Houston Chronicle, April 1, 2009
Galveston's DesignWorks Bounces Back After Ike


Rosane Volchan O'Conor's After Ike I

The center of Hurricane Ike's eye passed two blocks from Galveston's DesignWorks gallery on Sept. 12. The results weren't pretty.

The gallery got 8 feet of water. Owners Stephen and Elisabeth Lanier were able to move most of the artwork up to the mezzanine, but had elevated the rest about 5 feet off the floor, which turned out not to be high enough.

They weren't able to get back into the gallery until 15 days after the storm. They spent two weeks sifting through wreckage and sludge to try to salvage what they could. They bounced around temporary homes in College Station, Bellaire and Houston, and even contemplated relocating here. But because they own the condominium that doubles as a gallery and a residence, that idea was shortlived.

"We essentially had no choice but to do something to bring the property back to a condition of reusability," Stephen Lanier said.

Now, after months of renovations, DesignWorks is back in business with a group exhibition of gallery artists aptly titled Return. Rebuild. Renew.

Not surprisingly, much of the art on view represents its creators' responses to Ike.

Take Rosane Volchan O'Conor, whose work "went swimming" when the hurricane struck because it was among those not moved to the mezzanine before the gallery flooded, Lanier said. Fascinated with the abstract patterning left by the dried mud on one of her pieces, O'Conor incorporated it into a monotype titled After Ike I.

"In a way, she's turned a negative into a positive — by finding inspiration from the mud itself," Lanier said.

Martha J. Terrill makes what Lanier describes as Joseph-Cornell-like shadowboxes. They became more ornate after Ike struck, he said.

"The one that's in the show consists entirely of debris she found walking her dog on the beach after she returned after the hurricane, including materials like house numbers and dominos and upholstery tassels," Lanier said.

Painter René Wiley is "taking what look like they should be pretty marshscapes, and she's distressing them somewhat … adding a layer of tension behind what otherwise might appear to be straight-ahead landscape painting," Lanier said.

The first painting created by Skynear after the storm was executed in a mostly black palette, Lanier said, adding that Skynear lost everything in his downtown Galveston studio.

While the gallery's flood insurance did not cover damage to the artworks, it did enable the couple "to bring the space back to essentially the same level that we'd been at before," Lanier said, adding that the redesign has given the gallery a "much more elegant" feel.

"We actually think there's a great potential for Galveston to come back," he said.

All Work © Rosane Volchan O'Conor / sitemap / site by blukid