A Curated Guide to Fall Gallery Night

The works of art you absolutely need to see.

Fall Gallery Night:
Sat., Sept. 9
Noon-9 p.m.
(at most venues)

The Fort Worth Art Dealers Association launched Gallery Night in 1978, and it has since grown to be a popular, much-anticipated biannual event held in the spring and fall. The free event allows art lovers, novices and experts to meet artists from around the world. The art featured in this story is just a small sampling of what will be open to the public across more than 40 galleries on Fall Gallery Night. A full guide with details will be distributed by the Fort Worth Weekly the week before the event. fwada.com

Party Bus:
Art Tooth and Fort Worth Black House

Forget traffic, parking, and even Uber on Fall Gallery Night when you catch a ride on the pArty Bus. Two local galleries, Art Tooth and the Fort Worth Black House, have teamed up again to provide fans of Fall Gallery Night with this entertaining transportation option. Two black buses will leave from the Black House and stop by a curated selection of galleries throughout the afternoon and/or evening. At 9 p.m., both pArty Buses will return to the Black House for the after-party.

Riders have two pArty Bus options to choose from:
pArty Bus 1, the larger bus, will leave the Black House at 3 p.m. and visit six galleries and one restaurant throughout the day. Tickets are $40.
pArty Bus 2, which is open-concept (less seating but more space), will depart at 6 p.m. and make four stops at local galleries. Tickets are $30.

On Fall Gallery Night, both buses will drop by Fort Works Art and the Amphibian Theatre, where Art Tooth is partnering for a companion exhibit that relates to the theatre’s current comedy show. Other stops were unconfirmed at press time. Previously at Spring Gallery Night, galleries on the pArty Bus route included Artspace111, the Art Galleries at TCU, and Fort Worth Community Arts Center.

The Fort Worth Black House is a private home, art gallery, and event space owned by Noel and Sara Viramontes. A gathering place for local creatives, this versatile, two-story house hosts art exhibitions and music shows, including pop-up performances like the Sofar Sessions. The Black House was Fort Worth Magazine’s Staff Pick for the Best Live Music Venue this year – and it’s the place to go after Fall Gallery Night officially ends at 9 p.m.

Art Tooth is a Fort Worth artist collective that hosts pop-up exhibits throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area at venues such as Gallery 76102, Brik, Shipping & Receiving, and Ro2 Art. Run by six local artists, the group aims to draw attention to the wealth of underground talent in Fort Worth while elevating the creative practice of the artists involved. Art Tooth organizes art shows, educational workshops, and networking events.

Price: $30 or $40
Tickets: Via arttooth.com or Art Tooth Facebook page
Gallery: Tour begins and ends at the Fort Worth Black House
Location: 1105 East Peach St.
Time: 3 p.m. or 6 p.m.

While major museums like the Kimbell Art Museum and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth are open during their normal hours on Fall Gallery Night, special activities are limited so that the light can shine more brightly on the city’s smaller venues. We’ve done some homework in advance and selected nine intriguing works of art that warrant your attention Saturday, Sept. 9, on Fall Gallery Night, along with a little insight on each. Consider this your curated guide to the cultural evening.

Kyle Steed | Cowgirl mural | WestBend
Media: Acrylic on Brick, approx. 10’ x 20’
Location: 1701 River Run.
Hours: 24/7 (Public Art) – Gallery Night Activities from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The WestBend development on University Drive teamed with artists to create one of Fort Worth’s largest collections of outdoor art. The 26-piece collection was completed in July. Perhaps the most eye-catching piece is Kyle Steed’s multi-colored cowgirl mural, which stretches up the brick wall near Drybar. It’s just one of 10 works that the self-taught artist has created in the development, several of which include quotes and references to famous Texans. You’ll also encounter the muralist’s striking graphic works on the walls, stairwells, and elevator vestibules throughout the parking garage.

