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:

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Gathering of Angels- in Whitehall, Texas.

My friend Faber McMullen has perhaps the most eclectic and exotic circle of friends of anyone I have ever met. After spending many a Sunday afternoon in worship at his home, I have come to expect almost anything, from the sublime to the ridiculous. So when invited to come and be entertained by his Chinese friends on Saturday evening,  I came with a certain sense of adventure. But I did not expect to fall into a thrill, both human and artistic, never to be forgotten...

It all started with a sumptuous meal made by expert hands, authentic Chinese food from Xinjiang. Then four radiant Chinese ladies came out in native costume and danced as their ancient ancestors must have, as beautiful Chinese music filled the living room. It was a Holy moment. I think everyone felt it. I was sure God was smiling.

Some of our American girls joined them and got a lesson in Himalayan folk dancing, creating a precious sight...

THIS is what Heaven will be like some day.

Soon the men joined in the moment of cultural exchange; doctor, lawyer and Indian chief... well Nick Falco our obligatory cowboy represented both sides of the wild west. It was a hoot. And very significant in a symbolic way. 

This IS what Heaven will be like. People of every race and gender and culture-  praising and frolicking and worshiping God in their own tongues... and in their own way... and for Eternity!

I can't wait! Thank you to the McMullens for sharing this wonderful glimpse of the pure joy of Heaven.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Nutcracker! Majestic. At Rudder!

I'm more Mantracker or weed-whacker than Nutcracker, but this was eye candy for anyone with a trace of good taste... Besides, the Nutcracker ballet is not really about a nutcracker!

For exactly sixty years people have enjoyed various versions of the Nutcracker ballet as an American classic holiday tradition, ever since the Russian George Balanchine adapted Tchaikovsky's 1892 score to the modern stage. ABC40 sent me and the crew to the Rudder Auditorium on the Texas A&M campus to catch the local ballet company's rendition of it. My crew got trapped in a festive traffic quagmire outside... but luckily I got a parking place just in time to catch their performance...

In Texas we pride ourselves with town names like Winchester and Cut and Shoot, and The Nutcracker fits right in. The show really got cranking when they pulled out their swords and started hacking.  Believe it or not, the first performance of this ballet was a failure, and Tchaikovsky was very displeased with his creation, having been given some artistically restraining creative boundaries. That should be an inspiration to every struggling artist.

Look at it now! No matter the story, which is sort of a Christmas toy fantasy, I knew this would be a crowd pleaser for these Aggies. I may not now much about dance but I know athleticism and grace when I see it... Ballet is the epitome of artistic discipline.

The mix of grace and perfection would make anybody watch while forgetting to breathe. Still, the dancers wore genuine smiles of joy as if they were really having fun. That is the mark of natural talent... or just obliviousness to it. Either way it was a joy to watch. 

A packed crowd inside Rudder Auditorium endured the cold, impossible parking and busily milling crowds who were attending multiple campus events to get a glimpse of this ballet mega-hit. But there were many smiles and stares of wonder in the audience. The Christmas season had begun.

THAT'S what I'm talkin' about! This was a prima ballerina worthy of the name.

She was exquisite, and if she was  not actually enjoying herself, then she is a great actress as well.

It went really fast... before you knew it they were done. And I was finally learning how to photograph them!

They always give them flowers at the end... and it never seems like enough for all that work.

BRAVO! I failed to get a program, so if somebody wants to give me some names I would love to recognize these artists... This was a real jump-start for getting into the Holiday spirit. But they are going to need a much bigger auditorium when the word finally gets out about the quality of art you can see right here in the Brazos Valley.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Catherine Kaleel- Basic Values

A portrait by Catherine Kaleel.

Catherine Kaleel is another one of the artists in residence at the Horlock Gallery in Navasota. She works in oil on plywood. At 34 years she is the veteran in the house and has finally zeroed in on several things. She is a painter. She likes basic things, and she paints with a fairly limited palette, using her own version of primary colors, as she seeks to find signature traces of humanity in simple things... Catherine wonders about the artisans who designed the objects she paints. She edifies something like an electric soldering iron as an example of the material culture of a past generation...

Kaleel is passionate as she explains her interest in the design inherent in everyday things.  

 Yes... that is a painting of a cassette tape. 


Catherine is a relatively young artist with some old school expertise. She draws quite well. On  her canvas you can detect notations that have been used by portrait artists since ancient times to attain proper proportion. With these she can create a stunning likeness of another person. She also has good command of color.

Catherine understands the importance of excellent lighting within the design to achieve a compelling painting. She takes scores of photographs experimenting with the best possible lighting on a subject.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Woolscapes and Other Discoveries in Navasota: Horlock Gallery

There are three new artists occupying the historic Horlock House on Washington Avenue in Navasota, now dubbed the Horlock Gallery and History Museum. In an effort to make the house relevant to the community, the City of Navasota has transformed the house into an artist’s gallery and living quarters for three lucky artists who are selected every six months. 

