The (Texas) Hills Are Alive at the William Reaves Gallery

Famed author John Steinbeck once said, "I have said that Texas is a state of mind, but I think it is more than that. It is a mystique closely approximating a religion."

Steinbeck goes on to comment on the core of Texas, which he considers to be its people. Although, from a visual perspective, it may just be the Texas landscape that really sticks with you. We Houstonians carp over the flat terrain and lack of scenic diversity, but just a few miles outside of town, Texas is surrounded by beauty.

That beauty is the center of the William Reaves Fine Art Gallery current exhibition, Hill Country Love Affair: Interpretations of a Texas Heartland, which runs through November 16.

The collection spans 85 years of interpretation of the Texas Hill Country by more than 30 different Texas artists. If you have ever had the opportunity to see the countryside of East Texas, this display will entrance you, and if you have lived without seeing all that Texas has to offer, go view this collection and you'll understand why artists have been trying to put the sights of this panorama down on canvas for years.

The collection moves from recognizable Texan artists to newer names. A William Lester oil painting, "Farm," catches your attention as soon as you enter the gallery. It is a typical Lester, rich with dark color, typifying his style right before he moved into his abstraction phase.

Next to the Lesters hang several acrylic and wood three-dimensional pieces by artist Keith Davis in a series called "A Window on Texas." Each piece is the interior of a windowsill: the window is open to reveal a glorious day in Texas. In the "Spring in the Hill Country" piece, the open window is letting in a delightful breeze blowing the curtains back, birds are perched on the sill and a vase of flowers invites you to take a sniff. It's a whimsical piece, but affective in its intent. There is nothing flashy or subtle to it.

Many of the pieces, especially moving towards and in the back room of the gallery, come from the school of impressionism. One example is that of Harold Roney, who moved to Houston in 1925 after studying at the Art Institute of Chicago. He eventually took up residency in the Boerne Hill Country and began painting Impressionist Texas landscapes. "Shimmering Sunlight," which is on display, is a stunning blend of pastel colors that combine to make up an array of shrubbery, tall trees and flowing sprawl. For a collector of Texas art, this piece is a dream.

My personal favorite, however, is Ancel Nunn's "Sisterdale Schoolhouse," an acrylic work created in 1972. Nunn, a Seymour, TX, native, was known for his super-realistic style, and "Sisterdale Schoolhouse" is so meticulous and fine-lined one can get lost in its detail. A lone schoolhouse sits atop a dry field of brown grass, with nothing to divert your attention save a tree in the distance. It is so peaceful; I may have stared at the work for ten minutes straight. It's hard to tell because while you are gazing at it, time seems to stop.

As usual, William Reaves has gathered an impressive display of works all capturing the Texas landscape from different lenses. While each artist has found reason to call attention to the Texas "state of mind," the collection as a whole may cause you to find your own religion in the Texas country side.

Hill Country Love Affair: Interpretations of a Texas Heartland is on display at the William Reaves Fine Art Gallery now through November 16. For hours visit their website reavesart.com

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