Your Online Guide to the Arts in the Brazos Valley

Photos and articles by one of the Brazos Valley's leading artists... guiding you to great art and entertainment opportunities. For a blog about Brazos Valley Music History, Click HERE:

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A real ART PLACE- in Navasota!

Art could happen anywhere, but it doesn't. That is because the makers of art need a particular environment... and creative ambiance of a place is as important as raw space. Art happens where artists feel comfortable, free to create, where the right materials and space and light can come together to inspire. Artists function best working somewhere where they can concentrate, where they can make a mess and... solicit constructive criticism.

And now art can happen in Navasota, Texas at the new gallery and studio space created by Patricia and Mike Pederson. It is humbly called the Gallery Downtown, but it is so much more than anyone suspects, from down below. 

It is HUGE. The natural light is exhilarating. The rustic, authentic atmosphere whispers of Brazos Valley legends and lore. It's not too nice... a place where work can get done. But still, it feels like a giant old art museum, just begging to showcase the works of serious artists who find and appreciate the space.

 This exciting place can be found upstairs above the Circle P Antique Mall, right on the railroad tracks in downtown Navasota.

Pattie Pederson, the owner and proprietor, kicked off the opening of this gargantuan art landmark with an exhibit of her own works. 

 "Compass Rose"

If the space is grand, so is her vision. This epic show was not only a long-awaited epiphany of a legitimate art gallery in this arts-conscious community, but it was the long overdue revelation of Pederson's art, which fills this monumental space as if made for it.

Well, OK it was, in fact some of it was painted ON the museum...  and it may be the most beautifully staged, well-placed art exhibit ever seen in Navasota, if not the whole Brazos Valley. 

This is Pederson's first show in this magnificent space, and art lovers will learn to anticipate and attend them in the future. They promise to be some of the most inspiring, artistically authentic, cutting edge art shows in the region. Navasota finally has a real art place. And it is a masterpiece...   

Monday, February 20, 2017

GUNS & ROSES of Texas

I just sat through a grueling day of watching Texas Rising, the behemoth made-for-television series which premiered on the History Channel a couple of years ago. I was pleasantly surprised overall, since being a Native Texan, I was born knowing that nobody could ever do the story justice. But Bill Paxton made an interesting Sam Houston, although at times he seemed flawed and underwhelming; very much what his Houston character admits to President Burnet, his rival, but nevertheless loved because he was victorious in spite of his faults. And that in itself gave people hope. True enough.

The Western Channel devoted the whole day to broadcasting all ten segments. After hours of reprogramming my cherished notions, something a little less bothersome than Chinese water-torture, I began to accept Paxton's Houston... and began to enjoy the characters created around him.

Still, I had to get past several very annoying artistic decisions which will forever grate on my Texian paradigm. They shot the film in mountainous terrain, totally foreign to the land which owns these legends which are revered all over the world. They ignored historical characters essential to the story to make room for a steamy sexual rivalry between Houston and Santa Anna, both of whom supposedly shared the affections of the legendary “Yellow Rose.” I would never waste time trying to defend Sam's honor, as I am well aware of his infamous indiscretions, but it seems that Rising's Houston was a great deal more in love with the Negress than legend ever suggested. We're talking passionately devoted and begging for marriage.

The screenplay writers must have been clueless that Houston was freshly separated from his Cherokee wife, whom he had claimed when he filed for his Texas land grant. Not to mention several other Native American women who were also claiming him as they raised his offspring. Not to mention his first wife back in Tennessee, whom he had not gotten a proper divorce from. 

The temptation to abuse artistic license is just too great for movie producers to ever do an honorable job of depicting the facts of history. You never want to get in the way of a good story. Media has the same problem with covering the news. People don't want facts, they want to be entertained, and we should never disappoint them.

So I got over it and enjoyed the series for what it was. Total fantasy. That made it easier to overlook the craggy mountains over Victoria, Texas, the HUMONGOUS buffalo head balanced oh-so-perfectly on Buffalo Hump, the Comanche war chief's head while he rode around blinded, no doubt, and the Red Wing boots on Deaf Smith's feet. By the time Sam was slobbering all over the legendary Yellow Rose,  ready to throw away all political viability, and father a race of Texian mulattoes, I was sippin' the absinthe. 

Forgetting the movie was supposed to be about Texas, I really got teared up when Deaf Smith has to shoot his faithful horse, and when a bunch of scraggly Texas Rangers empty their pockets to help pay restitution for their fellow ranger's theft in a past life, to save him from the noose. I even found the scene beautiful where Santa Anna comforts a dying Mexican soldier, while hiding in a deep underground cavern... IN THE BOTTOMLAND of the San Jacinto valley.

