September, 2014



I See The Moon and the Moon Sees Me by Diane Boddy


As one gets older it seems to get harder and harder to meet people to genuinely have fun with, playmates. About a year and a half ago I met Judy Sherrod bringing one of her wonderful homemade pinhole cameras into the gallery. She set it down under a wet plate collodion image hanging in the exhibition at that time, a collaboration between herself and S. Gayle Stevens. The combination of the stunning photograph of the remains of a fishing pier, mystically extending out into a bay or the Gulf, and the large homemade pinhole camera from whence it came, was perfect. The rough plywood box, screwed and bound with bungees, appeared to be the spiritual brother (probably sister) to the totemic recreational remains.

Shortly thereafter Judy asked Amanda and me to participate in the inaugural shootapalooza event in Port Aransas, Texas. It sounded like fun and most of the participants were photographers whose images had been in various exhibitions in the gallery and who we greatly admired. It was very exhilarating and humbling to be surrounded by a group of folks with such proficiency at their craft, bubbling over with enthusiasm and freewheeling creativity. It was great fun to get to personally meet and interact with these folks who we only knew through their work.

It was magic in the photograph or lumen print of a bottle, if you know what I mean. shootapalooza is special. Judy conceptualized it, planned it, steered it, facilitated it and I think also cleaned up after it – we’ll do better this next time around. She even gave me the honorary title of Mr. Congeniality – I was the only guy there. She has become our friend.

Judy’s obvious creativity and mechanical bent are the least of her gifts; her flashing intelligence, her crisp and devastating humor and her constant and infectious joie de vivre resonate and call those around her to “go have some fun.” And we do. In a past life she was probably a raucous sea captain hauling toys to those that had none.

So, when Judy pulls out of Johnson City (pop. 1650) towing the shootapalooza Art Bar Airstream, it seems, for that moment, that the population has dropped to just two, Amanda and me. Thanks Judy for being our playmate.

-Kevin Tully

Kevin is the Assistant Gallery Director of A Smith Gallery in Johnson City, Texas. Kevin is also a carpenter and an artist with a camera. Kevin was once a golf columnist. 

Kevin Tully: Hi Judy, can you tell us what shootapalooza is and what the genesis of it was? 

Judy Sherrod: You’ve just asked the one question that, thus far, none of us has really been able to answer. I’ll try. shootapalooza is about people, not photography. It’s not about money. shootapalooza is free. It’s a collective, creative, mind-set. It’s an evolving, dynamic entity that is constantly re-inventing itself. It is amorphous. It is flubber.

shootapalooza looks a lot like a gathering of artists. The first gathering was held in Port Aransas, Texas, last February. It was an experiment. I didn’t know if anyone would show up. Sixteen people did. From seven states and the District of Columbia. Wisconsin in the north to Washington in the northwest to Jenn Shaw in the south. My job was to set the stage and get out of the way. shootapalooza truly created itself.

Each day began with “Show and Tell.” We saw magnificent work. Christa Blackwood talked about her series, “A Dot Red.” We listened to her t.a.l.k. about it. Heather Oelklaus explained her developer and varnish process for making chemigrams. Who would have thought 600 Band-Aids could be so damn gorgeous? Amanda Smith and Kevin Tully brought a car-load of encaustic jewels. Anne Berry showed her magical, mystical primates. Carol Dass showed some of the most beautiful and fanciful color work I’ve ever seen. Her eye for composition is brilliant. Vicki Reed’s lumens were exquisite. Stacy Gardner lives outside the box. Everything she produces is beyond the reach of most brains.

Heather Perera marries poetry with images. Becky Ramotowski is our solargrapher and astronomer. Jennifer Shaw quietly makes photographs that are richly, truly between spaces.

It’s about learning together and teaching each other. We had Photo Labs. Not workshops, but photo labs – short, hands-on, learning sessions. Becky Ramotowski taught one on caffenol processing and actually brewed up a developer using seaweed and saltwater. Vicki taught a lab on lumen printing. She and I taught one on alcohol transfers. And the Millers brought their telescopes so we could explore the surface of the moon!

