. The doctor noticed how Mr. Silvers, playing the role of beleaguered U.S. Army Master Sergeant Ernest G. Bilko, used his heavy black frames to accentuate his everyman persona. ‘The next morning I got up and said, ‘This is what Buddy Holly needs’.’”
Now the WSJ has a full story about how those black frames have helped shape rock music and fashion forever… great read.
We love a good gif, and not just one borrowed from pop culture, but an original idea executed well. Texan photographer Igancio Torres created this great series of “gifs”, Stellar, saying in his artist statement: “This project began from the theory that humans are made of cosmic matter as a result of a stars death. I created imagery that showcased this cosmic birth through the use of dust and reflective confetti to create galaxies. The models organic bodily expressions as they are frozen in time between the particles suggest their celestial creation. In addition, space and time is heightened by the use of three-dimensional animated gifs. Their movement serves as a visual metaphor to the spatial link we share with stars as well as their separateness through time.”
It’s lunch time, and we’re hungry, and we think this is kind of cool, and we wish it was open right now, and a lot closer than Austin, so we could feast on healthy foods, but not that bundt cake at the end of this video, because it looks kind of weird.
In.gredients, a soon-to-be grocery store in Austin, Texas, will not only specialize in local and organic ingredients, but is promising to be the nation’s first “package-free, zero waste grocery store,” a concept that has only been executed in London so far. “Americans add 570 million pounds of food packaging to their landfills each day, while pre-packaged foods force consumers to buy more than they need, stuffing their bellies and their trash bins: 27 percent of food brought into U.S. kitchens ends up getting tossed out.” But even we sometimes forget our tote bags at places like Trader Joes (which is a total bummer because we don’t get to fill out a ticket… do not collect prize), what will we do in a scenario of this kind in a bulk food store? Will we have to carry our hummus home, seeping through the palms of our hands? In.gredients say they will also offer compostable containers in case a shopper forgets theirs.
This student at the University of Texas did an experiment that backed a theory about schizophrenia that the brain gets overloaded by memories and facts. They have a computer there at UT that is supposed to replicate a neural network. Long story, short they taught this network how to remember things like a human brain would and then overloaded it with memory and facts the way some theories believe the brain does in people with schizophrenia. The computer apparently reacted with systems pretty similarly to those in schizophrenia patents. While this is great news for psychological research, we are sure the last thing the world needs is schizophrenic computer on the loose.
One of our all-time favorite human beings, Chris Elliott, is back with a show on Cartoon Network, “Eagleheart.” “Eagleheart” is a “demented live-action comedy on the Cartoon Network; he portrays a “Walker, Texas Ranger”-esque United States marshal who can explode bad guys with a single punch but fails to understand the basics of law enforcement or, really, human interaction.” (NYTIMES). And it will be amazing.
It is now my fifth day living here. A night ago, two nights ago, I slept under an aluminum ceiling. Today it will be glass. My windows here are several meters high and all around me large steel fissures stretch from my position to the end of my eye’s view- a z-axis of steel, glass and other elements which make up the building whose architecture I am currently inhabiting.
I haven’t sat down in awhile. I keep moving, going from gate to gate, hoping that they wont realize that I am living here. The only time that I sit is when I sleep and even then it is spare. I don’t know what is out there- beyond the glass doors.
I have been living on the ground level of the Frankfurt International Airport, or, as it is known here, the Flughafen Frankfurt am Main, for five days now. It is strange to thrust one’s self into a situation whose entirety is a mystery. I do not know what it is I am doing, never have I felt more lost and never have I felt more at home being away from home. I have not spoken to anyone in over ninety-six hours and in that time I’ve deciphered and delved deeper within myself more so than at any other moment or time previous to this.
It is the fifth day that I have been living here and every face is that of a stranger. No one familiar here in flesh; the only things that bring me comfort as to their familiarity are those objects inanimate- chairs that I sit on, walls that I lean against, bathrooms that I haunt, sinks that I bathe in and doors that open and close or revolve around like those chambers of a gun.
The workers here seem to have no interest in me. I have been sleeping at Gate 41 for two nights now, my jacket covering my face every time I do doze off and my legs sprawled out in front of me. I go to sleep when the airport traffic is at its busiest, a time that I’ve deduced to be around 11am where I have time to sleep for two hours, then I wander through a small lull for around an hour and a half, get up, migrate over to the other gate, pretend to read a newspaper written in a language that I can’t comprehend and at around 3:30pm another rush begins where I have another two hours of sleep to where it is safe to be passed out amongst the masses without worrying if one will come up and question me.
I have been living here for five days now and in those five days I have studied and seen stretched across from me the faces of persons who are here, in this place, arriving only to leave it. What a strange paradox- a thought which crosses my mind’s avenue while questioning such things as this.