But the fun cowgirl mural stands out, emblazoned with an assertion made by country singer Patsy Cline: “I’m gonna be something one of these days.” Steed describes why he was drawn to that quote:

“I thought that was a pretty powerful message. It speaks to me because it’s where we all find ourselves: in the middle of where we want to be and where we are. Because we all have dreams and aspirations, yet we still have to wake up every morning and put our pants on one leg at a time. It speaks to me like we don’t ever really arrive in our work. I think that if we feel like we’ve arrived, then maybe it’s a telltale sign that we should stop that and try something else. What’s the driving force behind our work if we feel like we’ve accomplished all that we can accomplish?”

Steed’s work has made him one of the most recognizable artists in his hometown of Dallas. His larger-than-life murals adorn numerous rooftops, storefronts, and buildings, from the Bishop Arts District to the Plaza of the Americas. His 10 works at WestBend represent his first artistic foray into the city of Fort Worth.

Offbeat and uplifting, Steed’s free-spirited murals feel playful and fresh. The artist’s style is informed by the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, which he became familiar with during the three years he lived in Japan while serving in the U.S. Air Force. In contrast to the clean, perfectly-put-together lines of postmodernism, wabi-sabi is an ancient aesthetic that embraces the acceptance of imperfection. “I really love that idea because it helps me let go of my own internal perfection critic that I have and to be okay with things as they are.”

See all of the murals by Steed all around the WestBend development, which is located between the Trinity River and South University Drive (across from University Park Village). Steed’s murals are joined by 16 more unique pieces of public art, including several photographic murals by TCU grad Devon Nowlin, a glowing “LOVE” sculpture by Laura Kimpton, and a beguiling mural of succulents by local artist and owner of Fort Works Art, Lauren Childs. You’ll also find a photography exhibit of oversized, backlit images by the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, which rotate every six months.

Steed will be around on Fall Gallery Night, and WestBend will host a party in the outdoor lounge area with live music plus food and drink samples. Pick up a self-guided tour of the center’s 26 art installations, snap a selfie with your favorite pieces, and help fill in the giant coloring book page next to Dear Hannah boutique. While the art is public and open for viewing 24/7, the concentration of Fall Gallery Night activities will take place from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Jeff Kellar | Reveal | William Campbell Contemporary Art
Media: Resin, Clay, and Pigment on Steel Panel, 48” x 35”
Location: 4935 Byers Ave.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Look closely to uncover the illusion among the colors and shapes.

Gravity & Light is the new exhibition at William Campbell Contemporary Art by Maine painter and sculptor Jeff Kellar. Known for his precise assemblages of depth and space, Kellar’s work is exquisitely subtle — an intuitive reduction of reality into its visual elements. His exhibition in Fort Worth will feature several series of paintings as well as a few small sculptures.

Reveal is the first in a sequence of sculpture-inspired paintings. Kellar uses a unique combination of resin, clay, and pigment to craft his multilayered works, which cover thin aluminum panels suspended a half-inch away from the wall. The unusual material gives each painting a distinct depth and richness that feel sculptural. Reveal is actually two separate pieces that come together at a slender seam between the top and bottom halves. To understand the image, you must look closely.

“This painting came from a sculpture of one block on top of another block,” the artist explains, providing the key to seeing beyond the flat image to discern the illusory nature of the work. Imagine a red block stacked on top of a white block, and zoom into the tiny space right where the front corners meet. Look nearby in the gallery to view Kellar’s work Four Sculptures for an idea of the artist’s inspiration: four red blocks arranged on top of four white blocks. These stacks of blocks are the inspiration for the painting Reveal.

“It’s called Reveal because that’s another word for an overhang. When one block overhangs another block, it creates a reveal, which would create an offset corner — kind of like this painting has. When I look at it, I see light and shadow. I see it as a very physical presence … I’m concentrating fairly hard in order to see that illusion. Once I start to feel that way, I’m aware of the space around me, and I’m aware of the space [the painting] takes.”

