Posts Tagged ‘Tyler Texas’

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.

Limits Yield Intensity

November 23, 2014

Sunday Morning Plein Air Watercolor Sketch

Sunday Morning Plein Air Watercolor Sketch

Limits yield intensity.  Beethoven said, speaking of Handel, that the measure of music is “producing great results with scant means.”

Ian Roberts, Creative Authenticity

My weekend was fuller than usual, spent largely in east Texas at a Christmas event, and then with friends I’ve appreciated for many years.  During my escape from the city, I managed to toss out a couple of watercolor sketches, and felt very alive doing so.  This morning, I awoke to a world in Athens, Texas that was just exploding in autumn colors after more than 24 hours of rainfall.  I took a number of photos, but wasn’t satisfied until I worked on the small watercolor posted at the top of this entry.

Rapturous Colors in Athens, Texas

Rapturous Colors in Athens, Texas

Following breakfast, we went out on the back deck, looked across the property at these gorgeous colors, and drew out watercolor supplies to see if we could capture some of this essence.  My attempt was quick and small (about 5 x 7″) but my heart swelled with delight as I gazed at the natural beauty and reached for colors in an attempt to respond to what I saw and felt.  Despite many promises that I made to myself, this was in fact my first attempt this fall to attempt a plein air watercolor sketch of the changing of the seasons.  I saw it coming for weeks, but just never turned from my daily schedule to pursue this project.  Today felt good as I finally settled into it.  A part of me wishes for more time to pursue these interests, but seriously, most people lack this quality time, yet know how to appreciate it when the scant moments offer themselves up for creative exploits.  I’m happy to have received this gift this morning.

I think I’ll put this small watercolor into a 5 x 7″ window mat and place it inside an 8 x 10″ frame.  I believe that $50 will be a fair asking price for the piece.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am never alone.

Reminiscence over the Delicious Weekend Escape

November 2, 2014

Grateful for Athens, Texas, when Greece is too Far Away

Grateful for Athens, Texas, when Greece is too Far Away

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:

Its loveliness increases; it will never

Pass into nothingness; but still will keep

A bower quiet for us, and a sleep

Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

John Keats, “Endymion”

Pausing in the midst of this chilly Texas Sunday evening to reflect over the past several days has led me to the conclusion that the only way I survived the grind of a very difficult school week was believing that a respite awaited me over the weekend.  I would not be disappointed.  As soon as school ended Friday, I pointed my loaded vehicle east for the two-hour-plus drive to Bullard, Texas, delighting in the sights of Arlington and Dallas fading in my rearview mirror.  As I drove along, all I could hear in my memory were the songs played during some impromptu jam sessions played by my students in my classroom earlier that morning:

“a thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases . . .”

I arrived at the Family Center of the First United Methodist Church in Bullard (south of Tyler, Texas) and promptly began unloading and setting up my art display for the 7th Annual Genny Wood Art Show to open the following morning.

Once I completed my set up, I was exhausted to the bone, and exited the building.  Once outside, I surprised at the beauty of the cold night air that greeted me.  Autumn had finally arrived in Texas, my short-sleeved T-shirt was insufficient for keeping my body warm, and I retrieved a leather jacket from the Jeep and walked with serene contentment down the darkened streets, watching Halloween Trick-or-Treaters moving along the shadows, laughing and calling out to one another, always with attendant parents in tow.  It was shaping up to be a most satisfying Friday night in Bullard, Texas, and I felt I needed to treat myself to barbecue at Ribmasters just down the main drag.

Dear friends of mine from Athens, Texas (an hour away) always reserve a bed for me to stay the night when I’m in east Texas.  How grateful I was that night when my head hit the pillow at 9:33 p.m.  I know I was asleep within five minutes.  The night before, I had stayed up, making preparations for the show until 1:30 a.m., and then rose at 6:00 to teach school, then hit the road for the weekend art show.  I was ready for lights out.

Waking Saturday before the 6:00 alarm, I was stirred to alertness by the 39-degree temperature outside.  I shivered as I walked to my Jeep and began the one-hour drive back to Bullard for a 9:00 opening.  The show this year was the best I have seen over the past few years that I participated, and I found such wonderful kindred spirits among several oil painters, watercolorists, draftsman, and even a retired sign painter.  We chatted throughout the seven-hour day, exchanging ideas and enjoying one another’s company.  The conversations with the patrons were also filled with reward, and I picked up a plethora of tips of small towns and settings that I can sketch and paint in my future.  The day was packed with satisfying conversation, art sales and all-around good feelings of affirmation.  I love it when the art world brings that into my life, especially coming off a hard week at work.

Once the show ended my art was loaded back into my vehicle, I returned to the home of my dear friends in Athens for more wonderful conversation and another delicious night’s sleep.  Daylight Savings Time added an hour to my sleep cycle, and I awoke this morning feeling better than I have in weeks.  After a few more hours with my friends, I hit the road for the return home, a happy man.

Recalling the warmth of the past few days has prepared me to face this coming week which promises plenty of new challenges.  But I feel profoundly changed from the way things were last week, and I’m ready to face the new prospects. The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams has brought me great company over this weekend, and renewed commitment to excellence in the arts.  In future posts, I hope to share more of what I’ve been gleaning from his confessions.  Life is good now.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.