Jigsawed heart

Walking through Galleri Urbane’s doors with a small, rolledup area rug under one arm,

the artist immediately offered his hand once beyond the threshold while angling the tapestry awkwardly in my direction upon greeting one another.

Dallas-based painter Benjamin Terry was installing A Romantic Gesture, his first at the Design District gallery,

and was deep into the process of altering the space domestically with an assortment of attendant objects: arrangements of dried flowers of various color-matched hues; a wall soonto-be completely covered in a thoroughly decadent,

floral-patterned fabric wallpaper; a black candelabra on a lobe-shaped shelf high above; a burgundy,

Victorian loveseat on a small, Persian rug with a white, longhaired Persian cat keeping watch from a nearby corner.

I started keeping tabs like Freud as the metaphors and associations piled up while Terry broke down the overall concept and components of the show.

Simply put, the artwork and décor tableaux added up to a not-sosubtle biographical glossary of his romantic and currently geographically challenged relationship.

His fiancée Danielle was working as an educational director at an art center in Vermont.

Between them they shared three cats—one, a Sphinx—as well as a genet: a small, spotted cat-like creature from Africa with a ringed tail and nocturnal, solitary disposition.

The latter currently resides in an outfitted closet in the Northeast while the Sphinx lives with Ben in Dallas.

Counting the glazed longhair in the main gallery space and the three similar examples I spotted in Ben’s studio a few weeks later,

we were up to a count of seven, undependable but needy feline onlookers, both real and kiln-fired.

Terry often makes initial pencil drawings in a notebook, which he then consults to draw directly with a Sharpie onto ordinary plywood,

then sets about to cut out the repeated scalloped curves, arcs,

and puzzled geometries with a jigsaw, only to reassemble them again with glue and exposed wood edges.

 They are precise but jagged compositions, evoking draperies and tiles, patterns found in nature,

and often evoke a homespun look in their lack of precision and curious design choices.

The groupings of painted objects are mostly symbolic: the wedding couple, the “death ’til we part” bit, the wedding party, love letters, a family heirloom.

It’s charm and camp alike, with plenty of cats and flowers to activate the spaces between.

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