Endlessly changing views. Dramatic sunrises and sunsets. Puffy, gentle clouds turning into fierce thunderheads. Soft evening lighting and clear, sharp, noon sun, bleaching out the grasses. And this year, terrific rains, so the grasses are plentiful and at the moment quite emerald green.
Landscape painters are inspired to try to capture the vastness, the air, the vibration of the place. Even artists who aren’t landscape painters are moved by this area. We are all influenced by the spiritual quality of the earth and find it adds an undefinable element to our artwork.
Going beyond the sheer physical beauty of nature, there is the history. Not just the forts, the cowboy stories and the adobe buildings, all tremendous subjects in themselves, but there have been artists in this area since the indigenous people painted and carved on the rock walls. Areas in the Seminole Canyon State Park have incredible color figures possibly painted about 7000 years ago. In fact, some of the current exhibiting artists in the area are specifically inspired by the rock art and use the imagery and symbols in their pieces. A few thousand years later, the local teacher’s college had a very successful and well considered art colony taught by many of Texas’ more
famous artists such as Xavier Gonzalez and Julius Woeltz. This program attracted painters to the area each summer to learn contemporary techniques in the inspirational region of the high desert. This program ran from 1932 to 1950, but the influence lingers in the current and very vital Art Department of the Sul Ross State University. Today’s art students display their work at the gallery in the Francois Fine Art Building on campus and are active with the SRSU Art Club. The forties also brought influences of World War II to the area. At Fort D.A. Russell in Marfa, German prisoners of war were housed in barracks where they spent their time painting murals on the adobe walls. The International Women’s Foundation worked to restore and preserve these landscape murals. Open to the public, these works convey the sense of isolation these men felt here in the Chihuahuan desert as well as a fascination for the unfamiliar hills and plants of the area.
More recently, contemporary Minimalist artist Donald Judd was seduced Top: Catchlight Gallery, Alpine, Texas; Bottom: Judith Breuske in Gage Gardens. Photos by Deborah Allison A Personal Reflection 8 BIG BEND GALLERIES AND ARTISTS / 2017 www.mcdonalds.com
900 E. Ave. E • 432-837-3640 Lobby Open 6 AM - 11PM • Drive thru open Thursday - Saturday till 1AM. by the wide open spaces, buying and converting buildings in Marfa and creating art installations in the late 1980’s. These buildings maintained by the Judd
Foundation and the buildings and art of the Chinati Foundation have become a mecca for the major art world, attracting visitors and artists from the art centers of New York, L.A., Germany and beyond. There is mystery in the hanger exhibit of aluminum boxes with the sparse land just outside the huge windows. Today, artists are lining up to be a part of the Chinati resident program, beguiled and inspired.
The largest of the Big Bend towns, Alpine, has an annual event that is totally devoted to art. ArtWalk takes place the weekend before Thanksgiving and attracts art lovers from all of Texas and beyond. When this event was started, it was mostly a local happening showcasing local artists and businesses who converted their walls to gallery space. Today, thousands of visitors join the residents for the days filled with exhibitions and concerts. There are now many full time galleries participating, as well as the converted businesses
Like many, I was drawn into the vortex that some say exist here. This area draws beginning, emerging and established artists and art lovers. Many visitors arrive after hearing about the tiny town of Marfa and then are amazed that each of the small towns boasts a connection to the art world.
The Big Bend Arts Council is a strong and growing group with different subgroups such as the Plein Air Painters. The Museum of the Big Bend has an annual show of cowboy gear and art in the springtime and has welcomed art shows ranging from visiting plein-air artists to Remington. Murals are popping up all over downtown Alpine. The Marfa art scene continues to expand with a new large scale installation by Robert Irwin as a part of the Chinati Foundation and many cutting edge shows at the renowned Ballroom Marfa gallery. Art has truly become part of the daily life in the region.
The magic is here and it seems that the Big Bend region will continue to attract the creative spirits.