AND THEN, there were those giant mechanical wheels at the beginning of each segment... made up of swords and guns and roses... outrageous stacks of powerful nefarious gears, like Hong Kong bling cum Military Industrial Complex... with a Texas star... And some sweet Millennial designer sighed: “There! That makes it authentic.” I could just imagine the poor Texians getting caught up and ground up by it.

Hey... but I loved it! I would give this affectionate tribute an 8 out 10. It's not Lonesome Dove, which may have gotten the only 10 that I have ever given for a “Texas” film... I gave Places in the Heart a 9... and Trip to Bountiful a 7... so I am pretty hard to impress. So heck, for sheer art, I give Texas Rising an 8.5! It made me cry and it made me think, and it made me want to go write the TRUE Texas story that doesn't stink... that Hollywood would finally make. But until then, Texas Rising will get a rise out of Texas.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Hufreesh Chopra- ART ROCKETEER

 These magnificent eyes are devoted to revealing the unseen.

Hufreesh Dumasia Chopra was born and raised in India, and has faced many challenges in her quest as an artist. Her father passed away when she was young, and her mother had to work very hard to support her and her brother. She had to learn to overcome adversity from the beginning. Her mother saw to it that Hufreesh was well educated and received formative exposure to art and dance, which she still loves and lives today. 

 Hufreesh has traveled and painted all over the world, even Huntsville, Texas!

She has traveled all over the world, showing her works and gathering friends, and inspiration for her paintings. With considerable delight she explains how she met her husband, and came to this country and began the inevitable adjustments to her new environment. But it was all worth it. Her husband Praveen brought her to the Silicon Valley of California, where she has found acceptance and encouragement; a place where she can continue making her art. Hufreesh has found a nurturing environment, with convenient art centers, museums and galleries, and more importantly, people who understand her. Still, she is committed to break new ground, and grateful for the opportunities in front of her. Today she is painting with skill and passion, always evolving and looking into the future. She is enjoying the taste of personal fulfillment. 

 There are unmeasured lifeforms under the sea...

That fulfillment has been a long time coming, and the result of blessings from above and hard work. She has endured because she was conditioned early in life to deal with adversity, and now she is a woman with a mission. She sees herself as an “adventurer,” and finds fulfillment in trying to express herself through her paintings. It is an other-worldly mission. “Life is more than what we can perceive by our senses” she says with conviction. “When I make a work of art, it is like shooting a rocket into space...”

From her friendly eyes and ready smile, we can rest assured her “rockets” are missiles of love and altruism. Hufreesh loves the spiritual interaction which happens between her art and its audience. She hopes to help connect her viewers with their own exploration of those powerful intangibles beyond our senses. Her art is not merely self-expression but, in her mind, truly finds its purpose when it reaches others. “If art is not seen, it does not exist!” 

 Hufreesh had to lay out her most recent quad on the floor so it could be pieced together... she likes to make diptics and triptics  and quadriptics?

Hufreesh is not so caught up in themes or particular messages. They take care of themselves as she puts down what she feels at the moment. Sometimes others add to her experience by interjecting their own interpretations of her works. Once an 11 year-old boy explained what a particular painting was about... “It shows me the chaos caused between the energies of love and anger,” he confessed. There is no doubt this was no ordinary 11 year old, but then this was no ordinary art.

Still, connecting with art lovers is not the same as financial independence. Hufreesh has had to learn the hard way about the importance and the difficulty of selling her works. “When you are an artist... you are struggling.” She stated as a mathematical equation. She did not want to have to worry about the art market, selling... the commercial side of her vocation. “I thought it should come to me...” Hufreesh enjoyed success in her native India, and soon was responding to invitations to exhibit her works all over the planet. She has traveled extensively and exhibited all over Europe, and found Italy, especially Rome, to be her spiritual home, as if she had been there before. She was amazed at her sales in Germany, where the German people proved to be amazingly open to her spiritual rockets.

 The Inner Sun

But after all those miles, Hufreesh has discovered a deeper truth; She never needed commercial success to find fulfillment or happiness. She believes that a person can find joy in whatever they may do. True happiness is a choice.

 Finding new ways to express eternal truths.

Hufreesh is working on her paintings and also envisioning her next body of works. She folds a painted canvas into a lovely accordion, to show the sculptural quality of the folds... which come alive with her strokes of color. She feels herself moving away from the traditional rectangular canvas, and talks about adding metal forms to her latest painting, to create depth and visual and tactile stimulation. 

