Showing posts tagged austin
Waiting for doomsday: Our apocalypse obsession likely to last long past 21/12/12
Since our first days, we’ve been waiting for our last one: What the Mayan calendar says about our enduring fascination with the apocalypse.
I enjoyed this article, but it also brings to mind that a new book about Albrecht Durer has been published by a friend from The University of Texas at Austin, Dr. Jeffrey Chipps Smith.
Phaidon Press: http://www.phaidon.com/store/art/durer-9780714845609/
“Jeffrey Chipps Smith seeks to demystify Durer by considering his art and life in the context of his fascinating and tumultuous age, analysing the myths and explaining his artistic processes.”
Durer was the greatest artist of the Northern European Renaissance.
Dr. Smith’s impressive background may be viewed online: http://www.utexas.edu/finearts/aah/about/people/dr-jeffrey-chipps-smith.
Most recently Jeff was the holder of the Anna-Maria Kellen Berlin Prize, a residential fellowship at the American Academy in Berlin, from January to May 2010. He was the Distinguished International Visiting Fellow of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions at the Universities of Western Australia (Perth), Melbourne, and Queensland (Brisbane) in August, 2012.
A Personal Story ~ William Robinson Leigh and C. R. Smith
“The Roping” by William Robinson Leigh is found in the collections of The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin.
This painting was one of C. R. Smith’s favorites. How do I know? I will tell you shortly. But first, a bit of background.
In the early 1980s, I was part of a group of graduate students that researched and published a catalog of the C. R. Smith Collection of American Western Art. At that time, American Western art was not viewed as “high art” by most mainstream art historians. It was our collective goal to see the collection better understood and appreciated by both the general public and the academic community.
You can acquire the book today via Amazon.com.
C. R. Smith was CEO of American Airlines from 1934 to 1968, and 1973 to 1974. He served as United States Secretary of Commerce for a brief period under President Lyndon B. Johnson. He remained a good friend of Lady Bird Johnson long after President Johnson passed away.
I held a “work-study” job at the university art museum during graduate school, and one day a curator came to me and said C. R. Smith was visiting the museum. He had come to Austin to visit his good friend Lady Bird, and wanted to visit the art he had donated to UT.
No one on staff knew about the collection as well as I did. Would I mind speaking with Mr. Smith as he walked through the exhibit?
I was excited to be asked, and off I went. There in the galleries I found C. R. - a tall, imposing man (even at some 80 years old). He was standing with his cane, quietly observing each painting.
I introduced myself, and although I ventured a few comments, mostly I listened.
The painting by William Robinson Leigh you see here was one of his favorites. Yet, art historians (mostly those based on the East Coast), had been focusing their attention on better-known “Western” artists whose work had found its way into his art collection, like Albert Bierstadt, Worthington Whittredge, Alfred Jacob Miller, and Thomas Moran.
Why would he favor this painting above the others (the latter being more valuable, to boot)?
C. R. liked the dusty, “rough-and-ready” energy of “The Roping.” In fact, when we walked over together to view the painting, he thumped his cane with pleasure as we stood before it. His eyes lit up. Now this is a painting!
C. R. felt similarly about the works he owned by Charles M. Russell and Charles Shreyvogel. He believed they were more authentic than most.
Evidently, C. R.’s financial advisors had told him to collect the mainstream American Western artists noted earlier, primarily for investment purposes. He appreciated their work, of course, but what got his blood flowing were “action” paintings that portrayed what he believed was the real west.
During our visit in Austin, in fact, C. R. barely glanced at the other works on display. I tried to coax him over to view an idyllic Rocky Mountain landscape by Albert Bierstadt - the focus of my master’s thesis - without success.
I will never forget that day. It was also a good lesson for me - a young art historian - to discover why collectors acquire art … some for pleasure and some for market value. Meetings like this also led me into the field of nonprofit fundraising, for quite often art history involves the subject of patronage, a topic I have always found fascinating.
You will also find archival materials about C. R. Smith in the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at UT-Austin. A few years ago, I contributed two general letters from the time when the catalog project was launched, when C. R. was living in Washington, D.C. at The Watergate.
