We're all enamored with the Lone Star State; even those not born here got to Texas as fast as they could. But it's easy to get stuck in the hamster wheel of commute-work-eat-sleep-repeat, and forget that our state is more than Houston's freeways, high rises, and the beckoning glow of neon.
Thankfully there are contemporary artists out there capturing the more natural aspects of Texas: the Chihuahuan Desert, Big Bend, Marfa, the Piney Woods, Falfurrias, the Rio Grande Valley. It's one reason we always look forward to the "Texas Aesthetic" exhibit at Reaves | Foltz Fine Art, an annual show that covers the flora, fauna and landscapes of our vast region.
But it's also not the same old, same old. In January the Texas-focused gallery rebranded as Foltz Fine Art, with owner and fine art appraiser Sarah Foltz in the driver's seat. This year's show, "Texas Aesthetic XIII: Thirty Contemporary Artists Redefining Texas Art," has built on the gallery's successful formula by layering in new guest artists, introducing other mediums (painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography), and embarking on discussions about the environment and conservation.
In addition to the opening and closing receptions, the gallery is planning talks based around books: Ron Tyler's The Art of Texas: 250 Years, and Bill and Linda Reaves' A Book Maker's Art: The Bond of Arts and Letters at Texas A&M University Press.
"Also two talks specifically related to Texas environmental conservation. I'm passionate about it, as well as [artists] Billy Hassell and Margie Crisp and William Montgomery. They're all dedicated naturalists," says Foltz. "As a result there are two books I'm excited about. One of them is Selah."
In Seasons at Selah: The Legacy of Bamberger Ranch Preserve, author Andrew Sansom documents how J. David Bamberger purchased 5,500 acres in the Texas Hill Country and turned what he described as “the sorriest piece of land” into one of the largest habitat restoration projects in the state.
"The other one is the documentary and book by Ben Masters, The River and the Wall. There's a real concern about what [the proposed border] wall would do to the wildlife, the flora and fauna, to this incredible part of our state that is such a magical gem. The thought of having a disruption to our environment," says Foltz, adding that the gallery is planning an event with a book talk and screening of the film.
The National Butterfly Center, a 100-acre wildlife center and botanical garden in Mission, is in the path of the proposed border wall, though the wall's construction would cut through the privately-owned center and eliminate, degrade and split wildlife habitats.
Of the artists exhibiting in "Texas Aesthetic XIII," many call the less populated regions of Texas home: Mary Baxter (Marfa), David Caton (Utopia), Janet Eager Krueger (Encinal), James H. Evans and E. Dan Klepper (Marathon), Bob Stuth-Wade (Dublin), Jeri Salter (Lago Vista), and Margie Crisp and William Montgomery (Elgin).
"I think that so many of our artists, from landscape artists to painters of Big Bend, Noe Perez, David Caton, Mary Baxter, to those more interested in flora, fauna and birds like Billy Hassell, everyone's very concerned at the moment," says Foltz. "I literally believe that, through the arts — bringing about the intersection of environmental conservation and visual arts — can go so well together, hand in hand. Especially at this point in time."
One of the guest artists, James. H. Evans, is showing photographs of the Big Bend area in this exhibit. "We selected to show a grouping of very abstract photographs of the Santa Elena Canyon; on one side you’re seeing the cliff from Texas, and on the other side the Mexico border. In an abstract way it hits home the close proximity of the space that is under potential threat," adds Foltz. "[Evans] is somebody that, since I was an undergrad, I've been absolutely enamored of his work. Just kind of googly-eyed like a media rock star. We kept up professionally, [his work is] special, and now I have an opportunity to bring him in."
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Many of the works in the exhibit were created within the past year and the exhibit also includes pieces by "big city" artists or those living in larger towns: Charles Criner, Arthur Deatly, Karl E. Hall, Ken Mazzu, Susu Meyer, Erik Sprohge and Frank X. Tolbert 2 (Houston); Fidencio Duran, David Everett and Malou Flato (Austin); Jon Flaming and Shawn Saumell (Dallas); Pat Gabriel, Billy Hassell and Jim Malone (Fort Worth); Lee Jamison (Huntsville); Noe Perez and Debbie Stevens (Corpus Christi); Jim Stoker (San Antonio); Charles D. Jones (Natchitoches); and William Young (Palestine).
The opening reception is scheduled for May 4 from 6-8 p.m. Saturday. The closing reception is set for June 29 from 2-5 p.m. Saturday. Visit the website for additional dates on book and film events.
"Texas Aesthetic XIII: Thirty Contemporary Artists Redefining Texas Art" is scheduled for May 4 through June 29 at 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays at Foltz Fine Art, 2143 Westheimer. For information, call 713-521-7500 or visit foltzgallery.com. Free.