  This short video shows some of Hufreesh's experiments to break away from the age-old "box"

Hufreesh does not believe that an artist is straddled with just one style for his whole life... the opposite of the insistence of many art galleries, who bank on consistency from their artists. Hufreesh will never yield to that kind of restriction to her adventure.

 Hufreesh is sort of an "art pioneer."

Hufreesh will soon leave Navasota, Texas and put it all behind her. She will gladly return to her love and her new California home and her evolving art. It has been a time of challenge and growth, tempered with disappointments and delightful serendipity. But she had hoped to exhibit and even sell her works more, and to have some teaching opportunities in the community. Although she is humbly grateful for her opportunity here, there may have been opportunities lost on both sides.

That dysfunction has been no biggie. The greatest kind of rejection, or even contempt, is being ignored. But most artists run into this daily. And she feels far from ignored.  Moreover, her Eastern upbringing makes her resilient and philosophical. Being in a solitary habitat has helped her appreciate what she has, to better know herself, and to foresee where she must go and what she wants to do next. 

 Chopra is fascinated by the forces of nature... the powers in the universe.

As her rockets go off in the future, they will be fired by the soul-search she experienced while living in the Horlock Art Center, in Navasota, Texas. 

If you want to know more about Hufreesh, you can explore her art at her website:

Navasota plays a significant role in the development of emerging artists. The art community of the Brazos Valley needs to embrace these journeymen and women so that role has an especially positive and lasting legacy.

Ashton Hall: Down and Dirty

 Ashton Hall is a rare package in the art world. She is young, quite aggressive in her business strategies, very talented in her field, and blessed with super-model good looks. My conclusions after our interview were that she should go far. Maybe even television. She will get interviews, contracts, and other opportunities because of her appearance, but unlike many, she will be able to capitalize on them because she is as fierce as she is beautiful.

I would love for P.C. correctness-sake to ignore the issues of superficial qualities which should not matter. But I am an artist, and visuals are everything. And they do matter and we know they do. But as Jesus quipped, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” It will be up to Ashton not to mess it all up. And there is the rub.

"The Wheel of Fortune"
Ashton is kind of... complicated. In a good way!

Can a lovely young person with her life in front of her, with so much going for her, instinctively make those correct choices and decisions which could take her to the “top”? They often do not.

It is not usually the “blessed,” artistic savants who make it. Things come too easily for them. The real artists I know achieved decent careers with tough persistence and the ability to ignore and overcome adversity. I know plenty of artists, making it as such, who had the gift of determination, but were perhaps less talented than some of the fabulously gifted students I have taught who lacked personal drive or inspiration. Those who lack discipline, motivation or self-direction fall by the wayside like mud off of a four-wheeler in the Brazos bottom.

 Ashton Hall: "I'm good at design... can I say that?"

So let me introduce you to another artist you wish you had met. Her mud will stick. Ashton Hall grew up in a “blue-collar” home, with small-town values and exposure to traditional Midwestern American culture. She is energetic and passionate about her art, and has a hungry soul. A conversation with her reveals many hours of thought and investigation in our world... and beyond. And she has gained a wisdom beyond her years.

Ashton pursued a career in graphic design, and found that she could do it, but it did not begin to utilize all of her talents. It was, as she says (and take no offense ), a “normal person job.” Still it was a very beneficial training, giving her skills she will always utilize, as artists today are forced to implement technology to be competitive. She has tried many jobs in fact, but she has always been brought back to pushing around pigments. Painting is what she was born to do.

She came to Navasota to get away from the hometown where she grew up, to discover herself beyond the boundaries which have always contained her. And she came with few expectations, and mostly just a sense of adventure. Ashton had decided to try to make it as an artist. 

Horlock House Study

The completely restored Victorian house built in 1892, home of R. A. Horlock and his family for over seventy years... Now the home to resident artists, like Ashton.

Here Ashton explains how she painted the house on a hot day
 with oil pastels. A freezer was involved!

Here in Navasota, at the Horlock Art Center, she found an environment to begin a foothold in her life-choice. Free rent, for six months, bills paid, adequate space to create large works... peace and quiet... removal from the tyranny of the urgent. To a large degree she found what she was looking for, because Ashton will make the best of any situation.

 Ashton Hall painting "plein air" near huntsville.  It's just a fancy French term for out-of-doors.