Awareness of this shared space catalyzes viewers to feel more connected — connected to the space that they’re standing in and connected to the world around them. The artwork becomes a tool for capturing a moment in space and time. “It’s the little things that make us feel more connected, like we’re really looking at the world around us. If you can concentrate and really see something, then you start to see more as you look around.” Focusing intently in order to perceive the illusion opens the mind to other illusions that inhabit our reality.

Kellar’s new exhibition Gravity & Light will be showcased at William Campbell Contemporary Art, a mainstay of the Fort Worth art community for more than four decades. Meet Kellar on Fall Gallery Night and explore his solo exhibit on the ground level. Afterward, head upstairs to see a group exhibition of new works by other gallery artists, including Benito Huerta, Harmony Padgett, Bob “Daddy-O” Wade, John Holt Smith, Billy Hassell, Bernd Haussmann, Judy Youngblood, Arno Kortschot, and more.

Kenneth M. FreemanEnd of the Trail | Weiler House Fine Art Gallery
Media: Oil on Canvas, 24” x 30”
Location: 3126 Handley Drive
Hours: noon to 9 p.m.

A lone cowboy pauses in pensive reflection at the end of the trail. The herd has been delivered safely, and he’s finished the task at hand. He exhales. Serene, yet bittersweet, this moment of relief is shaded by the conflicting emotions that descend upon a denouement.

End of the Trail by Kenneth M. Freeman captures the humanity of the greatest icon of the American West: the cowboy. Unfettered by the fearlessness a nd bravado required on the trail, our cowboy reveals his soft underbelly — the “always alone” that Willie Nelson warned mamas about. Boots still in stirrups and hand on the reigns, he’s not quite ready to abandon the trail. He lingers near the herd in a slow-moving stream that serves as the border between his past and his future. Brilliantly blue, the water’s surreal coloration expresses the liminality of the moment, its special status as a threshold between yesterday and tomorrow. Turning away from both, our cowboy stops in the stillness of the present.

The cattle drive is over, and it’s time to go home. But this rider’s true home lies behind him, on the trail. His sweet reward is strangely sobering, and he doesn’t want to let go — not just yet. It’s a sentiment that may be familiar to those who have retired from a career that they loved, returned safely home after a life-changing trip, or discovered a feeling of dissonance in the wake of achieving a cherished goal.

Our cowboy is more than an icon — he’s a human. It is this nuance of character and depth of emotion that make Kenneth M. Freeman’s work so compelling. Crafting narratives from a unique perspective, his rich legacy of artwork fosters connection with the authentic essence of the American West. Although he grew up in the city of Chicago, Freeman had the soul of a true cowboy and was called the “Rembrandt of the Rodeo” in the press. His dynamic depictions of Western personalities landed on Louis L’Amour’s book covers and made fans of presidents and first ladies.

Find End of the Trail at Weiler House Fine Art Gallery, which is located in the historic Handley neighborhood of eastern Fort Worth. Built in 1906, the Weiler House is home to an impressive collection of landscape oil paintings, wildlife watercolors, wood turnings, still-life works, bronze sculptures, and abstract expressionist art.

The gallery will also showcase the works of landscape artist Bill Jameson, who will be present to meet with guests on Fall Gallery Night. Jameson’s works depict shadowy streams in the Great Smoky Mountains, leaf-strewn forest trails in the Carolinas, and the arid, endless vistas of West Texas. Fall Gallery Night will also feature live music from violinist James Hiler, and light hors d’oeuvres and wine will be served from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Baseera Khan | Braid Rage | TCU’s Moudy Gallery
Media: Natural and Synthetic Hair with Cotton Boning, 15’ long
Location: 2805 South University Drive
Hours: noon to 9 p.m.

Leave your assumptions at the door, and bring your curiosity inside when you explore Moudy Gallery’s new exhibit, iamuslima by Baseera Khan.

