Works by Erin Stafford and Heyd Fontenot
September 10 - October 30, 2021
CIVIL LIES, a two-person art exhibition at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center, opens September 10 and runs through October 30, 2021. Texas-based interdisciplinary artists Heyd Fontenot and Erin Stafford each present their complex artworks in a thematic and aesthetic dialog. Visually delightful, yet politically provocative, the artists tread dangerously through a minefield of questioning power structures, nationalism, history, gender, and the false promises of comfort-in-conformity. Recognized as a figurative painter and former director of the artists’ residency CentralTrak, Heyd Fontenot presents a continuous 68 foot wall-scaled painting featuring multiple figures and a plea for empathy. Alluding to the so-called “greatest artist of the Twentieth Century”, Pablo Picasso who utilized the Minotaur as an unconscionably permissive avatar, Fontenot imagines the mythical half-man half-beast as a more spiritually-stunted and tragic character. The artist reveals America’s obsession with titillating material, both sexual and violent, as so pervasive that it acts as a decorative backdrop for ill-informed self-indulgences. These painted panels introduce such problematic obstructions as toxic masculinity, rape culture and misogyny, gay panic and homophobia, which imitate an archeologically-significant codex that might give future generations some explanation of our contemporary dysfunction and lower impulses. With a travel grant from the Dallas Museum of Art, Erin Stafford visited plantation homes in Louisiana to study Southern mystique. Confronting her own often-troubling “white, female” identity, the artist became increasingly unsettled by realizations around her cultural conditioning. The assumption that Caucasian women had a passive role in the enslavement of Black people resulted in a cognitive dissonance when Stafford’s research revealed that these women were often willing participants in human trafficking. This newfound knowledge was the catalyst for new sculptural and two-dimensional artwork. The intoxicating effect of these beautiful objects has masked the intention of actively reinforcing and promoting sexist and racist ideologies. Fontenot’s and Stafford’s recurrent investigations of the status-quo as a deadly oppressive force disguised as “tradition” and “nostalgia” is ever more poignant when scapegoating continues to be a most revered and enduring American “tradition."
Erin Stafford's aesthetic tendencies are reflected in her studio practice as a result of her affluent upbringing in Dallas, Texas where she found upper-middle class expectations full of irony and contradiction. This sense of cultural refinement, which included various forms of ritual and tradition, shaped her identity until 2002, when she began her art education at the University of North Texas. It was here that she was surrounded by eccentric artists and jazz musicians, which inspired her to challenge established social conventions. After receiving her MFA at the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2009, she returned to her hometown where she continues her studio practice along with teaching and curatorial endeavors at Red Arrow Contemporary. Her most recent exhibitions includes a solo exhibition entitled Lovesick at Kirk Hopper Fine Art in Dallas, TX, a group exhibition entitled Lost Eden at Galveston Art Center, curated by Dennis Nance, and inclusion in the 2017 Texas Biennial, curated by Leslie Moody Castro which featured both a sculptural installation and resin casted eggs made while as an artist-in residence with Caetani Cultural Centre in Vernon, British Columbia. She has also been awarded The Otis and Velma Davis Dozier Travel Grant from the Dallas Museum of Art.
Heyd Fontenot, born in Lake Charles, Louisiana in 1964 is an American artist. As director of CentralTrak, an artists' residency program and exhibition space located in Dallas, Texas, Fontenot found great success with both local community engagement and with international exchange. Prior to becoming an arts administrator and curator, he inhabited a huge variety of artistic roles including designer, art director, producer, filmmaker, working with theater companies, retail businesses, software and media production companies. Fontenot’s current studio practice is currently focused on figurative painting and drawing with occasional forays back into video. The graphic and narrative works are largely in reaction to mass media exploitations and religious dogmas designed to provoke fear, body shame and a false sense of value or morality. The artist recruits his friends and artistic peers to model and/or act and has in this process created a comprehensive portrait of his community over the last two decades. Fontenot is an active exhibiting artist who is represented by Conduit Gallery in Dallas, Texas.