Applause : Small city, big art

Posted on 24 Aug 2012 at 9:45am

Sleepy Metroplex suburb Waxahachie boasts an edgy arts space in the Webb Art Gallery — and that’s part of the charm of both

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The colorful interior of Webb Art Gallery in Waxahachie, above, may not look like the typically sterile arts venue, but the array of interesting art (including the painting opposite) belie a savvy ability to curate edgy art in the staid suburb.

RICH LOPEZ  | Contributing Writer

As self-proclaimed weirdos, Julie Webb and her husband Bruce joke that Waxahachie chose them instead of the other way around. Since 1994, when their small gallery moved into a vast two-story space in the town’s historic square, the Webb Art Gallery — with its funky alternative vibe — is a big contrast to the quiet and low-key shops and restaurants surrounding it. Still, it’s a match made in heaven.

Upon first look, the gallery may seem like a cluttered antique shop. The toothpick sculptures warrant a second look, and a peek through the windows will only strike any passerby’s curiosity to enter. Once that happens, though, the art-enthusiast Webbs have done their job.

“You know, art is fun and because we love what we do and how we present it, we make it a fun time,” Julie says driving back from giving yoga instruction at the Hickory Street Annex. “It’s not just walking in to see the works; it’s our whole environment and people respond to it and want to share. Our biggest exposure is word of mouth.”

big-city2It’s like a wondrous world opens up on Saturdays or Sundays — the only days they’re open. There isn’t the sterility of typical white gallery walls; the very notion is a blasphemy in a place bounding with colorful exhibits — it pops like DisneyWorld for grownups. But the style never feels forced; this is all distinctly the Webbs’ aesthetic.

“Bruce and I are lucky enough to have similar tastes and that’s what our gallery is — our own personal tastes,” Julie explains. “We don’t have a specific genre. There’s a raw spirit here. We’ve shown a lot of outsider art and we like imaginative things. We like to showcase pieces of great design and great wit.”

That was definitely seen late last year when gay artist Cathey Miller displayed her splashy pieces that displayed a definite lesbian bent, mixed with alien species and Marfa, Texas, locales.

Miller isn’t the only out artist to have work in the Webb Gallery: The venue has welcomed and encouraged artists from all walks, but the queer flair is evident in their walls.

“Well we’re definitely happy to say we have gay artists and just artists of all kinds,” Julie says. “We don’t want to show just one type of work. That’s what’s important to us. It’s part of what Bruce and I do. And there’s been no concern from people around us. There is usually something for everyone and people can appreciate that the works are just an expression.”

Along with Miller’s show, the gallery has featured work from the artist duo Chuck and George (individually known as Brian Scott and Brian Jones) and represents out Parisian artist Michel Nedjar.

And yes, their reach is far beyond Waxahachie — and Dallas. They’ve had people visit to see their window displays because of two particular sculptures.

“Venzel Zastoupil’s toothpick sculptures are in many travel books and the only items not for sale,” Julie says. “We had become friends with him and he was the kindest man. He always hoped they would be on display but passed before he did.”

Because of this skill at curating, the Webbs have received attention by clients from Japan, Australia and France, and have sold to many big- named artists and musicians. (“But I’m not really a name-dropper,” Julie says.)

Their philosophy, though, isn’t to disregard any client. People who enter the gallery from either a neighboring rural town or a European capital are treated the same.

“The things we all tend to pay attention to are in our own backyard and it takes the same amount of effort,” she says. “We don’t underestimate the guy down the street coming in or are more impressed if you come halfway around the world. Everyone is just as valuable. At the end of it all, we’re more serious about what we do with art, even if it sounds like a circus.”
Even though their current exhibit of vintage sideshow banners is titled “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

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Webb Art Gallery, 209-211 W. Franklin Road, Waxahachie. Open Saturdays and Sundays.
972-938-8085. WebbArtGallery.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 24, 2012.

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