Seven Dallas Creatives Who Are Doing Things Their Own Way

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Seven Dallas Creatives Who Are Doing Things Their Own Way

Words by Mr Chris Wallace | Photography by Mr Bryan Schutmaat | Styling by Ms Sophie Hardcastle

7 March 2019

A band of artists in the biggest small town in the US try Mr P.’s latest collection on for size.

Few American cities have to contend with the weight of association with a single moment in the way that Dallas, Texas, has to the bear the crack of those rifle shots on 22 November 1963. To their absolute credit, the residents of the Big D wear this burden… creatively? To wit: there is both a notorious dive bar called Lee Harvey’s and a two-storey mural of the alleged assassin down in the arts district.

Dallas is surprising, in the best possible way. Yes, the Tex-Mex is banging. Yes, the barbecue is all that you’ve hoped for and more. But it is also a city humming with creative energy, with an incredible sense of camaraderie. Everyone here seems to know (and support) everyone else, calling it the biggest small town in the US. Sounds about right.

With the help of seven intriguing and incredibly individual and stylish guys, we took advantage of our visit to this under-appreciated hub of art and architecture to tour of some local landmarks and, while we were at it, to test drive of the latest drop from our in-house label, Mr P.

Mr Kyle Hobratschk

Artist and designer Mr Kyle Hobratschk grew up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where his father worked. The family later moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, and then Mr Hobratschk came to Dallas for college, where he studied painting at Southern Methodist. During the summers, he’d find his way to Taos, New Mexico, and to Ms Georgia O’Keeffe’s beloved White Place outside Abiquiú, where he worked on landscape paintings. Slowly, surely, his work became more and more architectural and three-dimensional. He now turns his drawings into etchings and then to furniture, which he makes in an 1898 Italianate brick building in Corsicana, Texas – a one-stoplight kind of town about 60 miles south of Dallas. He’s built everything in the 11,000sq ft space.

How did you get into making furniture?

I got an apartment in college and I wanted to furnish it, so I started trying my hand at wood working. My dad’s an engineer, my mom is a retired architect, and they always had a wood shop that I could fool around in growing up. In school, I started making a chair or a light, and that propelled this interest to produce a full room to function like a studio – work tables, drafting table, a light fixture. That progressed to a love affair with a building in Corsicana that I’ve turned into studio space. It’s more space than I could use, so we started this residency programme and invited artists and writers – local, national and international – to come and work there. But the building didn’t have anything in it. We weren’t going to go buy all the furniture, so we started making the furniture.

Do you remain in contact with former residents?

Oh, totally. Yeah. We’ll bring an artist or writer in for a month or two. We host three at a time – two artists and a writer. No one knows each other on day one. By the end of the month, it’s a very tight family and they do stay in touch. By now, we’ve had maybe 80 come through. A fifth or so are international. Corsicana is far enough away from Dallas that it is its own thing. And it has an element that’s quintessential Texas.

How does your day inform your style?

I have a bit of a uniform. It’s generally Levi’s jeans. I’ll wear a long-sleeved, button-down Wrangler shirt. It’s a heavy cotton. I like a collar I can pop really high so the sawdust doesn’t get down the back of my neck. I wear a bandana over my hair, heavy-duty work boots. Sometimes sneakers. I’m a runner, so I’m pretty conscious of my feet getting tired. I change my shoes out a lot; change my socks out a lot. I’m not a lounger. At night, I go on a long walk with my dog, I cook for myself and I’ll just put on a cleaner version of what I’m wearing. We cook a lot at the building. We have a shared kitchen. We’ve got an amazing rooftop. We go up there for drinks at sundown and unwind. There’s not a whole lot of night life, but there are a few nice places to go, just enough.

Mr Tramaine Townsend

Houston native Mr Tramaine Townsend moved to Dallas to study animation and design at the Art Institute and soon landed his first gig at a studio in town. Since then, he has continued to focus on his own personal projects, working between various media and genres. He has recently directed a music video for the lead single from the soundtrack to The Hate U Give, participated in a virtual reality installation and displayed his own video, photographic and hologram work. “I’m getting more into holograms,” he says. “Creating experiences like that. And then activating spaces for temporary or more permanent things.”