Ravi Shankar and Anouska Shankar ~ BBC
“As part of India & Pakistan’s 50 Years of Independence celebrations, Pandit Ravi Shankar, accompanied by his daughter Anoushka Shankar, perform live for the BBC at The Symphony Hall, Birmingham.” (11:12)
I discovered the music of Ravi Shankar, in the 1960s when my mother studied yoga. I began attending a few live concerts of his in Houston while still in high school in the early 1970s.
Many years later at The University of Texas, Ravi Shankar (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ravi_Shankar), came to Austin to perform a benefit concert for the Asian music program. He was at the time completing a collaborative album with Philip Glass (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Glass).
I was pleased to attend lunch with Ravi Shankar and the leading concert sponsor one day while we were preparing for the event. Of course, that is a memory I will always cherish.
I have been reminiscing about Texas “days gone by” through the creative and beautiful black-and-white photographs of my wedding reception in 1984 by noted photographer Ave Bonar: avebonarphotography.com/about-ave/. The reception took place at stately Caswell House in Austin, a 19th century home converted to use for special events by Austin Junior Forum.
Although the marriage did not last, I am pleased I had the forethought to entice Ave to document the event, a unique assignment at the time. I now have a treasure trove of first class photography in my humble private collection (smiles).
As I have done for some of my family’s historic documents, Ave has established a photo archive at the Briscoe Center for American History at The University of Texas at Austin: lib.utexas.edu/taro/utcah/00347/cah-00347.html.
Throughout her career, Ave has captured thought-provoking moments of life in the Lone Star State - from the serious and serene to the silly. It is my hope we will see more exhibitions of Ave’s work in the months and years ahead. See her website for more amazing imagery.
… On a personal note, I think of Ave as the photographer-equivalent of one of our noted Texas authors, Sarah Bird. Their descriptive powers capture Texas in such an insightful and genuine fashion (sarahbirdbooks.com/).
I lived in Austin for 18 years and still have quite a few friends there, hence I visit often. I am enjoying San Antonio, which is not terribly far from Austin; it is an easy drive.
Punk Rock ~ Austin, Texas
During a move from Corpus Christi to San Antonio in fall, 2010, I poured through all my belongings and rediscovered a group of punk rock-era street posters from Austin, ca. 1980. That brought back a wave of memories of Raul’s, Esther’s Pool, and more!
Wikipedia has a good write-up about Raul’s here:
Also, a book came out in 2011 that I have not yet purchased, but intend to, Visual Vitriol: The Street Art and Subcultures of the Punk and Hard Core Generation, by David Ensminger. It is available via Amazon.com:
Briscoe Center for American History ~ The University of Texas at Austin
I contacted longtime colleague Donald E. Carleton, director of the Briscoe Center for American History at The University of Texas at Austin, and lo and behold, he did want my street posters for his music archives. Here is one for your viewing pleasure, and if you click on the photo, it will provide a link to the Center’s website.
All this is to say, do not throw your treasured (even seemingly odd) “ephemera” away before contacting a reputable archive like this one. In addition, I have some of my Mother’s family’s civil war artifacts housed in the Center, which has an excellent reputation for its preservation work.
Flatbed Press in Austin, Texas is a marvelous place; it is co-owned by longtime friends Mark Smith and Katherine Brimberry.
Here is one print I’ve acquired over the years from Flatbed, a scissor-tailed flycatcher woodcut by David Everett. Flatbed is a fine art press that can also produce extraordinarily large prints and is a full-service shop (I own one print that is six feet long, in fact). There is also space set aside for exhibitions, which are ongoing throughout each year. I urge everyone to stop by and have a look when next in Austin.
As an aside, I hope once the economy improves to embark upon the Texas Butterfly Print Project, and overview of which can be studied here:
Proceeds from the fine art print set will support the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas (naba.org), which is one of the most intense areas for butterflies in the world. Mark and I developed the concept originally (it has been very well planned), and once we secure funding, we are ready to go!