Your first encounter will be with a colossal braid of thick, shiny hair that hangs down 15 feet from the ceiling near the entrance. Made with a blend of the artist’s own hair and synthetic strands over cotton boning, Braid Rage demands to be dealt with first. Strong and undeniably female, the immense black braid is like a large, hairy woman who’s in your way. It puddles into a pile where it finally reaches the ground, but not before grabbing your attention — an ‟“in your face” statement that has been carefully contrived.

Khan’s thoughtful, specific consideration of material extends to every single piece in her exhibition, from the embroidered acoustic blankets to the prayer rugs from Kashmir. iamuslima is an invitation, an open dialogue about experience, identity, and oppression. And in this conversation, Braid Rage is the undebatable opening statement. An exploration of the use value of the body, Braid Rage sources its synthetic materials from India, a country where a great number of people lack basic needs.

“Families perpetuate their existence as bodies rendered into material,” the artist relates. In other words, they sell their hair to survive — and that high-quality hair becomes the wigs, the weaves, and the eyelash extensions worn by American women. A monumental replica of the artist’s own braid, the work is interwoven with the historical and current implications of the objecthood of bodies. In iamuslima, it joins an irreverent celebration of the modern complexities of the self: materialism and religion, the body and the soul, and Muslim heritage in a Western world.

Khan’s art embraces the contradictions within, allowing each side simply to be. Perfect harmony gives way to the acceptance of dichotomy. Informed by a stressful childhood, her work is an attempt at understanding that is years in the making. Khan grew up in Texas in a Muslim-American family, studying art at the University of North Texas before continuing at Cornell. iamuslima is her first solo exhibition in the state.

“It feels good to be recognized [in Texas].” Now based in Brooklyn, the artist uses her unique perspective to create highly personal pieces. Khan’s acoustic blankets are another focal point of the experience. Each heavy, shroud-like blanket is embroidered with brilliant gold embellishments, designs based on “artistic heirlooms” that have been passed down in her family for generations. Perhaps the peak of the exhibition is 99 Holds, a climbing wall whose grips are made of 99 different resin casts taken from the corners of her body — knees, elbows, and shoulders. Undoubtedly, the artist is elbowing her way in, fighting for her position.

“I hope people will be curious,” Khan clarifies the message that her art is trying to communicate. “Be considerate and as generous as I am being.” She hopes that people will move beyond their comfort zones and “outside of the general identity politics they were raised in.”

After connecting with Khan’s work on Fall Gallery Night, be sure to visit TCU’s other gallery, Fort Worth Contemporary Arts. It’s the first night of the exhibition Finding Fanon, a film installation by UK artists Larry Achiampong and David Blandy, and you can attend the opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m.

Huisi He | No Turning Back | The Gallery at UTA
Media: Performance
Location: 502 S. Cooper St., Arlington 76019
Hours: Performance at noon

For Fall Gallery Night guests who are new to performance art, the media is easier to understand by considering the body as an artistic tool. Painters use brushes and pigments to make art; sculptors choose bronze or clay. Performance artists use their bodies to create art, with gestures, movements, and facial expressions. Artist Huisi He’s advice for newcomers to performance art is straightforward:

“Just show up.” Forget your ego and merge yourself into the interactive collaboration, or simply stand and watch. “It’s totally fine if you don’t want to interact.” Just be. Just feel.

Immigrants and artists are kindred spirits, searchers on a quest for survival. He merges the two identities into one unique voice through her powerful performance art. Born in the Hunan province of China, He immigrated to the United States at the age of 22 to pursue the freedom of self-expression. She’ll premiere a new performance piece at The Gallery at UTA: No Turning Back.

