Anyone who has spent even a short amount of time in the Davis Mountains or the Big Bend region of far West Texas can attest to the region’s rugged beauty. It is a special place rich in spectacular vistas and steeped in history. It has long been a crossroads of divergent cultures and experiences and has served as a home, or at least a temporary stopping off point for wandering Apaches, pilgrims on their way to the California gold fields, soldiers stationed at frontier forts, cowboys and cattle ranchers, and in more recent times, city dwellers seeking a respite from the harried pace of urban life.
While the area attracts increasing numbers of both visitors and permanent residents each year, it still retains its original character and charm. Its remoteness is part of its attraction. One has to make an effort to get there. It is a beautiful place, but it is not an easy place. Sometimes the distance one travels to get to an outpost such as this adds to the appreciation of the grand vistas, the sometimes subtle, sometimes vibrant colors of the landscape, and the depth of the blue skies. It is a place that speaks to the imagination and earns a cherished spot in the heart of its visitors and residents.
Far West Texas has long been a haven for Texas artists dating back as long ago as 1854, when Army Captain Arthur T.Lee, who was stationed at Fort Davis, roamed the Davis Mountains to capture watercolor images of the landscape. Minimalist sculptor Donald Judd traveled through the area by train in 1971 and was so enthralled with the area that he made his permanent home in Marfa and established his studio there. In the years in between, some of the most gifted and prominent artists in Texas visited the area to record their own interpretations of the grand vistas and vibrant colors of the land and sky.
Artists from all across Texas have been drawn to the mountains of West Texas. San Antonio blossomed into the state’s first true art center in the latter nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Many of its most renowned artists made frequent excursions to both the Big Bend and the Davis Mountains. Jose Arpa, Xavier Gonzales, and HarryAnthony DeYoung, all split their time between the Alamo city and Far West Texas. Dallas artist, Frank Reaugh, often referred to as the Dean of Texas painters and the father of plein air painting in the state, took art students to the area for over four decades. Jerry Bywaters and Alexandre Hogue, best known as members of a group of regionalist painters known as the Dallas Nine also ventured far from their urban home to paint a Texas that was unique to the rest of the state.
One of the state’s earliest and most successful art colonies was established in the region in 1932 in Alpine at Sul Ross State University (then known as Sul Ross Normal College). Over the course of three decades, the Alpine Art Colony would become one of the state’s finest programs for training and nurturing artistic talent. It was presided over by some of the finest artists in Texas, including Gonzales, DeYoung, Julius Woeltz, Coreen Spellman, Otis Dozier, and William Lester.
All found the area an infinite source of inspiration. Today, other artists continue to be spellbound by the area’s natural beauty. Some, like Lindy Severns and Wayne Baize, are full time residents. Others like Carolyn Korbell Carrington, Rosie Sandifer, and David Loren Bass are frequent visitors. Whether they make their homes there or merely make numerous excursions, all share an affinity with the many artists over the years who have found an artistic wellspring in this remote, rugged, and beautiful land.
The land itself is diverse, offering artists infinite possibilities for expression. While the region’s attraction to artists has remained constant, artistic interpretations are as varied and unique as the individual talents of the many artists who have visited and continue to visit. Early Texas modernist Everett Spruce’s depiction of the Big Bend diverges dramatically from that of Jose Arpa who painted the same region decades earlier. Today, Lindy Severns brings a different perspective and technique to painting the Davis Mountains than Carolyn Korbel Carrington or David Loren Bass. All three artists are deeply inspired by the land and sky of the area, but each sees the area in a different way and each portrays the area in a manner unique to their vision.
Artists have roamed over the rugged and beautiful landscape of far West Texas literally for centuries. Rock faces in remote areas of the region are adorned with pictographs left by ancient inhabitants who documented their daily lives long before European travelers arrived. Through all of the years from that ancient time, the land has remained a constant. It called to artists in ancient days and it continues to call to artists today.
Learn more about many of the artists in this exhibition by visiting their websites:
www.korbellart.com (for Caroline Korbell Carrington)
Paintings by Lindy Severns and David Loren Bass are available through Michael Duty Fine Art—check our gallery section for more information. Infinitely Texas by Lindy Severns is available through The Rusty Rabbit in Alpine, Texas. (for purchase information, inquire at lindy@LindyCSeverns.com).
Learn more about the Bryan Museum in Galveston,Texas at www.thebryanmuseum.org.