Six Must-Attend Events: February 7–February 16
The state's top offerings, from a photographic essay on mental illness to musings on God and the prospect of nuclear war.
The photographer Michael Nye’s “Fine Line” exhibition at the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University gives voice to schizophrenics, agoraphobics, and bipolar sufferers to show where mental health ends and mental illness begins. Recordings of the subjects talking about their conditions complement each of about forty black-and-white portraits, taken with what Nye calls “one of those big cameras like Mathew Brady used during the Civil War.”
“Everyone I interviewed throughout the four-year process said that they want the same things that anyone else wants,” said Nye, who will speak Tuesday at the Wittliff. “They want to be useful; they want their life to matter; they want to give back.” Nye is a former lawyer who has tackled hunger and teenage parenthood in a similar photographic manner. The suicide of his law partner and the death of his father, who had dementia, inspired “Fine Line.” Nye also found inspiration from his wife, the poet and author Naomi Shihab Nye, whose high school classmate is one of Nye’s subjects. The woman had, as an adult, sat in the same chair in her kitchen for more than seven years, getting up only to go to the bathroom or get groceries. This stemmed from an abusive childhood but remarkably, it had not suppressed her positive outlook. “She talked about children and kindness, and how we treat each other,” Nye said. “Just a lot of beautiful things.”
Texas State University, February 11, 6:30 p.m., thewittliffcollections.txstate.edu
The historical preservationist Steph McDougal of Kemah has moved from her focus on obscure round-style Texas dancehalls, which she researched partly out of her love for swing dancing, to Texas lighthouses, which she wrote about for her book Lighthouses of Texas, partly out of her love for sailing. The book delves into the beacons that dot the coast from Port Arthur to Port Isabel—home to the only lighthouse that is open to the public. The 180 images reflecting more than a century of Texas lighthouse history are supplemented by a seven-day itinerary for travelers interested in visiting the remaining lighthouses and the museums with lighthouse artifacts. Adventurers who are seeking last-minute spring-break plans can ask McDougal questions about the trip when she signs books Saturday at Barnes & Noble.
Barnes & Noble-Baybrook, February 8, 11 a.m., lighthousesoftexas.com
The University of Texas physics professor Steven Weinberg is a Nobel Prize winner, but he can still break it down for the layman. Of course, conversations about topics like atheism and nuclear weapons—two subjects on which Weinberg has strong opinions—are always easier to digest over a cold beer, which is the idea when Weinberg joins KUT public radio’s “Views and Brews” program on Tuesday. The interviewer, Rebecca McInroy, will try to get to the man behind the brains. In an email, McInroy said, “I would love for him to talk about the chemistry set he inherited from his cousin who took up boxing, what types of music he listened to in his youth, his mentors, and how his interests and curiosities have changed over time.”
Cactus Cafe, February 11, 5:30 p.m., cactuscafe.org
Punk to Polka
Growing attendance and programming of increasing abundance and quality have made the annual Thin Line Festival, in Denton, what SXSW, in Austin, was twenty years ago. This year Thin Line will expand from a film festival with a documentary focus, which this year will present the director and print journalist Kirby Warnock’s When Dallas Rocked, to include a music component as well. There is not necessarily an obligation to showcase the robust local music scene, but its influence is undeniable in a lineup that includes Brutal Juice, a longtime punk favorite; Robert Gomez, a singer-songwriter who has performed Robert Olen Butler poems; and Brave Combo, the polka-rock band once featured in an episode of The Simpsons.
Various locations, February 12-16, thinlinefilmfest.com
A mix of nice weather, awesome views, and challenging terrain has made the annual Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest, three days of mountain biking through Big Bend Ranch State Park, Big Bend National Park, and the Lajitas Golf Resort, so popular that this year registration is capped at five hundred cyclists.
Maverick Ranch R.V. Park, February 13-15, desertsportstx.com
All That Jazz
The members of the Cookers, the all-star group of bebop musicians including the Houston saxophonist Billy Harper, have played in bands with the giants of jazz—Art Blakey, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Lee Morgan, Max Roach—making their show on Friday a panorama of classic musicianship.
Wortham Center, February 7, 7:15 p.m., dacamera.com