Lanie DeLay is a Dallas-based artist. She spoke with Adam and Alicia Rico, artists and married co-owners of Bows & Arrows Gallery on lower Greenville, during their own two-person exhibit about their work, their fledgling business and their recent relocation from Brooklyn.
Lanie DeLay: Alicia, I know you’re from Dallas. Adam, did you guys visit here at all before you moved here?
Adam Rico: We visited for – well, I visited one week in March-
L.D.: Last year?
Adam: Yeah, and liked it for the most part.
Alicia: We were excited, because we both like to have a change of scenery. We like to move around and keep things interesting. We love Brooklyn, and we had kind of made a home there, and all of our friends live there, so it was bittersweet.
L.D.: This space is really multi-purpose. You’ve got the gallery, the floral aspect of what you’re doing, and then there’s the vintage pieces and the craft items and the wearable art. There’re a lot of multi-purpose spaces in Brooklyn, but not a whole lot here, although there’s interest in it certainly. What was your research like in figuring out your relocation?
Alicia: You know, we didn’t do too much research actually. We drove around, and where we liked the feel – I mean, this kind of reminds us a little bit of Brooklyn: a little unmanicured and kind of older with all these sort of storefronts smushed next to each other-
Adam: Well it’s a little more of an organic build-up of businesses and community, as opposed to planned. I feel like there’s a lot of “planned” communities and businesses here; you know, strip malls and shopping centers-
L.D.: Yeah, there is definitely more of a slash-and-burn mentality here: if you get some rust on the window, you’d better tear down the building and make a new one.
Adam: Yeah, so that’s what we like about this area. It’s not that way necessarily. It’s got a little bit of character, and that got us excited about it. I mean, beforehand, the shop and the gallery together kind of stems from our just being in Brooklyn for years with the multi-purpose spaces there, because they have to be, because there’s-
Alicia: They’re used to small spaces.
Adam: Yeah, space is limited. I mean, you have to pay so much for such a small thing that they’re really good at mixing different genres.
Alicia: This is maybe twice as big as the shop I worked at in Brooklyn, but it’s still a thousand square feet – it’s tiny.
Adam: Especially for here, I feel, it’s really small.
L.D.: Well, I know that you guys have done some work with Doug and Andy from House of Dang, and that seems to be a really good fit. Do you guys have any interaction with Make or people like that here in town?
Alicia: We haven’t, but we’d like to. I mean, we’d like to really reach out to other places like us. We’ve been kind of busy doing our own thing right now, but we’d love to get involved with other local crafters.
L.D.: Both of you earned your BFAs in painting. Alicia, you got yours at TCU, and Adam, you got yours at Pratt. Who did you guys study under, and what did you take away from it?
Alicia: I studied under Jim Woodson (he was the faculty advisor for painting) and also the other professors: Linda Guy, a printmaker; and David Conn, also a printmaker. And I took away … really a community of artists. I don’t think, I mean, we had critiques, but they weren’t too critical, so we weren’t … I think my stuff is very happy, and that’s what I took away. You know, I learned from what people were giving back to me, but they were never really harsh. It was always more positive, so I never went through a phase where I was like angry and struggling. It was always more of a happy experience for me.
Adam: Yeah, yeah. No, I can see that, and it’s evident in a lot of the stuff that you do, and that’s great. I studied under, in my freshman year, professor Patrick Webb, and he was just fierce. He was very idealistic and got his MFA at Yale and was just one of those serious, serious guys, and it was very rigorous and tough. He was tough on everybody, and he would never give you any positive feedback. It was completely the opposite. So it was one of those – you work so hard to try and get his … you know…
Adam: Approval, yeah, and it never came. So [laughing], it’s completely opposite.
L.D.: Do you keep in touch at all?
Adam: I don’t. I did, but I haven’t talked to him in a while; he’s kind of a private guy. Then I had another professor, Kit White, and he was doing a sort of a neo-abstract expressionist landscape sort of thing … but he was really great, positive and gave everyone lots of great ideas and was like “Maybe you can take it this way and that way.” The critiques were wonderful in the classes I had there. So I felt like I took a lot away from it. I was really very unsure of myself after college, for … probably until just recently, and it’s a few years now, so it’s one of those things. There’s just so much challenge and so much drive in New York that it really – if you’re not in the middle of it, it kind of drives you down where it’s hard to create work that you think is meaningful in the big scheme of things and that’s meaningful to yourself in the same respect. It’s kind of tough, but I definitely appreciate all that I went through there. I mean, it paid off.
