Oct 6, 2011

REVIEW: RAW-Natural Born Artists, The Belmont, Austin

Lacey Roop, Slam poet
I attended RAW: Natural Born Artists at The Belmont in Austin because I was interested in what was described in the website's words as "an artistic circus of creativity."  My curiosity led me there for this review because I've always questioned the role art plays in an event such as this.  I wonder if people are showing up to view art, or if they are showing up to view each other and participate in the buzz that surrounds events such as RAW.  This was a one-night event that featured several visual artists, a couple bands, a theater performance group, and a slam poet.  The website also claims to have featured fashion, jewelry, and a model, but I never managed to spot where those were.
My initial impressions of the display were not good, I felt that the work was from artists who dabbled in the arts, and not on par with art that I've seen in my studio classes, much less museums.  The visual art was hung haphazardly along the railings of the deck upstairs, some of wavering back and forth with the breeze.  The lighting for the art was with spotlights of many different hues, cast on the art from the sides... Or wherever.  I tried to maintain the awareness that this was a one-night event and checked myself in thinking that whatever exposure an artist has is good exposure, and that this could encourage these artists further.  I spoke with one of the artists about the process by which the featured artists are chosen, and he said that you just send in some photos of your work, they give you the okay, and then you have to sell 20 tickets at $10 to cover your space at the event.  If they don't manage to draw a crowd that buys a ticket in their name, they have to pay for the remaining unsold tickets.  Is the event promoting these artists or getting them to pay to promote the event for the venue itself?

Pilar Davila, Painter and Make-up Artist
And what self-respecting buzz-worthy art event is complete without a half naked woman in high heels getting her body painted?  It seemed to me like this artist used sex to sell where her tree silhouette paintings failed to gain interest.  I was becoming very disillusioned with the excitement of professed "up and coming artists" that didn't deliver until slam poet Lacey Roop went onstage.  As I listened to her incredible poetry, I watched the rest of the attendees to see the reactions.  People went silent.  People listened, and were enthralled at the intensity of emotion within her speaking.  Roop had a delivery that affected listeners in a visceral way.  I caught several people looking at each other between poems and muttering about how good she was.  The personal content of her poems and the way she spoke invited me as a listener in, delighting in her insight into relationships, sexual identity issues and objectification of women.

All in all, RAW's claim to be an artistic circus of creativity seemed to me just to be an excuse to dress up and drink some booze for most people, but the saving grace was Roop with her literal show-stopping performance.  I'm satisfied that RAW gave me at least one up and coming artist that I will continue to watch for.

-Syraya Horton


  1. youch. everybodys gotta start somewhere, and if selling 20 tickets to participate in an event that invites you, then as an artist i'm happy to try it out even if its 'amateur'. how high brow did you expect it to be?