Gary Farrelly knew, as soon as he graduated from art school in his native Dublin, that he was leaving Ireland as quickly as he could. Not that he isn’t proud to be Irish — he just needed to grow.
“Ireland is gray, small and cold,” he says with a leprechaun lilt. “So I moved to Paris for four years.”
Problem was, he soon realized he didn’t much care for France, either — or at least, not the French.
Now, in unguarded moments, Farrelly might even describe himself as a Texan.
It’s not without justification. The gay artist first moved to Dallas in 2010, and spent the better part of the year living here. He’s been back for a month now, opening his new show Terminal Compositions, which runs at the Akard Street location of Ro2Art Gallery through Dec. 8. (There’ll be an artist’s “farewell reception” with Farrelly Sunday at 7 p.m.) But his presence in the Lone Star State is its own story.
“[When I decided to leave Paris], I knew I was going to move to Texas,” he says … despite the fact he had never been to the state before. He just had a vision of the can-do spirit here and wanted to be a part of it. The next step was picking a city. Houston, he found, was too ugly, and “Austin struck me as a pedestrian, vegetarian version of Berlin, without the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.” Dallas hearkened.
It hasn’t always been an easy fit. He’s seen the Downtown scene grow just in the three years he’s been here, and as a fan of public transportation, he’s had his challenges. But the inverted quality of Big D — much of the action takes place outside the city center — is one of the things that appealed to Farrelly, who has a counterintuitive “innocent irony” about him. When he explains how he “used to be very utopian in my outlook, but since moving to Dallas, that’s changed — I’ve become dystopian,” it’s not so much a criticism as an observation — an acknowledgement that the switch has given him room to develop as an artist.
You can see some of that dystopian aesthetic in his show’s first piece: An invented mid-century airport hotel that has the structure more of a drab government building than a lush retreat for travelers. (“I’ve always fetishized bureaucracies,” he admits of the 1984-ish piece.)
Indeed, for someone as well traveled as Farrelly, it probably comes as no surprise that his new show demonstrates a fascination with airports — the title Terminal Compositions has more than one meaning: Almost all of the mixed-media collages on display at Ro2Art are of airport terminals.
“I grew up near an airport,” he explains, “and really, one of the reasons I moved to Dallas was because it was home to two major airlines.” The tape, paper and ink creations display a witty but also almost obsessive preoccupation with geometric lines.
“I like my stuff to be geometric and straight — though maybe ‘straight’ is the wrong word to use for an interview with Dallas Voice,” he says. I can’t tell if he’s joking.
It doesn’t matter. Gay themes bleed through his designs surreptitious: Several of the “airports” he designs are named for queer icons: Leigh Bowery, John Waters, even Diane Arbus.
“In Ireland, we don’t name airports after people because of our troubled political history,” he says. “The Dublin airport is called Dublin Airport; the Shannon airport is called Shannon Airport.” The chance to name fantasy terminals — and even invent backstories about how they were named, and where they might be located — after heroes is part of the fun. (One thing about Ireland he is proud of: An absence of homophobia. “There are still individuals who [gay-bash, etc.] but it’s a non-issue for most for most of the country,” he says.)
Many of the pieces have subtle humor; one, an arrivals/departures board (pictured), lists destinations for Paris, Moscow, Shanghai … and Midland/Odessa. But that also reflect Farrelly’s own life: He’ll be leaving on a jet plane next week following his reception on Sunday — first to Dublin, then parts unknown before coming back to Dallas, probably some time next year.
“I consider myself an obessive opportunist — if someone invites me to show somewhere, I’m on my way.”
Gary Farrelly: Terminal Compositions. Ro2Art Gallery, 110 N. Akard St. Through Dec. 8. Reception Dec. 2, 7–9 p.m.