American folk art moves into two Fort Worth museums. Plus: Real cowboys take their rodeo drive to Amarillo; a multimedia show brings the Harlem Renaissance to Houston; an Austin symposium looks at women with the write stuff; and in Houston a Texas actress is ballpark frank. Edited by Quita McMath, Katy Vine, and Eileen Schwartz


Folk Tale

Whether you call it folk art or outsider art, the creative output of America’s self-taught artists has never been more popular or been taken more seriously by museums and collectors alike—witness a quartet of exhibits on view this month. The largest, a two-parter titled “Self-Taught Artists of the Twentieth Century: An American Anthology,” opens November 1 at Fort Worth’s Amon Carter and Modern Art museums. Organized by New York’s Museum of American Folk Art, it consists of more than 250 paintings, sculptures, and installations by artists who are or were outside the academic mainstream, including John Kane’s hauntingly introspective self-portraits (right, The Girl I Left Behind, 1920), Grandma Moses’ nostalgic vignettes of rural life, and Eugene Von Bruenchenhein’s miniature painted chair made of chicken and turkey bones. “The curators selected artists that aren’t necessarily very well known, but each object they picked has a certain dynamism and character,” says Jane Myers, the chief curator at the Amon Carter Museum. “Each artist has a distinctive voice.” Smaller folk art exhibits can be found at Fort Worth’s William Campbell Contemporary Art gallery, Dallas’ African American Museum, and the Old Jail Art Center in Albany. What do we call it all? Exciting. Katy Vine


True West

Riding for the brand is still a point of pride for most working cowboys, especially the hands who represent their ranches in the Working Ranch Cowboys Association World Championship Ranch Rodeo, held this month in Amarillo. Ranch rodeos are team affairs for working cowboys, who compete in events that mirror the daily activities of ranch life. Whether it’s saddling and riding a wild horse to gentle it or wrangling a nine-hundred-pound wild cow for milk to feed an orphan calf, technique is as important to the judges as speed. Three Texas ranches—the Nail Ranch, outside Albany, which won top team honors in 1996, the first year of the competition; the Pitchfork Ranch, near Guthrie; and the Larry Thompson Ranch, outside Munday—are among the thirteen outfits from around the country and Canada with teams that have qualified for the world championship. In conjunction with the rodeo, the WRCA is hosting ranching clinics, performances by cowboy poets and balladeers, and exhibits of the works of top cowboy craftsmen and artists (right, Harold T. Holden’s In a Bind, 1997). According to George Peacock, the Nail Ranch foreman and team captain, seeing how their fellow cowboys work—and winning prizes, of course—makes the rodeo a “good weekend deal” for ranch hands. For city slickers, the event allows an entertaining glimpse at the cowboy way. Jane Dure


Harlem on Our Mind

In the twenties a small, crowded section of New York City gave its name to an era: the Harlem Renaissance. Harlem was the center of a flowering of black literature, music, film, and art, and the impact of the Harlem Renaissance was felt far beyond its borders. Now Texans can sense the excitement of this period when “Rhapsodies in Black: Art of the Harlem Renaissance” opens on November 22 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, its final venue after stops in London, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, among other cities. “This is a perfect exhibition to educate the public about major figures in African American art,” says Alvia J. Wardlaw, the curator of twentieth-century art at the MFAH. Included, for instance, are a dazzling assortment of murals and paintings by Aaron Douglas, Archibald J. Motley, Jr., and Loïs Mailou Jones (above, her 1932 oil The Ascent of Ethiopia) that demonstrates the powerful African and urban influences of the time; footage of Josephine Baker in the French film Zou Zou; recordings by Duke Ellington; and photographs by James VanDerZee. “It was such a rich period in terms of literary power, music, and dramatic figures,” says Wardlaw. “This exhibit has something for everyone.” Eileen Schwartz


Our Flair Lady

Founded in 1950, Flair magazine lasted only thirteen issues, but it is as legendary in publishing circles as it was short-lived. “Flair was a remarkable magazine,” says Tom Staley, the director of the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin. “It was controversial. It was different. The layout and design became terribly influential in the sixties and seventies.” No less renowned is Flair’s founder, Fleur Cowles (above)—who, as it happens, was in Austin visiting her friend Lady Bird Johnson in 1991 when she was given a tour of the HRC. Says Staley: “She thought this was a very interesting place”—so interesting, in fact, that to please and honor her, a group of her friends funded an endowment in her name that enables students of twentieth-century arts and journalism to use the HRC’s collections and that also underwrites its biennial Fleur Cowles Flair Symposium, first held in 1994. This year’s subject, “Writing the Lives of Women,” brings together a stellar group of biographers and journalists, including Time magazine’s Bonnie Angelo; Diane Wood Middlebrook, who has written biographies of Anne Sexton and Billy Tipton; and London Evening Standard film critic Alexander Walker. But the event’s real star, as always, will be Fleur Cowles herself. “She has a tremendous sense of style,” says Staley. “She is very much a legend.” Quita McMath


Perfect Pitch

On the heels of the Astros’ best season ever and Houston’s arrival as a genuine baseball town, along comes Homerun, Jo Harvey Allen’s touring one-woman show. In it, the actress, a Lubbock native who is the brash, bighearted, hilarious embodiment of a West Texas goddess, celebrates miracles, risks, and courage through women’s love of the game. The fiftysomething Allen has carved out a niche as a distinctive character actress with such roles as Claudette the secretary in The Client, the women’s-group leader with the mirror in Fried Green Tomatoes, the lying woman in David Byrne’s True Stories, and most recently, Rosanna Arquette’s vindictive sister-in-law in Floating Away, which was broadcast on Showtime in September. Her forte, however, is the stage. In Homerun she summons up characters who are inspired by women she interviewed and range from a female ballplayer to others who don’t play the game but are affected by it, gleaning certain verities between the lines. One character, for instance, grapples with trying to find a safe place, realizing that even though you’re on third, you’re still not at home. “It’s baseball as a metaphor for life,” Allen says. “I thought it was serious when I wrote it, but people laughed all the way through it. God only knows why.” Joe Nick Patoski