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Found Generation

Artists Samantha McCurdy and Alexander DiJulio are reinventing salon society in their Expo Park home and studio.

Alexander DiJulio and Samantha McCurdy at That That studio

Dallas’ reputation as one of the country’s hottest arts cities has been building for years, predicated largely on its bouquet of world-class institutions in the Arts District. But burbling beneath the glitz, the corporate sponsors, the wow architecture and old money approbation, Big D’s scene of young artists is flowering with vanguard players from Generation Y. Two cases in point are Samantha McCurdy (samanthamccurdy.com) and Alexander DiJulio (alexanderdijulio.com), both 23, Philadelphia natives, grads of Maryland Institute College of Art and transplants to Expo Park. Having arrived here only a year and a half ago, the frequent collaborators share a 4,500-square-foot studio/residence where the work gets done despite, and possibly because of, the drop-in visits of colleagues and compatriots. McCurdy and DiJulio call their space That That, and its spirit echoes the notion of the salon that Lost Generation elite shared at Gertrude Stein’s legendary studio in Paris. It’s all about art, ideas, conversation, and community—the worlds of fine art, fashion and music commingling provocatively.

As art school postgrads with sights set outside their comfort zone, Samm and Alex, as they’re known to associates, resisted the lure of New York and Los Angeles, the obvious target cities for artists. “We thought, ‘Let’s move somewhere there is an art scene, where there’s a huge budget to support the arts.’ And the economy is great here,” Samm explains. “It’s a lot easier to be a weirdo here, and stand out and be different, because it’s not so flooded; it’s not coined as an ‘art city’ yet.” The two found their studio/residence in an advanced state of disrepair, but saw its potential immediately. Situated on the second floor of a nondescript corner building, the space is flooded with natural light. Alex recalls, “I walked in and it was like, wow—it’s so big. The attraction was how vast and open it is—it kinda feels like you’re in a treehouse.” They love the original tin ceilings and wooden floors, and their “as-is” lease allows them to renovate as they see fit.

Both Alex and Samm are fascinated with the Arte Povera (poor art) aesthetic, and bring that sensibility to their art, utilizing found objects in their sculptural works. The studio’s big enough to serve as a holding tank for orphaned objects that may be artistically repurposed. A recent installation was comprised of monoliths of discarded packing foam; they called the piece, naturally enough, “Foamhenge.” Alex says, “Having this much room is a great thing—it really invites that style of salon: ‘Let’s make something happen; let’s put something together; let’s do it, you know?’” Samm adds, “Most nights we’re here working on sculptures, and we have people constantly dropping by—other artists, musicians. I’m interested in bridging the gap and having everyone know each other. This space will always be a work in progress.”