It is the fifth day that I have been living here and already I have begun a system of quiet intricacy which informs my walking and waking decisions. I rarely go up and interact with the employees here. I eat what I can find, the leftovers from a stranger’s meal left unattended like some bag on the top of a previously occupied table. I drink water from the few fountains haphazardly strewn about and when I wander it is mainly within the first terminal for the other seems less occupied and therefore has more chance of my getting caught there.
I woke up to the snow today. The sun is falling down in a spiral pattern. It is below freezing outside and I am beginning to acknowledge my stupidity with coming to a place where I know no one, have nothing, know not the language and left at a time when the weather is winter. A collection of vehicles scurry back and forth outside while workers around abound- waving wands, walking forth or straddling the sides of small trucks to enjoy cigarettes while their breath becomes animate and visible, resembling the cirrocumulus visuals of smoke and cloud; rising together and joining the spaces of mesosphere that crowd above the blue and all those planes start to shrink in size, becoming dots and joining the stars- sewn in together like separate sections of unfinished pattern across the sequined fabric of sky.
I watched this scene for nearly two hours before looking around me.
It has been five days since I’ve been here, feeding off of the plates of strangers as they leave for their flights in avenues of arrival and departure. It has been five days that I’ve wandered here, through the pathways of separate gates and terminals, going back and forth through separate sections of the airway. It has been five days that I’ve been here and I think I am in love with whoever invented the moving sidewalk. What a brilliantly boring invention that catapults a craze of laziness and allows one a Renoir / Régle Du Jeu view of their surroundings.
I am going to meet an angel today. Today, I am going to meet Frank.
In the beginning it felt like any other day, but today I am going to meet an angel.
Around 7:30pm I went to wash up in the bathroom. Upon entering I checked all the stalls to see whether or not anyone was occupying them before locking the main door to the bathroom and turning on the sink until the water was hot enough to bathe with. I can remember staring at myself in the mirror, contemplating whether or not to just leave the airport and walk outside. In the beginning, after I hung myself, I felt that no matter what situation I was thrust into or thrust myself into- that I could manage and meet it head on. This situation however was a little daunting. I stared at my face in the mirror and saw someone else. It took awhile to breathe and bring up the energy to do anything but look forward, but soon I built up a fire and with that fire my desire to burn and go out into the country was heated, started and begun. In delirium, from lack of sleep, food and water, I thought to myself: tomorrow I am going to go out, no matter whether the weather- whether or not I have the proper jacket or if I have the right gear- fuck that fuck everything and fuck it all. I am here. And I will reach my destination. I was going in and out of consciousness when a weight was pressed against the door-
A knock. Then another.
I heard a ring of keys moving and immediately put my shirt back on, washed my hands and straightened up. The door opened and a man who would later save my life came in.
He said something in German which I didn’t understand and then he looked at me, into my eyes, and spoke English, asking why I locked the door. Then he stopped saying anything. I attempted an answer but it didn’t bring any recognition to his face of having heard it. He stared at me for a moment so brief but a moment that in that moment felt like an eternity. Fuck, I thought, I’m caught.
“You’ve been here awhile, haven’t you?” He looked at me and extended his hand.
I stuttered a phrase which at this moment I cannot remember.
“Yes, yes- I’ve seen you before.” He paused. “I’m a worker here, clean up the areas- the food court mostly and the bathrooms sometimes if Edward ain’t here.” He looked straight at me, “so what are you doing here? It’s been a few days? Your flight, where are you headed?”
I didn’t have an answer, am a horrible liar, and decided to just tell him the truth. I told him the truth and in telling him the truth I told him much more than I think he wanted or needed to hear, but talking to someone- I felt this immediate and immense release. Up until then, I hadn’t spoken to anyone since I first got off the flight here five days ago and even that conversation was limited and small as I was talking to a child who had asked me a question that I am still trying to answer to myself.
I told him the truth, told him everything about my situation and he immediately started laughing.
“You’re from California?”
I answered yes.
“Seems so. My name’s Frank. South Carolina and Texas, grew up in a bit of both. You might feel like you don’t belong here, well- look at me!” he laughed, “a black guy from Texas and South Carolina in Frankfurt, Germany. You can’t imagine a thing like that, nope- you got a partner now, don’t worry.”
Before I could say anything he spoke again:
“You been here for a few days now- how you eat and all, how are you getting by?”
I told him barely, and explained to him my patterns of stealing food and leftovers and the places where I slept.
“Well, damn- can’t remember the last time I had this strange of a conversation- in a bathroom no less! What are you doing now, you just going to stay here?”
“Well, actually, before you opened the door I was convincing myself that I was going to go to Paris.”
“You don’t have money to eat, but you have money to go to Paris? That don’t make sense.”
“I don’t have money for either. But it’s free to walk and there’s a road.”
