Posts Tagged 'Willard Watson'

The Texas Kid and “True Stories”

One hour into David Byrne’s 1986 movie True Stories, John Goodman’s character, Louis Fyne, parks his car in front of the eccentric house of a voodoo practitioner. A sign reading “Invisible Hospital of Saint John the Baptist” is barely visible in the nighttime. That sign was hiding another sign that read “The Texas Kid.” The actual owner of the house with a fantastically decorated yard was Willard “The Texas Kid” Watson.

Filming the “Dinero” music video at The Texas Kid’s house in 1984. Top row, left to right: Charlene Dawkins, Lee Gonzalez, George Reiff, Dick Ross, Willard Watson, Kris Cummings, David Byrne, Joe “King” Carrasco. Seated on bottom row, left to right: Adelle Lutz, Georganne Deen. © Christina Patoski

Willard Watson, a.k.a. The Texas Kid, was a folk artist born in Caddo Parish, Louisiana, and raised in Dallas, Texas. He was a local celebrity, recognized for his customized cars, flashy outfits that he sewed himself, and the sculpture garden outside his home near Love Field Airport. Fourteen of his drawings are in the DMA’s collection. The first drawings were acquired just three months after the movie was filmed.

As Watson recalled in his autobiography, “That year, 1985, David Byrne, who had a famous band called Talking Heads, came by the house and asked if he could film part of his movie TRUE STORIES at my house.”

Christina Patoski, a journalist and photographer from Fort Worth, served as a special consultant for the movie. David Byrne called her in 1984, after a mutual friend recommended Patoski to be a point of contact in Texas, and said he was working on a film. In the summer of 1984, Byrne, Patoski, and some friends drove around for three days scouting locations in Dallas and surrounding counties that Byrne imagined as settings for the fictional town of Virgil, Texas. Patoski took photographs during the initial trip and throughout the filming of the movie.

Patoski suggested that Byrne come back in the fall during the State Fair. He returned in October and brought Jonathan Demme, the director of Stop Making Sense. At that time, Patoski was directing a music video for Joe “King” Carrasco staged in the The Kid’s yard. They visited her there and met Watson and saw his incredible yard and home. Byrne decided to use it as a location in True Stories. Demme purchased some of Watson’s drawings and later cast him in his feature film Something Wild.

Byrne and crew came back in August of 1985 and started filming in early September. Patoski says it was an intense six-week shoot. Watson recalled:

“Elnora and I said yes, but we had to give up the use of our home for almost two weeks. They would work all day and often until two or three in the morning. The crew was all over the place. . . . At night, the cast and crew liked to party at nightclubs, particularly Shannon’s club, Tango. . . . I even went to their wrap party at Sons of Herman[n Hall.]”

Watson in the “voodoo room,” built in the dining room of his house in 1985. © Andy Reisberg

While Watson himself doesn’t appear in the movie, his wife, Elnora, and one of their grandsons had roles as the wife and son of the shaman, played by Pops Staples. Patoski says they built the “voodoo room” for the movie, but the rest of the house, filled inside and out with Watson’s art, hardly had to be changed.

While True Stories was filming, a solo exhibition of Watson’s art was on view at the Bath House Cultural Center at White Rock Lake. It was there that a curator from the DMA saw his Life Cycle drawings, and after showing them to the director of the DMA plans were made to acquire them. “I was really really proud for my work to be acquired by the Dallas Museum of Art,” wrote Watson.

Click images to expand.

Lillian Michel is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator at the DMA.

You can’t spell DART without art

Prior to moving to Dallas, I found myself doing a lot of research about how to navigate the city. As a person that doesn’t have a car or know how to drive, I knew without a doubt I would be depending on the DART system. As my bus moves down Ross Ave in morning traffic, I can take time to look out the windows and get glimpses of Dallas, soaking in the details that might be missed otherwise.

The study of public transportation can show how cities both shape and are shaped by these models. While public transportation attempts to create access for ever growing cities, the nature of this large scale building has seen its share of highs and lows throughout its long history. Although DART is fairly new to Dallas (1980s), we can see the way neighborhoods around stops have changed and developed as lines have been added. Trains and buses have been of interest to artists around the world, and the DMA has a number of works that explore their many facets.

Lothar Baumgarten, Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, Katy Yard, Continental Viaduct, Dallas, Dallas County, Texas, negative 1989, gelatin silver print, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, 2004.41.2, © Lothar Baumgarten / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

In 1989, German artist Lothar Baumgarten dedicated six months to following America’s railroad tracks to create the series, Carbon. This image shows the Katy, also known as the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad. Today this railyard has been replaced by the American Airlines Center. The Katy was the first railroad to connect Texas to the rest of the United States in the late 1800s, and  it served as a way to transport goods such as cotton across the United States. Baumgarten addresses the irony of the beautiful landscapes that were made available for public consumption as tracks were laid across fields, but also the destruction that comes with it. In addition, he looks at the human accomplishment of settling the land that carried with it the cost of displacing communities. Finally, this work addresses the decline of the railroads themselves as they became industrial transportation.

Willard Watson, Untitled, 1985, drawings, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Friends of Willard Watson, 1985.181.4 © Estate of Willard Watson

Willard Watson, “The Texas Kid,” reminisces about when his family moved to Texas from Louisiana in his series of drawings, Life Story. Watson’s family were sharecroppers, a system where the landowner allows a tenant to use the land in exchange for a share of the crop. However, this system often kept tenant farm families severely indebted, with many laws in place to favor the landowners position. This particular image shows the way railroad travel could be empowering, as Watson writes at bottom, “when we were coming across this bridge going to Dallas, Daddy said we were home free.”

Just as these artists were inspired by their experiences with transportation, the DART Student Art Contest invites students to create works of art inspired by DART. Come visit the DMA to get inspiration for your DART contest submissions, which are due February 28. I can’t wait to see the Best of Show winner across the DART bus on my daily commute, along with all the other finalists on view at the DMA in April!

Olivia Feal is the McDermott Intern for Interpretation at the DMA


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