The windows at the flagship Neiman Marcus store in downtown Dallas are famous for elaborate displays. Now several of them are promoting something other than high-end fashions or holiday panoramas. They’re showcasing the work of local artists. KERA’s Adelina Sun takes us on a walk around the storefront.
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Passersby on Ervay Street stop to look at the big, spiky, cardboard shapes in one of Neiman’s windows. The artist, Lily Smith-Kirkley, has some history with the store. Her godmother was a senior vice president for Neiman Marcus. The artist herself designed invitations for high-end events there.
Now her own art is featured in one of Neiman’s windows. Given such an opportunity, naturally, she went with cacti. “I have for a couple years been collaborating on some cacti letterpress prints, “Smith-Kirkley says. “So when Shannon asked if we wanted to do a window, I just sort of got immediately this idea to do big sculptural cacti.”
Shannon Driscoll started Oil and Cotton, a creative exchange in Oak Cliff that offers classes, workshops, and exhibitions. The window displays are the beginning of what could become a long-lasting partnership with Neimans.
Kayli House Cusick is Oil and Cotton’s co-founder. She says they reached out to artists “we knew could use some visibility in their career, that we believed were really, really strong artists that we wanted to support. And also artists that we knew would put work out there that was going to engage anyone walking by” — work like Rachel Rushing’s piece “Weave.” It looks at the history of the Trinity River through cyan-blue photographs depicting the waterway’s vegetation. Clear fabric sways in front of the prints to create changing images as people pass by.
Another window houses handmade nets by the arts collective, Prismatic Earth. In another, artist Randy Guthmiller used freeform shapes to reflect the quiet and poetic moments in life. “I want to make things that’s more like the natural world,” he says, “but still has an element of me and awkwardness in it because I think that that’s also really central to them as objects. These shapes being a little awkward, being clumsy, being funny, being definitely handmade.”
His display is made up of big, blocky shapes of solid color – red, blue and yellow. They stand in front of a wallpaper made from smaller, similar shapes and colors. It’s simple and bold and “really accessible,” he says. “Like at the end of the day, it’s shapes.”
In the final window, Jay Bailey’s paintings deliberately reflect Neiman’s couture reputation. Based on fashion ads, they’re twenty watercolor portraits, hung by wire. They seem to float in the air.
“I wanted to have a certain look,” Bailey explains, “or a certain feel that you would only get from that type of photographic advertisement and I wanted to rethink them or almost reinvent them. And I wanted to remove those qualities and almost make them more candid and more human. More fluid, more poetic.”
Normally, you’d imagine such pieces in a quieter setting, a gallery, not on a busy street corner. But there are obvious advantages to this street corner.
“Somebody is going to want to go to an art gallery to experience the arts,,” he says. “They have a certain level of investment, whereas a pedestrian just walking by on the street, they could essentially stumble onto the window display, so that that to me was something really exciting. “
Bailey moved from Austin to Dallas, right before he was asked to join this project. His window may not have huge Christmas trees or the latest in ready-to-wear. But it’s still turning heads.
The window displays run through Sunday at Neiman’s. Each one is tied to a special workshop put on by the artists.