Thomas Macker reviewed in Guide Live 1.29.16

Dallas art gallery curates conversation centered on oil and gas industry

By: Hannah Wise


Texas is built on the oil and gas industry. Each barrel of oil, each cubic foot of natural gas produced creates a ripple effect across the country and around the world.

In that vein, The Oil and Gas Show at Level Gallery, formerly known as WAAS Gallery, aims to curate a conversation around energy, how it is generated and how it is used. The exhibition features artists from Texas and across the country working in sculpture, drawing, photography and mixed media.

The work in the exhibition is not presented to vilify the oil and gas industry, but rather spark a deeper conversation about energy and consumption.


“I’m a collector of stories,” said Brian Wagner, a Philadelphia-based photographer.

For six years he has carried with him the stories of Dean, Margaret and Elton, all New Orleans residents who survived the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill off the coast of Louisiana. Wagner tells their stories in the form of black and white photographs with oil from the Gulf spilled on them.


At the center of his exhibition space sits an ecosystem unto itself housed in a clear canister. The life form? Tar balls from the oil spill. As they have sat in the container, they have continued to react to their environment.


Thomas Macker, a Wyoming-based sculptor, uses the tools of the energy trade to create his series of work titled “Asterisk.”

He bought used drill bits online and welded them to metal pipes. For each “Asterisk” he welds six of the pipes together to create a sculpture that is rendered inert — the drill bits convey a sense of movement out, while the pipes are driving to the center of the piece, resulting in an implied tension.

“Drilling is directional,” Macker said. “This is six drill bits moving in equal directions opposing each other. There is no way to move in or out.”

He sandblasts and coats each sculpture in two tones of paint: one a color shifting bright paint, the other an industry standard color like DuPont tan. Each sculpture has a different color variant and pedestal on which to stand.

The pedestals often change each time the sculptures are exhibited. At the Level Gallery exhibit, one “Asterisk” sits atop a camouflage floor-recliner used for playing video games. Speakers will play a soundtrack of bats and moths using echo-location and deception, what Macker called the “dance of the predator and prey.”

Another pedestal resembles a ziggurat and is a statement on the sense of hubris that artists have to try and make archival work that stands the test of time when the Earth’s natural resources are being mined over the course of months and then consumed in a matter of seconds.

Macker hopes that if one of his pieces ends up in a private collection that it will be a reminder an homage to the delicate balance between the harvesting energy needed to survive and unadulterated consumption habits.


Owner and founder Brandy Michelle Adams and curator Emma Saperstein want Level Gallery to be a space for a free exchange of ideas and thoughts. By starting the year off with an exhibition that focuses on multiple aspects of an industry so key to the state, they are expanding the gallery’s programming to include more artist talks throughout exhibition periods.

Nikki Moser, a mixed media artist from Scranton Penn., featured in The Oil and Gas Show, will speak at Level Gallery Thursday, Feb. 4 about her section of the exhibit. The talk, which is free and open to the public begins at 7:30 p.m.

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