Right now the house is occupied by Lisa Urban of Salina, Kansas, Catherine Kaleel of California, and Mick Burson from Waco. These artists were juried and selected from a large number of aspiring artists around the country, who applied for the opportunity. They recently hung individual exhibits of their artwork in various parlors of the spacious Victorian house where they now live and work. After their opening Saturday, two of them graciously agreed to talk some about their stay as artists-in-residence in a small town in Texas…

Lisa Urban speaks enthusiastically about her art and her stay in Navasota.

Lisa Urban is just a little excited about it all… Here is some video of our interview... (sorry, you have turn up the volume all the way!)

Lisa has entered into a journey uniquely her own, producing what I like to call "Urban woolscapes" from lighted set-ups which she creates...

The focus of Lisa Urban's studies is wool, weavings, yarn... arranged in dramatic ways, such as the still- life above...

The lighted still-life might inspire a major work of surrealism, such as this one, or the smaller studies surrounding it.

Lisa explains the steps in her artistic process...

Lisa talks about the Horlock Artists-in-Residence project...

Mick Burson was more laid back, and yet his message was very similar. Both artists seemed to be truly appreciative of the opportunity to work in this environment... 

Rather than focus on a family of related subjects, Mick is constantly looking for that element which he has not considered before, that which the rest of us might never consider, a path less taken.

Burson went on to explain that for him a main point or satisfaction of his art is this freedom… to explore and produce whatever he wants… such as the “obnoxious” timeline with paintings stacked one on top of the other, rendered with latex house paint, some of them partially made from concrete, nails and metal scraps... and then inserted into a minimalist twelve foot column reaching all the way to the ceiling. Mick Burson likes to explore boundaries and use the materials and the space, wherever it is, which he finds in front of him. This is a man who appreciates the little things in life...

Mick takes things as they come. He left (for instance) his studies at the University of North Texas in Denton to engage in this unique six-month program in Navasota.  He tries to use things which he finds in his everyday life in his art, and he does not let the business or commercial aspect of art affect his artistic journey.

Portraits by Catherine Kaleel

Catherine Kaleel has a couple of different forms of artistic expression. One is a stunning portrait technique, with a true gift for capturing a human likeness. The other is an almost photo-realistic approach to rendering studies of relatively obsolete modern objects, such as random cassette tapes or power tools. The contrast between the two is arresting; the nobility and power of the human soul juxtaposed against the ultimate refuse of planned obsolescence. She fittingly studies her humans with a fresh, lively, almost impressionistic style, and yet the manufactured items with technical precision.

Her portraits are exceptional. They might be called her "bread and butter" business, while she develops her artistic vision based somewhat on the story inanimate objects can tell, or perhaps the stories we subjectively attach to them. A little older than the other two, Kaleel has worked in the art world for a decade and welcomes the chance to get a change of scenery and the stimulation of hanging out in a new environment.

A stroll through the galleries at the Horlock House seems to produce a recurrent theme by these different artists from different places in the United States, and that is re-purposing, or recycling. The popular causes instilled by our American educators are surfacing in the paintings by their students, in paintings portraying discarded material culture, or paintings done with recycled materials, or paintings showing the intrinsic beauty of everyday craft and construction materials.

This is an old theme with an new look, truly reflecting the resourcefulness of the American spirit, hearkening back to when tramps made lamps from popsicle sticks and grandmas wove gorgeous rugs from discarded cotton rags. Now the latest generation of artists reminds us of that pioneer eye, then governed by necessity, which craved and created beauty and utility, and gave new meaning to everyday things.

Sunday, November 9, 2014


The 2014 Drums Along the Brazos Drumline Contest was held at Cougar Stadium in College Station and hosted riveting performances by High School bands from all over central Texas. There were performances from 11:00 Saturday until late in the afternoon, beginning with Bastrop High School and including Lorena, Italy, Teague, Holland, Madisonville, McGregor, Blanco, Elgin, College Station, Belton and of course its host, A&M Consolidated. Cypress Woods ended the marathon of the thunder at 4:00.

My Intro...

When some of these bands enter into the stadium,  it takes on the appearance of an army... Belton's "Marching 100" was quite stately rolling in with its artillery.

Check out the dramatic performance demonstrated by this drum line from McGregor High School.

And McGregor's got soul man! Check out that drumstick twirling!

Blanco was not to be outdone, firing away on all cylinders...

There was something for everybody...

And I mean EVERYBODY! I think this unusually creative performance was from Elgin High School... Yes, that is a blue plastic bucket!

They had a regular band as well... with a light-footed, hard-driving drum line...

It would be hard to be the judge when considering such well planned and executed performances by such talented musicians.  Winners or losers, this is one battle that will have TO BE CONTINUED!