PaperCity Magazine

March 2015 - Houston

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darkroom," says Watriss, including her groundbreaking documentation of veterans exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam war, the Ku Klux Klan and Baldwin's early Civil Rights photos, which were mounted for a major show in Belgium six years ago. Six books have emerged from the darkroom, along with countless images for magazine and newspaper articles and "every catalog since 1994 for FotoFest," she adds. Visiting photographers from all over the world have borrowed the studio to print their work. Houston artist Suzanne Paul generated one of her most famous collections there, a series of portraits of artists and important figures in the art world, which were later exhibited at FotoFest. The bungalow has also hosted innumerable visitors. "Between the couch and the guest room, we always had someone staying over," says Watriss. "For the first 10 years, at least, we had candlelit dinner parties — Fred does a very good Italian pasta with good olive oil and cheese, and good wine. We'd have six or eight around the table." They were museum curators, artists, writers, photographers and socialites: "Carolyn Farb, who is a big supporter of FotoFest; John Henry Faulk; Helmut Newton — we met him in Arles, France; Franco Fontana; Molly Ivins, who was our editor at the Texas Observer; The New York Times war correspondent Gloria Emerson; and Dominique and (her children) Adelaide and Marie- Christophe. They all visited," she says. The dining table no longer plays host to luminaries, but to the detritus of their numerable projects. "It's been converted to a computer work station for FotoFest, Fred's books and our personal projects," Watriss says. "Every flat spot in the house is now full of books," including the sofa and guest bedroom. "With 200,000 people attending FotoFest, there's no time for dinner parties." The bungalow and its lush environs remain an inspiration. "The front of our house looks out over the Rothko Chapel park," Baldwin says. "Then there is the big park to the east side, with lots of trees, where you see so many young people enjoying the green space, sunning themselves. It's really quite remarkable. Our backyard is left in a semi-tropical state with all kinds of wildlife — possums, raccoons, birds." Behind the bungalow on Richmond Avenue is the Dan Flavin Installation and soon-to-be built Menil Drawing Center. "When people come to this house, they always say what a beautiful area it is," says Watriss. The bungalows and campus captivated an arts funder from Dubai, whom the couple recently invited to visit. "He was inspired to go back and create something similar in the Emirates," says Baldwin. "If there is another place like this in the world, I don't know about it." F otoFest now has eight full- time employees, including Baldwin, who is chairman, and Watriss, its curator. Executive director Steven Evans was appointed a year ago to allow them more time to travel and promote the biennial. This month, the couple heads to Abu Dhabi, where photos from the 2014 FotoFest are in the fine arts festival. London, San Francisco and China are also on their upcoming itineraries. "We are in negotiations to create another FotoFest in Shanghai," he says. "It's very much a Menil-like idea — a permanent event that would involve China and other Far Eastern countries." Plans for the 2016 biennial are no doubt spread across their dining-room table. "The theme is the future of the planet," Watriss says. "We want to bring together the best work and best ideas, vis-à-vis the preservation and improvement of the environment. We'll have conferences to look at policy making, some 3-D installations and wall- hung work, performances and film. What we hope to do is inspire new thinking." And, of course, stimulate activism. In the dining room, which is now used as a workroom, the print at left is by Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide. At right is a print by German photographer Hans Namuth from his "Todos Santos" series. Biedermeier table, one of a pair inherited from Watriss' mother. The wire horse sculpture was purchased in NYC in the early 1960s. THE FRONT OF OUR HOUSE LOOKS OUT OVER THE ROTHKO CHAPEL PARK. " " — Fred Baldwin Fred, seated in the living room with a digital Sony 600 camera, which he uses for casual photography. The darkroom includes a basin, chemical trays and bottles of developing fluid, among other tools of the trade. A worktable in the print viewing room. Fred Baldwin with a portrait of himself at age 18, painted by American artist Louis Betts. Wendy Watriss. In the dining/work room, a photo by Czech Republic artist Pavel Banka. Above it, a photo by Swedish artist Anders Petersen. On the console are Baldwin's medals from the Korean War, including a Purple Heart. Stone face from Borneo. The Vision Award was presented to them by The Center for Photography at Woodstock. Wax candle of Putin's head. In the living room, some of the 1,000-plus books the couple owns.

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