L.D.: Alicia, going back to you for just a second, since you’ve been back, have you gotten back in touch with anyone from TCU, or have they reached out to you?
Alicia: Well, I have talked to a lot of people, and we go to the Modern lectures in Fort Worth, and there’s the community of TCU faculty there. I run into a bunch of people, but I haven’t actually visited yet, but I’m dying to see what’s going on at TCU.
L.D.: Well, the Liam Gillick show opened there.
Alicia: We went to his lecture.
L.D.: Oh yeah, I saw you guys there.
Alicia: But we haven’t seen his show yet.
L.D.: So, what are you excited about – in contemporary art – each of you?
Adam: I don’t know – I feel like the economy has sort of loosened some stress that I feel like a lot of artists have felt in the past to make things in a certain way. You know, I think it’s a lot freer than it’s been in a while, and that’s a nice thing to see. It’s kind of like you know you’re not going to make money on any work that you do right now, so you just do whatever. I mean, that’s how I feel about it, and I know I’ve talked to other young artists around, and they feel the same way, so it’s a nicely liberating time for arts and for spaces, for experimental spaces. Kind of like ours: you know, we’re not just, in that respect, a gallery. We’re not just that; we’re a multi-purpose space.
Alicia: I really like new media and different things that people are doing: video, performance, textiles, non-traditional …
L.D.: Tell me about the show that’s up right now that you guys collaborated on and about the work.
Alicia: It’s called (SOUTH) south, and it’s basically our interpretations of our upbringings in the south. Adam’s from Georgia, me being from here. My south experience I think was pretty different, of course being female, and really involved in things like homecomings and pageants and debutantes. I was on drill team, a cheerleader, so I mean, we’re different in that respect. I’m super girly, very feminine, so my artwork is very feminine. A lot of the things I do are based on things like homecoming mums and awards and badges and that stuff. And I use yarn and pom-poms, and it’s very “crafty” too.
L.D.: I didn’t know that you had direct involvement with pageants and that kind of stuff.
Adam: Her dad actually ran pageants.
Alicia: My dad was the director of a couple of pageants, and my sister was in Miss Texas and all kinds of different pageants.
L.D.: See, to me that was a whole other world that existed on TV or in movies. When I came here before and looked at the work and these ribbons and things, there’s this girly aspect of things, and then there’s these prize winnings, but it kind of made me think about this idea that to me may seem very foreign, but there’s these – it may be like a kind of stereotype of the kind of culture you were in, but they’re like these horse shows and-
L.D.: -and like state fairs and rodeos … hearing about the pageants at the same time … it’s all kind of bizarrely close to each other.
Alicia: Yeah, yeah. This gold glittered cow skull’s called Miss Texas, and that pink pom-pom cowskull is Debutante.
Adam: And some of the things in this award piece are domestic, like the vacuum cleaner and like food items and a coffee maker. It’s like … domestic things. She’s bringing up …
Alicia: I’m not into football. I’m not … The homecoming is based around football, but I’m not-
Adam: Well, Texas is, basically.
Alicia: Well, I’m not too big a fan.
Adam: It’s huge here, it’s huge.
L.D.: That’s also something that’s foreign to me – I never had sports at my school; my family wasn’t that into sports, so it’s something that I’m aware of, but I’ve had very little contact with it.
Alicia: I just liked dancing and prissing across the field.
L.D.: [laughing] That’s really amazing, wow. Well, I have to go back to this, and I think I asked you about this the other day, but talking about football and everything, I was really struck when I saw this orange and sort of glitter piece that’s over here with the fallopian tubes wrapping around. It has this really uncanny resemblance to the Longhorns, the UT Longhorns signs that you see everywhere.
Alicia: Yeah. Well, of course, I’m pregnant right now, and of course I’ve always been into really feminine things, like diagrams of women’s reproductive organs. And I started looking at the fallopian tubes and the uterus, and then drawing a parallel to these cowskulls. So I did the cowskulls first, and, yeah, obviously this looks like a Texas Longhorn, especially with the peach background, the peach and white …
L.D.: Yeah, but it also starts to look like the flowers that are in here too, with the arms like stems.
Alicia: Yeah. Yeah. But Adam’s totally different.