It’s about trying new things and not being scared of screwing up. We all help each other. I saw toy cameras, Hasselblads, 4x5s, pinholes, Holgas. And let us not forget Video Barbie!

We had excursions – one of which included a visit to this little hidden chapel in the dunes, adorned with drug-induced religious frescoes.

There was a road trip to Goliad, and the restored Presidio la Bahia, which was moved there from its former home on the Guadalupe River in 1749. We had a picnic across the highway on the grounds of the Mission, which was established in 1722, its purpose to convert the local Karankawa Indians to Christianity.

And then there’s always one in the group who is scared of sharks but still brave (or crazy) enough to strip naked at midnight and go skinny-dipping in the Gulf of Mexico.

And I’m not sure what was wilder, Stacy Gardner in her Martian outfit inside the Mission Nuestra Señora del Espíritu Santo de Zúñiga, or sweet and devilishly innocent Vicki Reed, explaining to strangers on the beach, in the dark, that we were out there, freezing our asses off, making a test film for, yes, Martin Scorsese.

The genesis: I was in Pass Christian in December, 2012, working with S. Gayle Stevens. We discussed inviting our Mississippi and Louisiana friends to the coast for a weekend of photography and general rambunction. Our host, Barney Adams, said, “Oh yeah, a real shootapalooza!”

We never got the rambunction going, but that evening I looked up, confident it was already registered. Lo and behold, it was available so I grabbed it.

A year later I asked the members of my Facebook group if they thought a photography festival on the Texas coast in February was a viable idea. The answers were sufficiently positive, so I put the thing together.

shootapalooza was announced the morning of January 1, 2014. By noon, Heather Perera had booked her flight from Seattle and Stacy Gardner had booked her flight from Denver. It didn’t take long for the group to form.

Kevin: Having been the only male member of the first shootapalooza extravaganza, I became aware of something: Girl photographers seem to be more at ease with pushing boundaries and waxing irreverent in their images. Do you think this is true or is it because I was the only dude there or did alcohol have something to do with it? 

Judy: I believe there are people in general who push boundaries and wax irreverent. That’s what makes the world go irreverently forward. And we do flock together because learning and experimentation and figuring things out is thrilling. It makes our feet itch. It revs us up.

You want to get Becky’s motor running? Ask her how to do something she doesn’t already know how to do, if that’s even possible. She also speaks Galilean, and on top of that, is just totally down-to-Earth.

Heather Perera is helping design this amazing four-month-long creative exercise that we’ll roll out in Fort Collins this October and wrap up in Port Aransas next February. It is designed to help artists teach themselves how to develop creative “reach” and break through the walls of the proverbial box.

Jennifer Shaw had no outlet for the emotional upheaval associated with Hurricane Katrina and the birth of her first child, so she created it out of thin air using toys, shot it with a Holga, and now it is a book, Hurricane Story.

Heather Oelklaus has a huge yellow delivery truck, Little Miss Sunshine, that is a pinhole camera on sunny days and a camera obscura on cloudy ones. We all piled in there in Fort Collins and sat in bean bag chairs and drank beer and watched the world go by up-side-down!

THAT is shootapalooza.

And irreverence is a shootapalooza aesthetic.

Alcohol? What alcohol?

And you were a very fortunate dude, indeed!

Kevin: What should members of shootapalooza be called:
A. shootapaloozers
B. shootapaloozians
C. shootapaloozists
Please explain your choice. 

Judy: That’s easy. Geniuses.

Kevin: One of my favorite albums of the 1980s was “As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls” by Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays. How has growing up and living in Wichita Falls influenced and informed your personal work and your work with shootapalooza? Judy: That has to be one of the strangest pairings in the history of song titling. Would someone please explain to me the logic of that?And to tell you the truth, that song never did float my boat. I’ll take “New Chautauqua,” instead.

Anyways, Wichita Falls is two hours from Dallas and two hours from Fort Worth. The greatest motivating influence in the arts between Manhattan and Los Angeles is the competition between Dallas and Fort Worth (and Houston). From architecture to opera to museum collections to exhibition curation and production, it’s as good as you’ll find anywhere. Texas does things BIG, and (in spite of current political issues) Texas often does things extremely well. There are endless opportunities to study the arts. And my parents dragged me and dragged me to all of it, fortunately, until finally it stuck.