“In this weather? Now it really makes no sense. – Tell you what, why don’t you, well, when I get off my shift- why don’t you come over and meet my wife. She could cook you a meal and we could figure out what to do with you. We don’t have an extra bed, but we got blankets and a pillow or two.”
I hesitated for a moment before diving completely into his offer, confused entirely as to why a man named Frank, a janitor in the Frankfurt airport all the way from Texas and South Carolina was offering me a place to stay at his home in Germany. Nothing made sense and it was beautiful.
We talked for a few more minutes while he cleaned sections of the bathroom and I mopped, every now and then pretending not to when people came inside to use the facilities.
I waited a few hours for him outside the terminal in baggage claim- the first time I’d stepped outside the secured area of the airport. He came down the escalator, dressed in normal clothes, waving at me and smiling that smile of his.
We got into his car, a small vehicle, and drove what must have been a fifteen minute drive to get to his apartment. The whole time in the car I was so surprised at the amount of speech I was spewing- I couldn’t stop talking.
Inside the house:
“My wife ain’t home yet, but you can go into that room, use that shower there or whatever you need, just let me know.”
I was astonished at his hospitality. I thanked him over and over again, using the shower and laying down on the floor, a thin blanket covering me while the heat from the furnace whispered and coughed out its warmth.
I woke up to the closing of a door. Frank was laughing and I could hear him murmuring with someone else. I put my jacket on and walked over to the main hallway, seeing Frank and his wife talking with their backs faced to me. When she turned around her features immediately started to speak to me. She looked like a doll, with eyes and a facial structure that resembled Lillian Gish. Tall and blonde, she put her bags down in the kitchen and came over with Frank to greet me. We talked briefly while Frank filled her in, myself suddenly becoming quiet.
Frank was one of those persons that, when they’re telling a story, all you want to do is sit back, lean in and listen. He had an old voice that carried throughout the apartment and a laugh that echoed down every hallway.
Dinner was prepared rather quickly, a meal I remember eating like soup although it was a plate of vegetables and a strange sausage. I was so hungry then and if I think about it now I want to reach for something outside of this and eat. I just ate.
Night came and I shuffled back to my room after thanking them immensely. Each day felt like this- calm and with little worry. It began to get too comfortable and after four days I began to question whether or not I had fallen back into another pattern like at the airport, albeit one that was much more comfortable.
I sat down with Frank in his study. He had hundreds of books lying around, the majority of them on medicine. He saw me looking at all the books and pointed at their spines before elaborating:
“She grew up out here, but wanted to do medicine in the States. Family illnesses and other things brought her back and at the moment she was to leave the country to come back to the one she grew up in, we were inseparable. That’s the short of it, not the whole of it.”
I smiled. There’s nothing more beautiful to me than a simple love story. Just then, Karin called out from down the hall- dinner was ready.
We walked around in conversation while eating, the two of them holding each other’s hand on top of the table throughout the entirety of our conversation. I took a piece of bread, a roll, and bit a small piece off of it, extending a question as to how they ended up deciding to stay here after coming back instead of returning to the States.
“Well,” he said, “this isn’t that much of a happy story, but if you want to know I’ll tell you, you’ve shared what seems like everything with us.”
I told him I didn’t want to make him say anything that he didn’t want to, that it was alright. I tried to change the subject to another topic, but he kept returning to it.
“One must always face what ails him, lest it kill him. Read that somewhere, didn’t make sense then, hate those old words- lest, whence, thus and thou, but it makes sense now, that phrase. It makes sense for me to tell this story too.”
He looked at Karin and she gripped his hand. They held eye contact for a few seconds before turning back to me, the lamp above us lighting everything in a calm and golden glow.
“Haven’t told anyone this that wasn’t there for it,” he paused, “feels like you should know though.” He inhaled and exhaled deeply, his face attempting to smile that smile of his but doing so unsuccessfully. He began:
“I’m twenty years older than my father, just about, maybe a year or two less. Never was good with numbers. I bet it don’t make sense in the beginning to hear that, but it does. See, my father died when I was about eight or so. Was still a child. My mother, she ran out, didn’t really know what to do or how to handle the situation, how to handle me. I have more memories with him than her. Never saw her after a week after he left us, left this. She ran out and on, her mom came around though, came over and helped me out. My sister died with my father. Three years older than me back then. Car accident. A drunk I would later find out. I don’t know his birthday, my father. Never asked when it was.”
His voice was beginning to grow deeper, inflections and cadence changing from something tragic, to angry, to hopeful.
“After all that, after I grew up, don’t know how I ended up working there, but I started working at a funeral parlor. Seems funny now, arranging the chairs, taking people to their seats and closing the casket after the services were through. Sometimes, after seeing the bodies, I would go to the service even if I wasn’t scheduled to work that day. Seemed like the right thing to do to give someone who has no more time a bit of yours.
