Art Means You Can Go Home Again
Updated: Jul 28, 2018
“Home” for us these days is spelled “high desert mountains”.
We live surrounded by silence and natural beauty. Being an artist, I don’t take that for granted: Jim and spent decades looking at sunsets across South Plains cotton fields. It’s not that the view from our former home didn’t hold its own flavor of beauty—friends loved being invited to sunset cookouts in to our huge, shady yard —but the view we shared was of a constant landscape. Views in the Texas mountains are anything but constant. We never pass the same scenery twice. Every cloud, every angle of the sun changes this landscape so dramatically, you’d swear new rocks spring up while you’re buying groceries. We suspect new mountains erupt while we’re in church.
Good Presbyterians, we attend church in Marfa, Marfa being about ten miles away, as the dove flies. As a big red Ram drives, it’s 40 miles away, more than half of that winding through mountains and open range. We allow ourselves an hour to get there, preferring to drive the two-lane road at a leisurely speed. Hitting a deer, a javelina, or a belligerent cow (who knows she has the right-of-way) would seriously mar our worship experience. “Holy Cows,” we call the ones standing in road. We see lots of animals along this route, but precious few vehicles.
We also see some of the prettiest scenery in all of Texas. I keep my camera as handy as the cup of coffee Jim always thinks to bring along. Sipping my coffee, sightseeing while we drive to church is one of my favorite times. Artists see things differently than “normal” people, or so I’m told, and I’m always seeing anomalies in the landscape: rosy color tinting dry grass, a flower growing out of a rock, a beam of light brightening a cliff when all else is cloaked in shadow.
A major anomaly occurs the first week in August, when the quietly scenic highway beneath our canyon perch goes berserk. “Even in Progress” signs and orange cones replace languid cattle in the center of the highway. Shiny sports cars line the shoulders of State Highway 166. (FYI: A sports car suggests the owner isn’t local—the old hit-a-cow-and-ruin-your-day issue applies.) The usually lonely historical marker “Bloys Campmeeting” is obscured by children playing tag around it.
This generations-old annual reunion of pioneer ranching families boasts several thousand people in attendance. (Thousand? Yep. Up to seven thousand extra folks, but who is counting?) City people jog down the asphalt pushing baby strollers. Teenagers convene in clumps of cousins. Old folks behind the wheels of golf carts kick up clouds of dust between rustic corrugated metal cabins erected by their parents after tents became old-fashioned. Within a scant mile of roadway, we pass more cars than we see in a month of Sundays.
Everyone we pass smiles. Slowed to a crawl, we nod the requisite greetings, even though we are most assuredly going to be late for services in Marfa. We know Bloys Campmeeting is a sacred homecoming, a re-uniting with nature, as well as with family and friends. It’s the mountains, not the locals who host this annual gathering.
On one such Sunday, Jim, being a well-trained artist assistant pointed to the cloud-churned heavens and said, “Want me to pull over for a photo op?” I nodded. He parked beside a ranch road gate, careful not to flatten any strollers. Camera in hand, I tumbled out of the truck. I don’t overlook the familiar. That morning, I tried to envision our familiar views through the eyes of someone who doesn’t live in Far West Texas. I wiggled my sandal-bare toes in dew-wet grass and snapped a dozen digitals of cumulus converging over the Davis Mountains, which were green and welcoming and dressed in their summer best. I knew then that I had a major painting in the making.
What makes some moments so special?
We felt joy in sharing the mountains with descendants of the pioneers who’d settled them. The grasses were tall and glistening green, the holy cows, surely happy. The unpolluted sky promised more precious rain.
As the old-timers like to drawl, “It don’t get any better than this.”
I stood there, looking homeward and those floating rain clouds spread apart to let the morning sun wash the ever-so-familiar mountains with enchanted light. I swear those clouds began singing to me.
The folks who bought the painting I did from that morning don't live in the Texas mountains, but they love time spent there. I like to think that whenever they see my painted clouds, those heavily layered pastel clouds sing for them, too. I hope my painting takes them home to this remote and lovely part of the American southwest, because I believe that's what art is all about-- taking you someplace you very much want to be.
A CHORUS OF RAIN CLOUDS is available in our online studio store as a uniquely hand-repainted fine art print. Order it here.