Does an idea express itself in a particular medium?

Yes and no. The projects I’ve been doing for the past few years have embraced different mediums, but they’re all kind of about human connection, especially how we are affected by social media. We’re always watching each other, but we know there’s always somebody watching us. [These pieces are about] how we deal with it, psychologically.

I imagine you think a lot about how you project yourself on social media?

I don’t want to become too voyeuristic… I try to bring myself out of it, social media. There’s a mystery that goes behind it, but overall, I like creating a dialogue without actually having to give people too much information. They can think for themselves.

How does your work inform your style?

The most recent pieces I’ve done have changed the fabric of my existence. I’ve always enjoyed the stuff I wear. I like to be stylish, but I don’t need to be crazy grand or over the top. I keep my stuff pretty simple, comfortable and versatile. Like with all that I can do, I tap on so many different mediums, and I’m trying to bring them all together. Same with style, where I’ll say, “I feel like one colour today.” But it’s all about comfortable living and how I feel like the day is going to progress. I don’t have to get dressed up to go into an office, so I feel more open just to be however I want to be.

Mr Anthony Jay Falcon

Mr Anthony Jay Falcon grew up just north of Dallas, in Plano, Texas. After his studies in biology and history at Baylor and the University of Texas at Dallas, he moved to New York. But it was when he returned to the big D with his wife Kendall, a fashion designer, that his art really took off. For his latest series The Accused, he has created portraits of powerful men who were the subject of credible allegations of sexual misconduct. Mr Jay Falcon’s work hums with political prescience. It can be both charming and gnawing, as in the case of his bust of Ms Christine Blasey Ford, who testified before Senate to allege that the Supreme Court nominee Mr Brett Kavanaugh had attempted to rape her in high school. But even if his subject matter is weighty, in person, Mr Jay Falcon is disarmingly buoyant and easy to the point of gregarious.

What are your feelings about the Dallas creative scene?

The creative community here is small, but mighty. It runs in little cliques, but there’s no animosity. Everyone really props each other up. It’s one of the top collector cities for fine art. There are some really good local galleries, such as Erin Cluley and Conduit, and some experimental spaces such as The Power Station, which produces a lot of really good work and puts Dallas on par with New York and LA. It’s a good city to set your roots and grow.

Tell us about your latest show, The Accused.

It started last year when the Harvey Weinstein story broke. I was just doing charcoal drawings from The New York Times, just as practice, and when the Weinstein story came out, all these stories came forward – an avalanche of accusations. And when Christine Blasey Ford came out, it was almost at the one-year mark of her Senate hearing. [The bust] was the first sculpture that I tried of a real, living person. I didn’t start sculpting until a couple years ago. I’m still learning. I titled the whole show “She Said”. I’m currently working on a series on one woman, Jane Elkins, a slave who, in 1853, was the first woman hanged in the state of Texas for killing her master who was accused of sexually assaulting and raping her.

Did you radically change your style when you came back here from New York?

When I first moved to New York, I was like, “I’m gonna need boots because it’s cold there and I’m gonna be walking a lot.” I saved up and bought nice work boots, Wolverine 1000 Mile boots. I loved those boots. And they lasted two months. Because I did not weatherproof them. I felt so dumb for not taking care of them. I feel like, in New York, you really dress for the weather. In winter, you layer; in the summer, just shorts. In Dallas, it’s similar. But Dallas sticks to the basics, keeps it casual. Nothing too flamboyant. Me personally, I choose comfort. I wear the same thing when I’m working and not. My sweaters and jeans get stuff all over them.

Does Dallas have the infrastructure to accommodate where you want to go?

That’s a very pressing question. I think it’s hard to keep talent here in this city. There isn’t that marquee, blue-chip market, though we do have great galleries here. At the same time, this is home. My family’s here. We’re not rolling in money and we have this studio and a house here and we couldn’t get that in New York or LA. Dallas provides the space and the opportunities for you to do big work and meaningful work. It’s just about the city retaining its artists.

