Archive for the ‘Byzantium’ Category

Expanded Horizons: the New Byzantium

July 26, 2022
Robert M. Rogers Nursing & Health Sciences, Tyler Junior College

Surely some revelation is at hand;

Surely the Second Coming is at hand;

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out

When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

Troubles my sight . . .

William Butler Yeats, “The Second Coming”

Rising at 5:30 this morning, Sandi and I made preparations for a life-changing Odyssey into East Texas. We had been invited to meet Neita Fran, a major mover and shaker of the Tyler, Texas area art scene, at Tyler Junior College where I’ve been invited to hang one of my watercolors as part of a six-month exhibition.

The beautiful “garden area” of the Nursing and Health Sciences building.
My watercolor “Trinidad Coffee Morning” waiting to be hung in the show

Touring the lovely facility of the Robert M. Rogers Nursing & Health Sciences facility (where the new exhibition is hanging), we learned of other exhibitions Neita has been organizing for the future. The University of Texas Tyler College of Pharmacy will be hosting a new show in the near future, and The University of Texas Tyler will be building a new School of Medicine to be opened in 2025. This new venue is also requesting art to display on its campus. We’re excited to join Neita’s group of artists already planning for these future events.

Tyler Museum of Art

Our next stop was the Tyler Museum of Art where we were introduced to the Executive Director of the past ten years, Christopher M. Leahy. Chris has shown remarkable energy in networking with artist groups across east Texas, providing accommodations inside the museum for Neita and her circle of artists to hold their planning meetings. As the director showed us about the facility, we learned of his connection with the City of Palestine, most notably with the legacy of Palestine’s celebrated artist, the late Ancel Nunn. I nearly fainted when Chris mentioned his visit long ago to Ancel Nunn’s studio where he viewed the large advertisement on his interior wall.

Apparently noticing my expression of recognition, he asked incredulously, “So, you’ve seen it yourself?” My answer had to be “No.”

The roof has long since been destroyed, and in the years following, the mural has disappeared from the wall. Chris was heartbroken on having learned this, and, taking me to his library, showed me from one of his volumes the mural advertisement as it had looked in better days. Our ensuing discussion of ghost signs and billboards made me think of the theme I’ve been pursuing for quite some time now: ideas and dreams buried in history only later to be re-born. “Nostalgia” is from a Greek word signifying the pain of remembering.

So now I finally come to the point of this blog post: I’ve been working on this idea of East Texas as a New Byzantium, following the inspiring work of the Irish poet William Butler Yeats. He believed that 5th/6th-century Byzantium was one of the most remarkable eras in history as art, religion and civic life combined as a single force that drove a creative society. In the poem cited above, “The Second Coming”, Yeats addressed the “Spiritus Mundi” (the Great Memory):

Before the mind’s eye, whether in sleep or waking, came images that one was to discover presently in some book one had never read, and after looking in vain for explanation to the current theory of forgotten personal memory, I came to believe in a great memory passing on from generation to generation . . . Our daily thought was certainly but the line of foam at the shallow edge of a vast voluminous sea.”

For over a year now, I have been working on this vision of East Texas as a “New Byzantium” as small communities from town to town are experiencing a renewed interest in art, music, literature and the performing arts. Now, they seem to be finding ways to “network” thanks largely to social media, and our ability also to travel from community to community to form new friendships and alliances. Sandi and I have in the past year experienced the joy of gallery ownership, participation in a new magazine publishing venture, new exhibitions opening in wineries and university facilities, and even more exciting news on the horizon.