No Turning Back is He’s first solo exhibition in Texas, but it’s not her first rodeo. She’s visited the state twice before: first as a guest of a roommate’s small-town family Christmas and again on a mission to help a friend procure a Chinese passport. “I am so impressed by the openness of Texas … so open, almost endless.” Her experience in America as an immigrant has been difficult in many ways, but her struggles are overshadowed by a tremendous sense of gratitude. “I feel very thankful and appreciative. Friends have been so generous with their help.” He’s hope is that her art makes the audience more open, to integrate, and to think.

He’s new work is a response to the sociopolitical reality of living, working, and surviving as a Chinese immigrant in Brooklyn. It differs greatly from her previous performance pieces because she will not play a leading role. Instead, she will observe and participate in the experience as a member of the audience, thus dissolving the boundary between artist and spectator. No Turning Back is a conceptual microcosm of Chinese society, a culture where differences are erased and the collective consciousness is intensely concerned with domination and homogeneity. The piece demonstrates the value of difference through shared movements and interactivity.

The opening reception for No Turning Back is Sept. 8 from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., with a performance at 6:30 p.m. Other performances will take place on Sept. 6 (11 a.m. at the quad in front of the Central Library at UTA) and Sept. 7 (12:30 p.m. in the Gallery at UTA followed by an artist talk).

Carly Allen-Martin | Across Land and Sea | Artspace111
Media: Oil on Panel, 60” x 48”
Location: 111 Hampton St.
Hours: noon to 9 p.m.

Colors dance off the paintbrush of Carly Allen-Martin, a TCU alumna whose abstract oil paintings are designed with a conscious optimism that nudges the viewer in a joyful, bold direction. Across Land and Sea showcases Allen-Martin’s elegant sense of the interplay between form and color, an oscillating palette of pastels and gestural lines that bring out the lightness of being.

The painting began as a drawing with soft pastels and charcoal. Layers of oil paints were worked onto the maple wood panel, then further developed by drawing into the wet paint. Rich details and thoughtful intricacies contrast with open spaces, creating a soul-pleasing balance. Interconnected elements allow the eyes to flow around the painting, as thoughts gently touch on forms suspended in blue. A distinct depth of emotion enhances the painting’s radiance.

“My work is about resiliency,” the Dallas-based artist says. “It’s about facing whatever obstacles stand it your way, embracing what life has thrown at you — and thriving in spite of it.” Intentionally upbeat, Allen-Martin’s artistic approach has been refined by many lessons on the long road to success. Struggling to define her purpose and direction while earning her fine arts degree at TCU, she received valuable guidance from her professor, Jim Woodson, the celebrated Fort Worth artist:

“Carly,” he said, “go make some damn paintings.” It is priceless advice that has continued to motivate the artist to get to work and focus her daily practice — and it’s no coincidence that her son is named Woods.

While building her business, Allen-Martin worked as an elementary school art teacher for grades K-5. Her experience as a teacher inspired her to create cheerful, light work — and it impressed upon her the importance of grit and a hard work ethic. “Nobody works as hard as teachers,” she reflects. But she kept focus on her goals as an artist, transferring her tenacity and positive outlook into ebullient paintings — her signature style. 

Today, Allen-Martin is a busy mother of two whose artwork is collected publicly and privately around the world. Her colorful paintings have been featured everywhere from the Dallas Morning News to Food Network Magazine and the Cooking Channel. Painting is “as critical to me as breathing,” she says. Allen-Martin works on four paintings at a time, and it takes 4 to 6 weeks to complete each group. She is inspired by the palettes of Texas’ wide-open landscapes, the cultural and artistic access of Dallas, and the museums of Fort Worth — especially The Modern.

See Across Land and Sea at Artspace111, a gallery that has featured the artist’s works for four years, including a solo exhibition in 2016. Carly Allen-Martin will be present on Fall Gallery Night, along with other Artspace111 artists including featured painter John Hartley. Live music and a food truck will be onsite.

John Hartley | Workforce Evolution | Artspace111
Media: Oil on Canvas, 40” x 30”
Location: 111 Hampton St.
Hours: noon to 9 p.m.