What does that have to do with shootapalooza? shootapalooza isn’t really about photography. It’s about creativity. It’s about expression. It’s about connecting the dots until you burst out of the box. I don’t understand painters who only study painting, dancers who only study dance and writers who only study the written word. I’ve studied all of it, with love, half-assedly. So I end up knowing a little bit about a whole lot. It’s those little bits that I can contribute to shootapalooza, and combined with the little bits that everyone else brings, they all make up this whole big creative enchilada.

We’ll be talking about words, poetry, and phrases in Fort Collins, and their relationship(s) to visual art. There WILL be opera, thank you Jeanne Wells. And we may fold in a little William Kentridge. As we speak, three of our people are looking at Process Painting, and the ways in which it may be incorporated.

We’ve discussed using ceramics in Port Aransas next February, but may substitute paper mâché. Really and truly, nothing is off limits. I’ve talked to the glass blower in Port Aransas because we have one who wants to blow her own lenses. And there’s actually a guy down there who teaches sand castle building!

So, the next time I am in Johnson City with a guitar, we’ll shelve Pat Metheny, pull Mike Williams out of the stack and have a little listen to “The Wichita Falls Waltz.”

Now, THAT is a good pairing.


Untitled by Heather Perera
Kevin: What do you see in the future for shootapalooza and the shootapalooza Art/Bar Airstream? 

Judy: I mentioned earlier that shootapalooza is an evolving entity, constantly re-inventing itself. It’s partially due to the inventiveness of its artists. And then there’s this weird part that seems to come floating down out of the wherever. I was scrolling through Facebook not long ago and stumbled upon some unique and compelling art work. It wasn’t good work. It wasn’t supposed to be good. It was supposed to be an exercise in creativity. And it wasn’t supposed to be in my news feed but there it sat, brilliant work. So we are appropriating the concept and Seattle Heather and I are adapting it and Astro Becky is testing it beginning today, and it is powerful.

And it’s not the first thing that’s come floating down out of the wherever.

So what is the future of shootapalooza? We know that it will grow, but we’d like to grow it slowly. There was an article in The Atlantic recently about Burning Man. It sounds silly to compare a group of less than twenty to one of seventy thousand, but this is instructive. They were worried about Burning Man becoming too big. “They are worried we’ll become inauthentic…because…when something becomes bigger and bigger and bigger, it is alienated from its audience.” They’re talking about one hundred thousand people. We are nervous about fifty. shootapalooza is all about authenticity and we for sure do not want it to lose that.

The shootapalooza Art/Bar Airstream has become a nice addition to the group. It was parked outside A Smith Gallery in Johnson City, May 29, and used as a lumen printing studio. That whole weekend was like a mini-shootapalooza. The creativity was hanging in the air.

It was used as a counselors’ retreat (champagne shack) for a couple of Photography Camps in LaSalle County, Texas, which were taught by Karine Aigner. And I think it will serve as a margarita bar in Fort Collins in October. It is great, great, great for camping, but even better when it can be employed so that it is of benefit. It is evolving also and becoming more and more functional as a photography studio and darkroom as we roll along.

Kevin: Again, where do you get that sausage we had at our picnic? Oh, and do you think we can get some more guys involved in shootapalooza for February? 

Judy: That is Windthorst German Sausage and it comes from Osterman’s General Store in Windthorst, Texas, twenty miles down 281. Windthorst is a German dairy community of about 400. They have a work ethic. The young people there are up, milking the cows and shoveling hay early in the morning, long before school starts. And they drink that milk ten times a day as fresh as you can get it. It makes for strapping big farm kids. So the word is – you don’t want to play the boys in football.

And you don’t want to play the girls in anything.

I cannot recall if it was Fran or Tami, in Johnson City, who asked if shootapalooza was co-educational or a group just for women. Well, it’s kind of like Vassar. Vassar is a girls’ college that admits boys too.

Similarly, shootapalooza is a women’s gathering that allows men. You just have to be able to embrace your inner petticoat.