Ashton promotes herself as a “plein air” artist, which suggests the interpretation of her subjects firsthand... without photography, studying and translating her subjects directly onto canvas from life. But she adds an infusion of other “isms.” She fearlessly utilizes her experience with stagecraft, abstract expressionism, fauvism, and modern color therapy to dazzle her audience. She might be called a disciple of color. Her art “is all about the color.” Ashton believes that color, and especially color used effectively by an artist has powerful effects on people. She believes people have no idea how important color is in creating a positive environment... or a negative one. Thankfully, she said “people gravitate to the colors they need.”

These are actually scientifically proven facts about the psychology of color. This young artist is starting out with that kind of savvy. Ashton harbors many edgy paradigms, some of which might make the average person nervous. She believes in heady concepts of “Divine right timing,” and the “law of attraction”; things, people, events that are supposed to meet or happen cannot avoid collision. We used to call that fate. She is committed to follow the path of her fate to what she calls the “highest excitement.” None of us should pursue careers, hobbies or relationships which do not hold a significant degree of excitement for us. If we do, it will not work... and our culture is full of people in denial of this law... and miserable for it. She explains that “Life is as exciting as the degree that you challenge yourself.”

 A delightful study in color therapy by Hall is the centerpiece in one of the Victorian parlors. 

Ashton loves the art part of art, and gets down and dirty. But she does not shrink from the business end, understanding one supports the other. Her paintings are instinctively designed by a mind that automatically balances self-expression with the science of subliminal appeal. She is having a wonderful time working her magic, exercising her freedom, and making contact with numerous fans. Her regular sales reflect her remarkable gift of positive energy, where her artistic journey always attracts hitchhikers. Her works are affordable, soulful, and... dare I say it, mentally healing.

Mental health is essential to physical healing. Ashton takes stock in that. We all need art, even though most people have no appreciation for it. Thus it is a no-brainer to say, you need your vitamins and you need art. And hers is an excellent place to start your collection.

 Ashton takes a break from a small mural commission.

Ashton is optimistic about art and her future in it, as she has observed the historic cycles in the economy and the evolution of artistic tastes. She believes they will improve. She is presently planning her next exhibit in the Trout Art Museum in Appleton, Wisconsin. And she is contemplating starting a mural painting service, where she can most logically achieve basic financial survival. Ashton is willing to do whatever it takes. That, for her, will be the key to success.

You have less than a week to catch her and her colors in Navasota. Jump aboard. Be careful where you sit... it may be muddy in here. 

You can see more of her art at:

her blog:

OR (temporarily out of order) artist/

OR (also out of order!) artist/sets/72157630980012966/ 


find her on facebook at:

Sunday, October 18, 2015

MEGAN BERTI mezzo-soprano: A Twentieth Century Banquet!

An autumn Sunday afternoon in our Norman Rockwellian hamlet produced an unexpected journey for me. The kind of journey possible only through great art. And that was amply supplied by Megan Berti of Houston, who gave of her talent generously in the glow of the natural light and magnificent architecture of First Presbyterian Church in Navasota.

You can tell when you are experiencing great art, because it always trips multiple triggers... a banquet of personal wonder. Sounds and sights and forgotten thoughts expand and swirl like blackbirds in formation, and you never want it to end.

As one pushed through the mammoth Victorian doors you immediately stepped back in time, and the sparkling stained glass and austere, sunlit plaster walls promised that Andrew Wyeth wished he was still alive, if only to capture them. Performing Spanish and German classics, in their native tongues, Berti especially shined while presenting three of Manuel de Falla's Siete Canciones Populares Espanoles. I knew instantly that I had “heard” this music somewhere before. But I had not. Megan Berti was merely singing expertly the genre James Michener had perfectly described in IBERIA, his exhaustive book about Spain.

A great fan of Spanish culture, James Michener spent a great deal of his spare time in Spain, and considered Falla the most important composer from his favorite country. Michener often compared Spain to Texas, another of his favorite places, and he studied Spanish music like American teenagers did rock and roll. He thought Falla was the most original and inventive and inspired of all. And here a century and a world away Megan Berti brought Falla's legacy to life to an appreciative crowd. She sang Falla- saucy and evocative and even abrupt... as if she were raised in a Spanish carmen- (a rustic country cottage).


But then, just getting nestled into my cozy transportation, Berti began to sing Strauss and Brahms... with equal authenticity. I am not quite sure of all the reasons why artists choose to sing in foreign languages... But if they are going to, they must be convincing and artistic at the same time... and be able to convey emotions... and Berti prances through her cultural sampler flawlessly. It's true I would not know if she was singing, “I am going to kill you!” But whatever she sang, she has that special gift, not just that of a musician, not that of a performer, but that of a true entertainer.