Soldiers take aim, boxers square off, and pie-eyed robots prepare to replace humankind. John Hartley’s new exhibit Once Upon a Time tells a story of childhood fantasy that is firmly set in memory lane. Heady with nostalgia, his oil paintings evoke a rich, make-believe world inhabited by the familiar characters of boyhood: army men, superheroes, racecar drivers, fighter pilots, athletes, monsters, and cowboys.

Many of Hartley’s subjects show the effects of hours of playtime. These much-loved toys are often dented, scratched, melted, and even mangled. Rust seeps out from the crevasses. Paint is chipping away, much like how the veneer of fantasy wears off as a boy marches the road toward manhood. Look deeper to see that adulthood illusions are also wearing thin, revealing uncomfortable realities on the canvas. The underlying social and political commentary of Hartley’s work can often be found in the titles: Flashback, Spoils of War, and Second Amendment.

Workforce Evolution speaks to the fear that robots are taking our jobs – and taking over humankind. This disquieting suspicion that machines will replace humans has gained new steam in the era of smart homes, automated tellers, and driverless cars. But this shiny blue toy is from a different time. With a friendly smile on its face and a helpful, outstretched arm, this humanized robot reflects midcentury America’s optimistic ideals of a future where progress was always positive. Looking through a lens from 2017, the flaws in those ideals are as obvious as the dent on its chest.

Every vintage toy tells a story, which is made more powerful by Hartley’s photo-realistic, almost tactile style. Sharp details paired with a fuzzy haze give his work a dramatic and dream-like quality. The artist finds the playthings on eBay, at flea markets, or in antique stores. But he isn’t your average collector; he prefers toys with signs of wear and tear.

“If a toy collector ever came over to my house to see my toy collection, they’d be heartbroken.” Scratches and dents make the subjects more visually interesting and attest to a history of play – and love. “This was their favorite toy because it’s so beat up. It’s the one they played with all the time.”

A well-known local artist with an extensive rap sheet of exhibitions and accolades, Hartley is also actively involved in nurturing younger artists through his gallery and his work as a full-time professor at Tarrant County College. “As a teacher, it’s really exciting watching the younger artists. They improve so fast. In hours, you can see changes … in days, in weeks. It happens really fast, and that’s what’s really exciting. It also keeps me on my toes; I have to work a little harder because we have so many talented artists out there.” Hartley also owns Gallery 414 with his wife, a nonprofit space in Fort Worth that has provided a stepping stone for numerous local and regional artists over the past 23 years.

Featuring approximately 20 new works, John Hartley’s solo exhibition Once Upon a Time will be the focus at Artspace111 on Fall Gallery Night. Listen to live music, hit up the food truck, and meet Hartley along with other Artspace111 artists that will be exhibiting in the studio spaces.

Soon Y. Warren | Maple Tree Rhapsody | Atrium Gallery at UNT Health Science Center
Media: Oil on Canvas, 48” x 48”
Location: 3500 Camp Bowie Blvd.
Hours: noon to 9 p.m.

“Without color, what do we have?”

Autumn bursts into celebration in Maple Tree Rhapsody, a radiant recreation of an upward glance in the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. Fiery leaves blaze across the canvas, flaunting their brilliant colors and fleeting beauty.

Renowned painter, teacher, and author Soon Y. Warren visits the Japanese Garden often for artistic inspiration as it changes throughout the season. One of her favorite subjects is the koi pond, especially when floated with leaves. But last year, the maple trees were just gorgeous — and looking up, she glimpsed a unique silhouette of fall foliage against the open sky.

“The big tree is actually not a maple tree, but it’s silhouetted with maple tree leaves. I thought that was so exquisite, because at that moment it was just perfect. The lighting was perfect, and time of the year was perfect. I just happened to be there at the right time, and that’s when I got the inspiration: That’s the maple tree I’m going to paint.”