Mr Eddie Fortuna

As an architectural designer with OmniPlan in Dallas, Mr Eddie Fortuna updates existing buildings for modern use. In his off-time, as a side hustle, he runs the blog His+Her with his wife, Angelee, styling neat selections of classic menswear staples with a fresh and contemporary sensibility.

How did you start His+Her?

It started out as part of our wedding-planning process. We were young, it was 2012, when Pinterest was in its heyday. We were branding our wedding in a way. After the wedding we’re like, “Well, what do we do with this thing?” We kept it going by styling our friends, using pieces in their closets to reimagine how they can wear things. But scheduling and coordinating became an issue, so we said, “Well why don’t we do this with ourselves?”

Have you always been interested in style?

I would say so. Really just visuals in any regard. I used to draw my own covers for CDs, I used to make over my brother. I’ve always been into reimagining things.

So you’re walking around editing people, buildings?

Right. It’s silly, but I guess it’s the way my mind works.

What’s the style vibe in Dallas?

It’s got a little-brother complex, but it’s like a lot of big cities where you have cool kids dressing very trendy, and then you have a more traditional crowd. But I think Dallas is at an interesting point where we’re trying to push beyond that, to make our own path. We don’t have a lot of the historical components that other second-tier cities have – your Philadelphias or Bostons – but what we do have is a culture that’s unique. The Texas story, a lot of interesting retail stuff, the food is obviously a big thing here in Dallas. All of that is coming together in a way that’s different from anywhere else.

How would you describe your personal style?

My comfort zone is cuffed jeans, sockless loafers and a blazer. I’m working on Highland Park Village, redesigning one of the main buildings. I just love that kind of work: taking these old beautiful buildings and making modern uses of them. My personal style is absolutely that: taking something old and rethinking it, but still staying true to it.

Mr Will Rhoten

While seemingly old-fashioned in the age of social media, much of the great, connective energy of the Dallas creative scene takes place offline, at night, to the sound of music. And the conduit for many of these gatherings is Mr Will Rhoten, aka DJ Sober, whose parties, many of them at the Belmont hotel with his pal Mr Leon Bridges, bring together a wide swath of friends, artists and creatives from around town. The nickname, Sober, came from Mr Rhoten’s tagging days as a teen, and has stuck. He has always been, in every sense, “sober”, he says. He makes a very cool zine, Say It Ain’t Southern, on the slowly vanishing railway culture, engaging artists to create one-off pieces on old rail line stationery. We caught up with him just before he jetted out to the west coast for his pre-Grammys party with Mr Bridges.

How long have you been DJing?

Since I was 16. I was just really into music, but art has always come first. I started drawing at an early age – that was my first passion. And then came music, and I think they go hand in hand. I had older cousins who skateboarded and were in punk bands. I would absorb everything that they were putting me onto. And then when I was 16, I saw a DJ at a house party. It blew me away. I just stood there, frozen the whole night, and watched him. I just knew it was something I had to do. The same year, I saved up and bought turntables and a janky mixer and started practising in my bedroom. But it wasn’t ever anything that I thought I would do for people.

What is the music scene like here?

There’s a lot going on in Dallas. Always has been, ever since the 1990s, when they had a really progressive dance scene. There’s so much talent here, from visual art, photography, bands and singers to DJs, rappers and producers. It’s never-ending. I’ve been DJing for a living since 2006. I was throwing a party with two other guys – we shook some things up and it snowballed. It’s really exciting. I just feel like there’s a real community here.

You grew up skating. I imagine that went a long way to informing your style?

All the way. Skatewear was the original streetwear. Nearly every trend in streetwear started in skateboarding culture. Whether that’s cutting your pants off at the bottom or cutting high-tops down. Skateboarding is always ahead of the curve, always trendsetters. Even today with bigger pants coming back, workwear, beanies folded up like a watch cap. Skaters have been doing that for years.

