“Texas Draws” at Southwest School of Art & Craft

SA artist Regis Shephard considers his own mortality (Courtesy Southwest School)

In “Confounded,” Corpus Christi artist Jimmy Pena combines an upside-down male torso with the right-side-up torso of a female, seamlessly joined at the mid-section in a maddening metaphor of our financial consternation. The skin of the headless figure with polar opposite genitals is plastered with headlines about last fall’s economic meltdown. But Pena, despite having arthritis in his hands, eschewed the use of a computer and created the image by drawing

“I thought a lot about the financial crisis before this image came to me just as I was waking up,” Pena said. “I used a couple of models. And I had to make the male stand on his head. But I just cut the photographs in half and put them together. They didn’t match exactly, but I was able to make the drawing by working it out in my head.”

Putting pencil to paper remains the simplest way to tap into the subconscious, but it’s been overlooked in Texas. The Southwest School of Arts and Crafts is establishing the first statewide exhibit with “Texas Draws,” featuring13 Lone Star artists on view through Sept. 6.  Curator Kathy Armstrong said the exhibit is planned as an annual event and a lot of research when into selecting the artists. Various techniques are represented, but content is emphasized – so there are some startlingly realistic images, though usually in surrealistic or abstract contexts.

Star fields, an atomic bomb crater, an exploding space station and quaint 18th-century society images converge in Austin artist Eric Zimmerman’s giant panels, hinting at human frailty and ignorance leading to more technological disaster than success. Mona Marshal scratched into black encaustic to make the images of solitary oil wells surrounded by a tar-like lake in “Oil Field.” Using black ink on white encaustic, she also drew images of suited men going about their business in a looming terrorist target, “The Tower.” Jayne Lawrence’s fusing of body parts with bits of insects, birds, flowers and other organic forms, all drawn with exceptional grace and clarity, may provide a vision of the excesses of genetic engineering, or perhaps it’s a more a vision of our oneness with nature.

Nature, naturally, inspired some of the most complex and expressive drawings. Jules Buck Jones wraps his taxonomy chart of the family tree of birds of prey around the outside and inside of the gallery. But his abstract slashes and broad streaks belie the scientific exactness of the chart, showing that trying to name and classify all the animal species is as much art as science. By contrast, El Paso artist Suzi Davidoff’s abstracted silhouettes of leaves in translucent layers have a Zen-like serenity. San Antonio artist Katie Pell would like to drape her viewers in tangled vines and cuddly forest creatures. Her giant drawings come off the wall in spirals of tears from the eyes of a goddess embedded in junglelike flora populated by big-eyed deer, rabbits, raccoons, songbirds and the occasional rat.

Regis Shephard examines the burdens of mortality in his autobiographical drawings of a black man and a white skeleton dripping with ink, a response to his bout with a potentially fatal disease. In a mural-size drawing, Bonnie Young drolly documents American consumers – hair-pulling children, a gaunt cowboy and an obese couple. In “Shock and Awe,” Benito Huerta lays one of Gauguin’s Polynesian women over an atomic cloud. Alice Leora Briggs draws on the tradition of Mexican journalistic printmaking to document the deadly Juarez cartel in her grim series of richly detailed drawings, including “Death of a Virgin” with a man aiming an automatic rifle at the upended image of a saint.

Pushing the boundaries of drawing beyond the paper plane, Electric Dirt used the sound of drawing as the basis for a live concert at the opening. A pencil moving across paper on a wooden surface is becoming a rare sound, said Marfa artist Christine Olejniczak. Electric Dirt, which also features Alex Garza and Ray Freese, uses drawings as the “score” for performing on slightly amplified sound boxes made of guitar wood. On view is “AK-47 Concussion,” which captures the motion of the airwaves caused by a gun blast. The pen may be mightier than a sword, but for artists the charcoal pencil packs the metaphorical punch of an IED.

One Response to ““Texas Draws” at Southwest School of Art & Craft”

  1. […] both personal and global.  I worked with him several times over the past decade.  In our 2009 Texas Draws exhibition, Regis exhibited a triptych that dealt with his first brush with death and, in our 2002 […]

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