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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.

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