Mr Ke’Chaud Johnson

Watching Mr Ke’Chaud Johnson skateboard is a bit disorientating. Videos of him testing physics as he floats over huge stairways leave you gaping like a slack-jawed emoji. In person, it all makes sense. He has the kind of livewire excitability of all great athletes and a similar love for his chosen sport. Growing up as a military kid, Mr Johnson bopped around behind his dad until they settled in Dallas, where Mr Johnson was all set to play baseball. “That’s what my profession was supposed to be,” he says. Then, when he was 15, he got on a friend’s skateboard and everything went out the window.

What is a typical day for you?

Last week, I was at a contest in Estonia, skating. But when I’m not at a contest, it’s just meeting up with friends, skating, which is practice, getting better. I live the life of an athlete.

Are there different tribes among skaters?

More than any other sport, different genres of music, styles and things culturally are mixed into skateboarding. You’ve got your punk style – super-tight pants, slicked-over-the-eye-hair kind of dudes. They skate really fast, big jumps, big drops, anything that feels hardcore. Then you’ve got your more hip-hop-style guys. They listen to rap, wear the same clothes that the rappers wear, skate with gold chains. Their style is more laidback, smooth, skating ledges, flip in, flip out kind of stuff. Then you’ve got the preppy, wears button-ups every day. So different genres of music change your influences, your groove.

Where do you fit?

I guess I’m a hybrid. My dad was in the military, so I grew up in different cities. I developed in a unique way, fitting in with multiple groups of people. Sometimes I’m feeling this vibe, sometimes I’m more this kind of vibe.

It’s like high school.

It really is. And unfortunately, the industry is a lot like that, too. There’s popularity contests that look out for certain guys because they’re known as the cool kids.

Is there a top of the food chain in each of those arenas?

For the most part, yeah. You know what? The punk rock scene never seems to be the people that are on top, but that goes with it. If they are on top, then they’re sell-outs.

What do you wear to skate?

Slim-fitting jeans with some stretch. They have to stretch. And a tee.

Mr Paul Tellefsen

Dallas native Mr Paul Tellefsen started making videos aged 12. After graduating in emerging media from UT Dallas, his capstone project, a documentary on Instagram, went viral. As soon as he was able, he started creating digital communities, sharing stories and helping people to tell theirs. With his new marketing agency, that impulse to connect with storytelling online has become his main mission. We asked him for the cheat codes.

You have a zillion projects on the go. How do you stay organised?

I look at it all as creativity through the lens of connection. I came from the photography world, helping to start a creative community called Socality. That was all focused around the connection between creatives – how can we come together for things that matter? I made a documentary about this platform. Through that process, Instagram reached out and asked me to promote that to 85 million people. And my life changed. I started travelling pretty much full time. Now I run a digital marketing agency [Able Creative House], which I acquired last March. My hope is to create a space where creators and clients can come together on strategies and campaigns that aren’t just noise, but actually have a legacy. Every post, every image, every word needs to have purpose behind it.

There seems to be such a connected creative community in Dallas – offline and on.

The cool thing is that when the creative community first started here in a digital way – because we weren’t going to a beach, we weren’t going to a mountain – it was all about the people. We were problem solving to find the everyday beauty. The main focus has always been about the connection between the creatives, and we’re still all friends. It’s not competitive, it’s collaborative. People know they can’t survive without one another, so they come together. That is the really beautiful thing about Dallas.

You describe this year as being your year of failure.

I am a recovering perfectionist. Do the best you can, always be on top, always perform the highest you can, all that. For me, this is the year of really stepping into different skills that I’ve never really fully embraced, one of those being music. I’ve been singing since I was five years old, but never really done that in a way that people might see it. If we aren’t using our talents in a risky way that maybe could end in failure, we’re not really doing all that we can. So, I’m trying to sit in that discomfort. Even if I fail, who cares? Success is taking the shot, not necessarily seeing it come to pass.

Tell me about your style.

Everything I wear is from a friend who makes or sells it. I want to know who made my clothes. Ending fast fashion is a big part of my life. To actually invest in well-made, well-designed, sustainable, thoughtful pieces, even if it means a smaller closet.

Shop the entire Mr P. collection here