Everyone’s always talking about how Oak Cliff is such an artistic community, from our multi-colored murals to our various local galleries. But how much do you really know about the art, or the artists, who help enrich our everyday lives here in the ‘hood? Well, here’s your chance. In the following pages, we introduce you to some of the artists whose work has become a regular sight in the area, and all around the city, for that matter. Of course, not all of them are CliffDwellers (although we wonder, why not?), but they all participate in the art world that is the Cliff. Get to know them, go see their work, and help support local art. And, don’t forget to let slip to those non-CliffDwellers out there that the great medallion on the floor of terminal D at the DFW airport was made by an Oak Cliff artist. . . read on to find out more.
"I am not so sure I ever became an artist,” says CliffDweller Erica Felicella, “it’s more like art happened to me.” And Oak Cliff is thankful it did, as it’s hard to take your eyes off her stunning photography.
Felicella is an artist who works in various mediums, but describes herself as rooted in photography. She is completely self-taught, loves to learn new skills, and explains her various techniques: “In the last couple of years I have worked on photo essays, traditional portrait series, abstract paintings, photomontages, block printing and conceptual photography.”
Despite initially trying to avoid her calling, Felicella eventually came back to art. “I fell in love with photography during high school, and I considered it as a career but went on to study something a little more sensible,” she reports. “Wouldn’t you know I ended up in the very thing I tried to hide from? When I am working nothing has ever felt more right in my life. I could not imagine doing anything else.”
Her photographs of people are striking in both their unique and changing backdrops as well as in their starkness. She captures often very serious expressions in her subjects, sometimes with straight faces, always with telling eyes.
Felicella maintains a commercial and fine art photography studio in the Bishop Arts District called Cella Arts (518 West Davis, #7), where her work is always available.
A love of beauty is what inspires Martin Campos. He believes that if he creates an object of beauty, it can pull an audience into his work in a way that nothing else can. It can create a connection, a conversation.
And so Campos creates beauty in many forms. He takes pictures, paints, sculpts. And he’s always looking for more ways, more mediums, for artistic expression.
Born in Mexico, Campos moved to the U.S. when still young. He started his professional training in advertising but soon found more traditional art more compelling. He says he is as influenced by the classics as by modernity, and he finds himself including both in his pieces.
Much of Campos’s art focuses on the human face. He photographs faces and paints them so that you feel like you’re looking into someone’s soul. He portrays people representationally, he explains, as a way into a deeper meaning. The faces in his art instantly reach out to a viewer, and it is that connection that allows a more reflective moment to happen. The abstract becomes accessible through the concrete in Campos’s work.
Campos’s art has been exhibited all over North Texas and throughout the state. He has permanent pieces at Mountain View College, and even has a painting at the Preparatory School of the New England Conservatory of Music. His work is also often featured at the local Ice House Cultural Center.
Campos lists a great variety of influences for his art, “from fashion, music and pop culture,” he says, “to science, literature and history.” Bridging these vast cultural elements with a study of the specifically human is what Campos’s art does best.
You’re probably already well-acquainted with Béatrice Lebreton’s artwork, as she has a permanent installation, a medallion called “Celebration” at the Departure Level Gate Area Concourse, at Dallas Ft. Worth airport.
Lebreton works mostly in acryllic and watercolor paints, although she adds various other elements for a multi-dimensional effect. She mixes realistic human figures with more metaphorical symbols, shapes and textures. “Colors, textures and imagery have a great importance and meaning in my work,” she explains.
Born and raised in France, Lebreton received her MFA from Ecole Des Beaux-Arts. She then earned a Master’s Degree in EthnoEsthetics with a specialization in African Art. Many of her pieces have a recognizably African influence from these studies. She came to the U.S. in 1986, first to San Antonio and then to Dallas. “I physically live in Dallas but in my mind I am constantly around the world,” she says.