It was there that I met Karin. South Carolina. Her brother moved down there to be a musician and his wife, someone that everyone says was a great woman- she passed. Seems everyone at some point is dying.
Karin had come over from El Paso where she was studying, and the first moment I saw her I knew I loved her. She reminded me of no one and I think that’s why I fell for her.” He rubbed his thumb on her hand, eyes looking over, a pot of food steaming in the background.
“We’re children, I know it. Stay that way for a long time, the whole time and the whole while. Someone like you who wants to be older or get somewhere farther away from themself- you need to know that there are people out there that care for you, that love you. Know that they think about you even when there’s so much to think about and even when there’s nothing to think about. Know them, the people who’ll stay with you no matter what, and you’ll know what it is that everyone around here or there is trying to figure out. We just want to be happy.” A drop fell from his face. “We just want to be happy and knowing someone’s out there is all it really takes.”
A deep inhalation.
“Well, after awhile, Karin’s mother got sick and so she came out here to help her out. I never thought that I was one that wouldn’t be able to be apart from someone he loved, but as soon as she left, it was like she took everything about everything that I loved. More than missing her, I missed us, I missed myself and all that I had given her.
So I left, went to go see her, kind of crazy, but that’s how it is when you’re seeing stars. We got married here, in that hallway. Her mother was nervous at first, the race thing came up about once or twice, but after she saw how happy we were it didn’t matter none. You come across things right when you need them and we met each other right when we needed to. Like how you met me- us. No one knows what’s going on, but it’s going, just have to go along with it, can’t fight it.”
I said nothing, just put out my hand to join theirs- our thoughts mingling and wandering like the steam in the background, the lamplight still yellow and their faces still covered in a golden azure.
A few more days pass, a few more nights. Every night, before going to sleep I see myself out on the road, have dreams of it. Frank tells me it’s getting colder, he’s helping me out, giving me tools and teaching me small slivers of German, easy phrases and questions that will go a long way in finding food, shelter and work along my path.
“You really don’t have to do this,” he tells me, “it’s a bit ridiculous. You can just stay here?”
He poses his last statement as a question. I tell him that I have to do this. I tell him how thankful I am for everything he’s done for me and I tell him that I’ll never forget him.
He’s trying not to think of me leaving while all I can do is contemplate and ruminate over the journey that is coming to me. I look at his calendar and pick a date to leave. I mark it down, Frank and Karin agreeing quietly.
The day is here- morning.
A large billowing cloud of fog is hanging over the entirety of the city. Frank drives me out as far as he can while still having time to get back for work. We drive along the freeway while talking quietly to one another as Karin is sleeping in the backseat. A few miles out and he pulls over to the side, turning on his hazard lights. He looks at me and leans in:
“I want you to know that you don’t have to do this although I know that you will. Karin and I, we care about you. You remember that. If it starts to get bad or if it becomes unbearable, know that you have a home here. You don’t have to die for this journey.”
I tell him I wont.
I’m not good at saying goodbye, normally I just leave with a letter or a smile saying everything that I need to say. Attachments are some of the most blinding and uplifting things that we encounter in this life. Relationships with ourselves and with others are similar. It feels as if I’m always leaving- felt it back then, still feel it now. I’m looking at Frank look at me in this memory I have of this moment and all I can think of is how I should have stayed a bit longer with him and Karin. They loved each other more than most couples I’ve met, yet they were somehow lonely together. I can see it, I can see him. She’s snoring in the backseat and we don’t wake her up. I tell Frank to tell her that I say goodbye. I say goodbye to him and attempt to leave. He reaches out his hands and pulls me back into the car.
“You know I wasn’t gonna just let you leave without a hug. Come here-” we hold each other for a few moments, the draft coming into his car and his hazard lights continuing to flash around, a haze rising and receding; red waves on an asphalt shore.
“Remember what I told you now. Be careful, you hear? Be safe.”
My arms are on his shoulders and his are on mine. We are looking at and away from each other, attempting to say everything that we can, relaying everything and every emotion that we feel while using no words at all. I look at him, eyes tearing up and lips trembling. He smiles that smile of his, recalls how we met in the bathroom. I tell him that I was trying to take a shower, clean myself up in the sink. We share in the saddest laughter together, though somehow happier than anyone else in this city, in this country, on this continent or sphere or anywhere. I tell him to give my best to Karin. After a moment, his smile shrinks quietly, as does mine. There is no moment that is too long when saying goodbye to someone you do not want to leave.
We let go,
and I step out onto the path and start walking.
(Frank and Karin, whose real names have been changed for this text, were and are some of the most blindly giving and loving persons I’ve ever met. This text and many others is dedicated to them, what they did for me and their memory. I would not be alive today were it not for them.)