Painting nature from a new perspective is one of Warren’s many talents. The Fort Worth artist immigrated to the United States at age 29, but she’s been painting far longer than that —  as long as she can remember. She is an accomplished teacher who instructs painting workshops all over the country, and also the author of two books: Painting Vibrant Flowers in Watercolor and Painting Vibrant Watercolors: Discover the Magic of Light, Color and Contrast.

Vivid colors and profound realism aren’t usually easy bedfellows in art. But Warren has mastered the subtleties — and her close-up paintings of flowers, crystal, animals, and natural subjects are powerfully compelling compositions of light and shadow. “Every painting has its own energy,” she muses. “Everybody says that my paintings make them happy. And that’s what I want. We’re living in a very chaotic world, and I don’t want to put chaos in their lives. I want to paint something serene and peaceful and happy. Good, positive energy — that’s what I want.”

Warren tends toward warm tones in her work, earthier colors that feel more inviting. Maple Tree Rhapsody showcases Warren’s refined use of light and her spirited relationship with color. “I love color. I was drawn to the maple tree’s beautiful colors, the reds, oranges, yellows — the majestic colors. Without color, what do we have? Nada.”

View Maple Tree Rhapsody and other colorful works by Warren at Sense of Celebration, the current exhibition at the Atrium Gallery (located on the first floor of the EAD Building at Montgomery Street and Camp Bowie Boulevard). Fall Gallery Night will feature ongoing watercolor demonstrations in the gallery, along with a collection of artwork curated by Warren from her students.

Ben Willis | Candy Man | Fort Works Art
Media: Acrylic, Glitter, and Resin on Panel, 24” diameter
Location: 2100 Montgomery St.
Hours: noon to 9 p.m.

Try not to lick the walls. Ben Willis’ Candy Man exhibit is a whimsical playground of bright colors and bold textures. Thickly frosted paint, glitter-glazed geometrics, and hard-candy hues dominate this deliciously immersive installation. Playfulness pops off the paintings, evoking the same spirit of adventure and excitement that you felt as a kid in a candy store. Overwhelming, yet organized, the exuberant sense of color creates an addictive high that makes you want more. The titles of Willis’ work reflect its affable disposition: Day Drinking, Light Reading, Sunshine Daydream, and Float On — all enjoyable diversions on a laid-back afternoon.

But nothing is more likable than Candy Man, the exhibit’s namesake piece. Pulled straight out of a childhood dream, this massive lollipop is pure happiness on a stick. You know you can’t eat the whole thing — but you can try. Slathered with an eye-catching mix of acrylic paint, glitter, and resin, this circular treat spans two feet and stirs up the senses. A blissful overload of swirling colors and sugary stripes spins the eyes around and around. There’s no solemn contemplation, no explanation needed. You don’t have to think about the meaning of Candy Man because you can feel it — and it feels good. It’s eye candy with intention.

“In the political climate, but also the art world, you get a lot of depressing things,” Willis explains. In contrast, his playful approach to art fosters a healing process. “People can just go in and enjoy and not have to think about other things.” Candy Man is fun. It’s a carefree, almost intoxicating experience that draws you in because it makes you feel good. Satisfied.

Fall Gallery Night’s foremost feel-good experience can be found at Fort Works Art, where Willis’ feature exhibit Candy Man is paired with a group show, Candy Castle, curated by the artist. This companion exhibition will focus on sculptural works crafted with many different materials, including foam, fabric, wood, glass, and even candy itself. A large-scale mural by local artist Will Heron connects the two areas of the gallery into one visual conversation — and the words are sweet. Artists also showcasing works in Candy Castle include Derick Smith, Dan Lam, Christina West, Adam Hillman, Sean Augustine March, Sean Newport, Rachel Goodwin, and Kristina Drake. Fall Gallery Night is the last day of showing for both exhibitions.