So why am I now intrigued by this notion of “Spiritus Mundi”? Simply because I realize that we are an extension of a great, creative tradition that spans millennia–revivals (renaissance) of creative expression that return to us often in fragmented ghost signs. We have read of the Golden Age of Athens, of Byzantium, of Renaissance, of The New York School. What all of these movements have in common is the sense of incompleteness–there was always something left on the field, something that never managed to come to fruition, a dropped vision, a neglected dream. All of these movements had more ideas than they could bring to light. And now here we are, ready to pick up new visions, new ideas, and perhaps also recover some of the inspirations dropped in the past. We are ready for a fresh exploration of creativity, and invite others to join us in catching this fever.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Continued Thoughts on the New Byzantium

July 21, 2022
Newly-Opened Winery: Stone Trough in Cleburne, Texas

I think if I could be given a month of Antiquity and leave to spend it where I chose, I would spend it in Byzantium a little before Justinian opened St. Sophia and closed the Academy of Plato. . . . I think that in early Byzantium, maybe never before or since in recorded history, religious, aesthetic and practical life were one, that architect and artificers spoke to the multitude and to the few alike. The painter, the mosaic worker, the worker in gold and silver, the illuminator of sacred books, were almost impersonal, almost perhaps without the consciousness of individual design, absorbed in their subject-matter and that the vision of a whole people.

William Butler Yeats

New York itself was incredible, “really like a Byzantine city,” according to de Kooning, who was thinking of a city of contrasts and contradictions, a city where people from all over the world came together. The thought was seconded by Robert Motherwell, a young painter who had begun to exhibit in the 1940s and who explained to the poet Frank O’Hara that “New York City is a Constantinople, a great Bazaar.”

Jed Perl, New Art City: Manhattan at Mid-Century

Artists Beginning to Gather at Stone Trough

As I have written before, there is something creative in the air over East Texas. Artists, musicians, playwrights and poets are finding ways to network, to pour fresh ideas like cascades of spring water over the stagnant, tired diatribes often found on social media. My retired professor friends from Denton, Bob Stevens and Jim Linebarger, have been offering me encouragement as I seek to translate the recent East Texas art flourishing as having parallels with the culture of ancient Byzantium.

Last night Sandi and I traveled to Cleburne to attend the opening of a new winery where The Eyes of Texas Fine Art Gallery is opening a new show of work. I have a pair of watercolors in the show, and a number of our Gallery at Redlands artists are displaying there as well. Next week we will open our next show at Baron’s Creek Winery in Granbury, Texas. And Palestine will hold its next Art Walk the first Saturday of August. We are hearing murmurs of new art events and organizations forming in nearby Tyler as well. I promise to report on all of these things as they come to fruition in the weeks ahead. As I wrote earlier, there is something creative in the air, and we’re enthused to hear about these things.

Justin Bryant and editor Gloria Hood planning and strategizing . . .

The Eyes of Texas Fine Art Gallery magazine welcomes photographer/journalist Justin Bryant from the Palestine Herald Press. He was recently assigned to the art beat of our local newspaper, and immediately went far beyond publishing the events of our monthly art walk, news from the Dogwood Arts Council and general information from The Gallery at Redlands. With fresh vision, he is pouring new ideas into the next issue of our fine arts magazine, having caught the fever of the art interest recently flowing through East Texas. As I stood nearby and listened to the the enthusiasm coming from him as well as Gloria, Sandi, and the artists at the table nearby, I felt confirmed in my sentiments that a New Byzantium is underway and that we can expect remarkable things as we inch closer to the fall season.

Finally framed the aspens in an 11 x 14″ frame. $200
Another Colorado watercolor. 11 x 14″ frame. $150

We’re happy to be back in The Gallery at Redlands, and are enjoying the reunion with our Palestine friends we haven’t seen in over two weeks. I managed to frame two of the watercolors I experimented with while on the cabin deck in South Fork, Colorado. I have many more planned, so stay tuned . . .

S O L D !!!!!

We also returned from Colorado to the great news that my watercolor recently featured on the cover of our magazine had found a new home. I’m thrilled that the buyers live in Fort Worth and have just visited the Scat Jazz Lounge. Sandi and I have plans to visit the lounge some night soon with our editor along with Sabrina Franklin (also featured on the cover of the magazine) and whomever else wishes to join us for an evening of live jazz and good times.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.