Much of Lebreton’s art is bold in color, mixing classical images in with multi-dimensional elements. “I love to add three-dimensionality to my paintings,” she says, “to heighten the presence of the idea.”
She further describes her work as cross-cultural: “Mythologies, folklore, religions, history, music, poetry are all great inspirations.” She also focuses on women and women’s bodies, as a political statement fighting against the marginality of both. “Traditionally the topic of women in art has been that of a passive object. I want to make the woman the active subject of a piece,” she says.
Lebreton’s work is available through her personal studio and online, www.beatriceart.com, as she is not currently connected with a gallery.
She believes Oak Cliff is going through “a renaissance” and is becoming “so artistically-inclined.” She continues, “It also has the feel of being its own little island, preserving its history and opening itself to a bright future.”
Having had paint brushes in her hands as long as she can remember, Lebreton states, “Creation is magical. . . true love.”
Bradshaw-Smith moved to the Cliff from New York 11 years ago. She knew from the start that Oak Cliff was the only place she wanted to live in Dallas. During that 11 years, she’s become established in the neighborhood art world, living in Winnetka Heights and maintaining a studio right around the corner from the Bishop Arts District.
Bradshaw-Smith’s art comes in the widest range of sizes. Her works vary from mixed media drawings and sculptures to residential interior murals all the way to stage production designs. And her work is not limited to the Cliff, by any means. Her pieces are available in her neighborhood studio and in local galleries; they are also scattered around the country as she produces set designs regularly for ballet companies. Currently, she’s producing a Nutcracker design for the St. Louis Ballet as well as the stage art for a Pennsylvania Youth Ballet production of Madeline, based on the children’s book series.
Locally, you can find Bradshaw-Smith’s work in the Mighty Fine Arts Gallery, newly located at 419 N. Tyler. Her interior murals are produced on commission, mostly through interior designers.
“My fine art,” Bradshaw-Smith explains, “is mixed media work, drawings using prismacolor and ink and sculpture using painted wood and mixed media.”
After having lived in New York for nearly 30 years, Bradshaw-Smith brought her considerable talent to the Cliff. “At first I lived in an apartment on Tyler Street,” she says, “among many other artists, and then found this charming house on Winnetka Ave where I have lived for the last 11 years. I have a studio at 518 West Davis, which is around the corner from the Bishop Arts District, and I couldn’t be happier with the set up.” She concludes, warmly, “Oak Cliff has the most character and charm of any Dallas ‘hood.”
"My sculpture is eccentrically classical,” says Sandi Stein, who’s been sculpting ever since 1975 when she first wielded a chisel at the University of Texas. Her work has since been commissioned throughout Dallas, including a downtown sculpture called “Rising” at the corner of Olive and Bryan, as well as her recent work, “Viva La Vida,” near the Ice House Cultural Center right here in the Cliff.
Stein describes her work as a meeting of opposite forces: of classic and modern, of weight and lightness. “It is architectonic,” she effuses, “It is the embodiment of male and female, light and truth and beauty.”
Stein works mostly in limestone, a rock she admires greatly. “Texas crème limestone,” she says, “is a warm, beautifully homogenous, light-reflective stone that changes all day as the sunlight caresses its surface.”
Stein’s art is always available for viewing by appointment at her 6010 Victor Street Studio, but it can also be seen at the Dallas Museum of Art, the Irving Art Center, the Ft. Worth Botanical Gardens, and many other museums and private collections throughout Texas.
Of Oak Cliff, Stein admits, “It’s definitely the prettiest part of Dallas.” She still participates in the community although her studio isn’t in the neighborhood, and with her new sculpture recently unveiled, she’ll now be a permanent presence here.
“And Hallelujah!” she exclaims of the new activity in the area. “Oak Cliff has the Bishop Arts District. With its charming ambience of bistros, shops, exterior wall murals, studios, and galleries, it exudes a bustling vitality and diversity that draws crowds day and night.”
View Stein’s art by making an appointment, 214-828-1299.
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Oak Cliff.