The Life Aquatic
Nirvana’s Nevermind is one of the most boss rock albums of the last 25 years, and not just because Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl, and Krist Novoselic captured Gen X’s collective angst, or “teen spirit,” in their anthems and helped spawn Seattle’s grunge genre. The cover art has had something to do with this too. That photo of the baby underwater in a pool, reaching for a dollar bill on a fish hook, struck a chord in popular culture; in 1992, a year after Nevermind was released, the cover of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s album Off the Deep End featured Weird Al in the same pose, reaching for a donut. A few months after Austin photographer Kirk Weddle took that iconic shot of the baby, he was commissioned to take promotional photos of the band in the same setting. “The record guys came up with the idea,” Weddle said. “I don’t think the band knew much about it until they arrived, and Kurt was not thrilled about jumping in a chilly pool. It was a hard shoot: the weather was shitty, the pool water was cloudy, and Kurt wasn’t much of a swimmer.” Some of these photos appear in Rolling Stone’s twentieth anniversary coverage of Nevermind as well as Montage of Heck, filmmaker Brett Morgen’s new Kurt Cobain documentary, but the complete collection of 23 Nirvana Nevermind outtakes will be on view starting Saturday at Modern Rocks Gallery. There are individual and group shots, and a limited number of prints are available for purchase. There’s even the photo of Weird Al, which Weddle also took. “Al’s a good dude,” Weddle said, “but he’s got a lot of body hair and that got sort of scary underwater.”
Modern Rocks Gallery, May 30-June 27, modernrocksgallery.com
Weeks of mostly foul, inconsistent weather have kept beaches off of many itineraries, but sun isn’t necessary for enjoying the twenty-ninth annual AIA SandCastle Competition, at East Beach in Galveston. The participants are not weekend warriors armed with a plastic bucket and a dream but instead architecture, engineering, and design professionals divided into sixty teams, some with as many as sixty members, who have planned months in advance using sophisticated tools like AutoCAD renderings and 3-D models. Their goal is the coveted Golden Bucket, the top prize among a variety of awards that stress originality, artistic execution, technical difficulty, carving technique, and utilization of the site. But really the build teams are just trying to wow the expected 20,000 spectators and in the process raise money for the Houston Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the Architecture Center Houston Foundation, which have doled out more than $600,000 in grants since the event’s inception. On plots measuring about six hundred square feet, teams spend five hours manipulating twenty cubic yards of sand into sensational displays. Among last year’s entrants were representations of the Pope riding in a convertible, a Hungry Hungry Hippos game board, and Mount Rushmore featuring the Muppets instead of dead presidents. The sand castles usually stick around through Sunday, thanks to an overnight security guard, but lately it’s been hard to predict Mother Nature’s whims.
East Beach, May 30, 9 a.m., aiahouston.org
Texas, Their Texas
“Sound Speed Marker” is an exhibition that presents a trilogy of films offering an outsider’s romanticized view of Texas. Movie number one, the 54-minute Grand Paris Texas, interweaves three different films on the Southwest—Paris, Texas (1984), Tender Mercies (1983), and Tumbleweeds (1925)—along with footage of a deserted movie theater and other snippets of small-town life. Movie number two, the 24-minute In Movie Mountain (Méliès), explores the backstory of a particular mountain in the Chihuahua Desert of West Texas where, in the early 1900’s, it is thought that a silent film was shot by Gaston Méliès, the brother of the pioneering filmmaker Georges Méliès. And movie number three, the 30-minute Giant, comments on its 1956 predecessor of the same name—the oil pic shot in Marfa with James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, and Rock Hudson—by returning to Reata mansion, which was abandoned after production and has now been reduced to a few pieces of framing. Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler, the artist duo based in Austin but born and raised in Ireland and Switzerland, respectively, are portraying the wide-open cinematic Texas familiar to many Europeans growing up in the seventies and eighties. Ballroom Marfa organized and debuted “Sound Speed Marker,” which then moved to Ireland before its final stop at the Blaffer Art Museum. As the Blaffer’s website notes, “the trilogy addresses all the known clichés associated with Texas: its industries of cattle, oil, and space, its heroes of cowboys, wildcatters, and astronauts, its vast land and skies and extreme weather.”
Blaffer Art Museum, May 29-Sept. 5, blafferartmuseum.org
A Woman’s Touch
The men in the Texas Legislature may have a say about what a woman can and cannot do in terms of her corporeal being, but as the exhibition “Women Painting Women: Texas” will show, females still have control over their own depictions. In 2009 the artists Alia El-Bermani, Diane Feissel, and Sadie Valeri noticed the lack of online resources featuring contemporary women artists who paint the female form—perhaps because like in politics, the female body in art is still, curiously, the domain of men by and large—so they founded the website “Women Painting Women.” Since then, the work of hundreds of female painters from around the world has been featured, leading to exhibits in multiple U.S. cities. Starting Friday, the Georgetown Art Center will host a Texas show, with fourteen artists from across the state displaying their paintings. There will also be three workshops—Jennifer Balkan, of Austin, on “Portrait Painting in Oil”; Felice House, of Austin, on “Creating a Tonal Master Copy”; and Brenda Hash, of Houston, on “Perfecting a Likeness”—to help increase the number of women in this seemingly underrepresented field.
Georgetown Art Center, May 29 to July 5, georgetownartcentertx.org
Princess Leia and Co.
Procuring a new autograph book is in order before attending Fan Expo Dallas, the buffet of nerd culture offering up the cuisines of comics, sci-fi, horror, anime, and gaming to 60,000 fans in a 600,000-square-foot space, because the list of personalities whose signatures are worth collecting is long. It includes Gillian Anderson of The X-Files, the TV show slated to soon return to the air with new episodes; Stan Lee, the legendary Marvel comics illustrator whose memoir as graphic novel, Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir, comes out in October; and Carrie Fisher, who will show another side of Princess Leia in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, opening in December.
Dallas Convention Center, May 29-31, fanexpodallas.com
Should you lack the bravery—or stupidity—to get up close and marvel at one of the 1,500-pound buffalo in the Texas State Bison Herd, which roams across 10,000 acres in Caprock Canyons State Park, drive an hour and a half northwest of there to the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum for the opening of “George Catlin’s American Buffalo,” an exhibition organized by the Smithsonian that showcases a collection of paintings by Catlin done between 1832 and 1839, when the buffalo population was plentiful.
Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, May 30-Aug. 30, panhandleplains.org