Thank you to The Music Study Club of Navasota, for finding and showcasing Megan Berti and the art she lured out of the walls and out of my imagination.

Postscript: In my zeal for brevity ( a new goal of mine) I neglected to mention the equally precise and adoring accompaniment provided by her pianist... (please forgive me if I get this wrong!) Kathleen Kaun. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

NEXT DOOR In theTrinity Valley

39th Salmon Lake Park Labor Day Bluegrass Festival

My friend Scott Armstrong has been a lifelong music enthusiast and a significant force in an awesome Bluegrass gathering north of Crockett on the outskirts of Grapeland. Every Labor Day THOUSANDS of folks come from far and wide like geese in migration, to their musical home. Scott has been gently inviting me and his other buds for years, always trying to humbly encourage our attendance to the MOST AMAZING EVENT UNDER THE STARS IN TEXAS; GREAT MUSIC- wonderful people, and a glimpse of what America once was.

 Multi-talented Aggieland businessman-musician Scott Armstrong is the emcee for this Grapeland Bluegrass tradition.

Yes, Scott, you're kind of a big deal! (He will hate that) Thank you for your yeoman's service to the Texas music scene... and for inviting me!


 As Bluegrass echoes through the pines, children gallavant on a nearby green space with fireflies- some natural and some born of technology.

 Frontier Texas architecture lends character to the surroundings.

 Excellent food goes with classic music- and this classic food truck.

 Favorite Bluegrass acts like the Gary Waldrep Band are brought in from all over the country to play at this thirty-nine year homecoming.

 A covered market place offers souvenirs and recorded music.

Saturday night was topped off with rising bluegrass performer, Dylan Hall, thought by some fans to be representative of the future of bluegrass music...

The centerpiece event Sunday was a worshipful Gospel music concert... just one major distinction which makes this event something to support and emulate. Look forward to a similar event every MEMORIAL DAY.

America has been brought to her knees in many ways... but there is a window of opportunity as events like this prove that there can still be hope for our people and our culture...  Art and music and fellowship can be a powerful testimony for God and country... IF we support them. I'm in!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Legendary Names Sing to Preserve a Legend with the Blues Country Band!

Joe Tex II in Navasota

The Navasota VFW Hall hosted its second fund-raiser for the proposed Joe Tex statue and this time I was lucky enough to attend. I took so many photos... and then my computer crashed... and it took me this long to get around to looking at, cropping and posting them!

Jett McFalls: Play that funky music white boy!

This was a very special night for me... getting to see Joe Tex II perform again... I'm so glad he found me painting on the street on that Saturday afternoon and reminded me about the concert.. I'm getting where I crash every evening at around dinner time and rest is all I care about. But I promised him I would be there... even if it was going to go past my bedtime...

           Archie Bell
There were several warm up acts, all very good, and I did not know most of their names so I need help with that... SOME of the entertainers were Joe's kinsmen Neil Tex and Wymon "Bodacious" Armstead, formerly of Navasota, and David Karoska, Mark Powell, Carlos Sanchez, and Eugene Jones.  I did recognize one familiar face however, Richard Lipscomb, grandson of Mance Lipscomb playing bass... But the big news of the night for many of us was to get to see Archie Bell. Archie Bell and the Drells were hot on the radio when I was just as little kid, and getting to see this Texas legend sing in person was a real privilege. And baby, he is still hot!

Bell is a veteran performer and instinctively knows how to give a photographer what he wants, hence my shots of him were primo...

Joe Tex II, not so much, frolicking around in the crowd just like his dad did, IN THE DARK, and I hate using a flash... but he gave a great show. When he belts out Show Me there is no doubt what tree his little acorn fell out of.

Blues Country Band: Jett, George, Dave and Smokey
BUT, perhaps the greatest surprise of the evening and one of great pride for me personally was when I learned about the band hired to back these two great performers... no less than the Blues Country Band, formerly the Blues Alley Cats, who jammed and honed their sound in our weekly music jams at Blues Alley for a couple of years. They have ARRIVED!

Blues Country Band (The Faux Drells!?) poses with Joe Tex II and Archie Bell.
Blues Country did their own set and backed up two great acts as well, so they really earned their keep. Anyway, all of this was to raise money to help pay for a proposed sculpture monument of Joe's father, Joe Tex, the famous soul singer of the sixties and seventies,  who lived and died right here in Navasota.
Thanks to Joe Tex II & Carlos Sanchez for all the names of the musicians.