Adam: Yeah, mine’s based on sort of a historical presence and the contemporary south, and how there’s still people that are upset about losing the Civil War, you know, in the deep south. They still honor the Confederacy, and it’s just this thing of … I don’t know, it’s just interesting to me that this thing still exists and that this culture is there.
L.D.: Yeah, I spoke to you about the work a little bit last week, but if you would just talk a little for the record about the lineage issues you were dealing with in the work, and the family and genealogy, similarities and appearances …
Adam: Yeah, so I was heavily studying my ancestry and genealogy and all that, and at the same time I was interested in the Civil War and that same time period in my family and where they were. They were in Kentucky, and half my family was Confederate, and half was Union. I was seeing old photos of them and old photos of generals – Confederate and Union generals – and this one image was really striking to me of Stonewall Jackson. At the time, and still now, I have this beard, which is pretty big, and he has the same. I found similarities in our appearance, and so I was like “Oh that’s weird.” I went back and tried to find connections. There are none, but-
L.D.: Well, there’s a kind of social connection, in the fabric-
Adam: Yeah, in the fabric of the culture. So anyways, I just went from there, and there’s a triptych, which is actually sort of a single piece, and it’s of Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis, who was the Confederate president; and Robert E. Lee, who was the general of the Confederacy; and um, those three portraits are actually carved into the face of a mountain in Georgia, and it’s called Stone Mountain. It’s a bas-relief sculpture; it’s the largest one in the world actually, and it’s just sort of amazing to me that that is present, and probably will always and forever be present there just outside of Atlanta: these three Confederate generals, and one of them looks just like me. So it’s just this funny sort of connection that I don’t want to have, but is there.
L.D.: So, what are you guys working on now?
Alicia: I’m working on having a baby right now. I’m also working on the flowers. But I mean, we also have other aspects of the shop than the art that we’re working on. You know, it’s pretty time consuming, all the different directions that we’re taking.
Adam: Yeah, I think the baby right now is first and foremost on our agenda, but we can’t wait to get back into new projects and things, because we collaborated on a few pieces, and they turned out really great.
Alicia: And we had a great time.
L.D.: The pieces at the front?
L.D.: I like those a lot.
Adam: That was a lot of fun. And it’s kind of a liberating thing, because, once again, you have your work – you worked really hard on it – and you just let go.
L.D.: So do you do kind of exquisite corpse style pass-offs, or is it more like together all the way?
Alicia: He passes it off to me, and …
Adam: It’s up to you. You do what you need to do to it.
Alicia: Well, I didn’t even want to touch his drawings, because I love his drawings just like they were, and so I didn’t really want to mess with them, but he was like, “I want you to make this into one of your mums.” I was like NO, but it ended up being great, I love it, and I can’t wait to work on more things like that with him.
L.D.: So are you guys going to close at all, or are you going to have something like a maternity leave?
Alicia: No. I won’t be at the shop as much – Adam will be running the show by himself, but-
Adam: Yeah, we may be closed on, like a day.
Alicia: That’s what’s crazy is … there’s this huge event in our life, and we don’t really know when it’s going to take place.
L.D.: Well that’s exciting. … I know that your next show is going to be with Lizzy Wetzel, and she’s another artist who kind of has Dallas and Brooklyn ties. How did you get hooked up with her, and can you tell us about the show? It’s the Trash Totems show.
Alicia: Yeah, I knew her before I went to Brooklyn, so we would hang out, and I love her, and she’s great and so much fun. Then she moved up to Brooklyn, and she’s at, well, now she’s at CentralTrak on a residency, so she goes back and forth a lot.
Adam: Yeah, we’re real excited about it. The title is kind of all that we have on it too. We gave her complete freedom.
Alicia: She has all these great ideas, and she’s been telling me what she wants to do. You know, installation pieces and stuff like that, and different totems going down the middle of the space, and we’ve given her complete control. Like, “Do whatever you want to the space, it’s completely yours,” and I think she’s making all new work. I mean, the last thing we saw from her, I mean we went over to her studio and bought some things, and it was great, but she’s doing whatever she wants, and she’s been busy making things.
Adam: So it’s going to be a surprise for us just as much as anyone else, I think. But once you have trust in an artist, or just a person in general, you know you just kind of let go, and I think that’s the best way to have it work.
L.D.: When is that show?
Alicia: It’s March 27 [through April 21].
L.D.: Well, welcome to the neighborhood guys, and thanks for talking with me today.
Adam: Of course.