Rick Fontenot wears his love for Art Conspiracy on his sleeve (often quite literally – as a several-years, veteran executive team member, he’s got a slew of Art Con t-shirts in his closet). An attendee since the very first Art Con at Texas Theatre in 2005, his involvement has run the gamut from patron/fan to site designer/builder to artist.
“Initially I was interested in going because of the musicians, and I had never been to any art auction. And the combination of the two together was really thrilling… I was outbid on the two pieces I wanted, but it was still really exciting being in the hunt. And I’ve been in love with it ever since.”
And Art Con’s appeal for Rick spans beyond the rush of the auctions and energetic band performances. “I remember stepping outside with friends for a break during that first show, and when we stepped into the light, we realized our backs and legs were completely covered in a thick, brown dust from sitting on the seats in Texas Theatre that hadn’t been touched by anyone in years,” he explains. “That grit just personified the entire experience, and for people like us made it feel more like the punk shows we were used to than a gallery show, which at that point in time intimidated us.”
After jumping in to help with some last-minute build work the day before Art Con MOUNTED, Rick attended the volunteer thank-you party and was asked to join the executive team as build team lead. “Without blinking, I immediately said yes, and that lead to a whole new path of friendships and a type of work I’d never done before.”
Prior to his work with Art Con, Rick hadn’t delved into being an artist beyond “piddling around” with it for himself and never showing anyone else. After he had a couple of events under his belt as volunteer and exec team builder, he came up with the concept for Art Con WRECKED, which had each artist draw a unique word to guide and inspire their direction and create a cohesive show of diverse interpretations. “I still wasn’t planning to be an artist for the show, but when it came time to draw the words, other team members held my feet to the fire to draw a word,” he remembers. “That was just the motivation I need to get over the jitters. The action was nerve wracking to watch, but my piece did well, sparked a lot of conversations and gave me confidence to create more and start sharing artwork with people rather than just hiding it away from view. So for me, that first experience really changed my trajectory.”
In so many ways, Art Con has opened Rick up to a whole new world in all the ways this organization conspires to advocate for.
“For me, what’s just as important [as the money donated to organizations each year] is that Art Con has actually created its own community. Tons of people look forward to being involved every year, even people who may not consider themselves artists still volunteer just to be around all of the energy. You leave with new friends, and it spins off a lot of relationships where people collaborate and do other community events not directly associated with Art Con itself.”
As for his art, Rick typically experiments in concrete sculpting and visionary design, tends to come from a very personal place. “While not immediately obvious, all of my art is driven by a concept. I often keep the concept close to the vest and hope that people can interpret in their own way,” he says. “Most pieces start as dealing with an emotional struggle or a scene from real life that captured my mind for years and is associated with a significant memory in life. Aesthetically, I strive for minimalism, clean lines, and using light/shadow as one of the key components. I spend a lot of time stripping layers of the concept away to get down to the bare bones of the idea in a way that is aesthetically simple and hopefully evokes a calm feeling as a way to bury the actual chaos inherent in the original thoughts.”
Professionally, Rick owns a business called Constructive, which provides the build for modern architecture in Dallas. “They’re mostly new one-of-a-kind homes, but we also take on small preservation and commercial projects when there’s something about the project that draws me in. I draw a lot of inspiration for my art from being influenced by architects I work with.”
Come to Art Con R/EVOLUTION tonight at Life In Deep Ellum to see Rick’s work in person and experience a taste of the magic that’s touched his life (and the lives of so many others) in such profound and direction-altering ways. We’ll see you there!
Written by: Martha Elaine Belden