Houston Art Critic to Pan Performance Art with Performance of His Own

Categories: Art Space

Photo courtesy Douglas Britt
The happy couple: Reese Darby and Douglas Britt.
Words aren't enough for one Houston art critic to pan a performance art piece -- he needs to stage a performance art piece of his own.

On Friday, Houston Chronicle arts writer Douglas Britt will marry art publicist Reese Darby at Tony's Corner Pocket. They're not doing it out of love -- he is gay, she is straight. Up until a few days ago, in fact, Darby said Britt knew her as "the girl who works for Zoya Tommy," the director of PG Contemporary. No, they're doing it as an act of "art and activism."

The Art Gay Marries a Woman is inspired by another newsworthy act of nontraditional matrimony -- The Art Guys Marry a Plant, that 2009 piece of "behavior" work that saw Michael Galbreth and Jack Massing (the two "Art Guys") marry a plant at the Contemporary Arts Museum.

The Art Guys (Jack Massing, left, and Michael Galbreth) pose with their plant before their 2009 marriage. A dedication to the tree is this Saturday.
Britt bashed the piece at the time, calling it irresponsible for admittedly piggybacking off the gay-rights issue and "reinforcing the homophobic 'slippery slope' argument." (The Art Guys contend that this work, like all their behavior pieces, attempts to blur the lines between life and art.)

All was pretty much forgotten, until The Menil Collection acquired the tree -- an oak -- and planted it in its outdoor grounds this past summer. The announcement earlier this fall that there will be a formal dedication this Saturday for the tree drew Britt's ire all over again, mainly this time because the Menil agreed to a "lifetime commitment -- and into tarnishing its standards and its civil-rights legacy."

"When I got wind of the Menil acquisition, I thought, 'Oh geez, I don't want to go through rehashing all that in the paper again.' But the fact that it's the Menil made it much bigger than the Art Guys," said Britt, who, for the record, said he respects The Art Guys and enjoys much of their work. "My perspective was never anti-Art Guys; it was anti-The Art Guys Marry a Plant."

So this time around, Britt set about finding an art critic to marry as a means to show readers -- and the Menil -- "what really marrying for art, not pretending to, could look like." After publicizing his quest (four critics had turned down his proposal, and the Friday wedding was quickly approaching without a bride), Darby, an assistant to the director at PG Contemporary, jokingly tweeted that she'd be the bride -- a virtual yes to Britt's widely cast proposal.

"I was aware of the tree dedicating ceremony to begin with, and I kind of wasn't kosher with that," said Darby. "[The Art Guys] were very open about it not necessarily being a comment on gay rights, but it's now becoming some sort of Houston shrine to gay rights when it wasn't about that at all."

When Britt and Darby wed on Friday at Tony's, as the opening act to an amateur strip contest, they'll do so most likely with Ring Pops. Britt's friend Christian Chiari, who's ordained by the Universal Light Church, will officiate, and, when the time comes, Darby's dad -- a civil rights attorney -- most likely will do the divorce Kardashian-style -- as quickly as possible. But before that happens, the two plan on attending the tree dedication at the Menil on Saturday as newlyweds.

As far as getting The Art Guys' blessing, that, no surprise, is not in the cards.

"I don't care," said Galbreth when asked about the piece. "Our work over the years has provoked a lot of responses, both positively and negatively. We're going to do what we're going to do."

Massing was of a similar mind, and found this particular response misguided.

"I think [Britt] is entitled to do whatever he wants to do, but it seems disingenuous to make a protest piece about something that wasn't a protest piece," he said. "He thinks we're making fun of gay marriage. We're not."

The Art Gay Marries a Woman on Nov. 18 at 10:30 pm at Tony's Corner Pocket, 817 W Dallas.

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Tony's Corner Pocket

817 W. Dallas, Houston, TX

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Robert Rosenberg
Robert Rosenberg

First, as of 9;30 am this morning, the Tree obtained a divorce from the Art Guyz and is now free of the forced, loveless marriage it has endured for two years as a spouse of the Art Guyz.  While the Tree acknowledges that the marriage was not sexless, neither of the Art Guyz were so horny that they were interested in or willing to ******** the Tree. Any intimacy in the marriage of any kind was strictly between Michael Galbreath and Jack Massing. They did nothing to love, honor and cherish the Tree. Instead they planted it in a place where it is regularly subjected to being a urinal for dogs.

Second, while the Art Guyz performances always do provoke some response, it is usually one of boredom by those who have witnessed one of their stunts.  

Third, I want to take this opportunity to announce that during the Lone Star Performance Explosion, taking place in Houston between March 9-11, 2012, the Art Guyz will face charges brought by the State of Art, not for being homophobic, sexist, or anything except being, as Mr. Britt has written, lame and without interesting thoughts. This marriage to the tree stunt is a good example of the uninteresting work of the Art Guyz however there are other unspecial moments, including growing and shaving side burns, cutting out the seat of their pants to attend a party, selling newspapers on a street corner to mock unemployed people who must do so to earn money for food, spending all day at a Denny's, mocking a semi-retired sword swallower/knife thrower, and many other events that were neither art or even interesting. Watch for more information about the upcoming trial. If they are convicted, their punishment will be to say they are sorry for boring us and promise not to continue to do it.

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