Reception: BOB DOUGLASS: MY LIFE IN TREES AND TOWERS ON THE PLAINS
Exhibit December 15-January 16, 2021 Reception: Sunday, December 19, 4-6 p.m. Robert Douglass: Towers on the Plains Location: Bridge Gallery The landmarks of Robert Douglass’ youth were the towering grain elevators, church
Exhibit December 15-January 16, 2021
Reception: Sunday, December 19, 4-6 p.m.
Robert Douglass: Towers on the Plains
Location: Bridge Gallery
The landmarks of Robert Douglass’ youth were the towering grain elevators, church steeples, and massive barns of Western Nebraska, architectural exclamation marks on the wide plains. They surely influenced his choice of a profession. As an architect practicing in Houston, he made many drives “home,” through the Panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma, on through Kansas to McCook in Southwestern Nebraska, and to Lincoln where he served on a board at the university. On these drives he sketched or photographed many fine examples of this indigenous architecture. Ten or so years ago, he says, “I began painting my impressions of these prairie icons. It became an exercise of nostalgia as most of those grand elevators and barns gradually disappeared – replaced by shiny metal prefabs.”
National Book Award winner Wright Morris, a fellow ex-Nebraskan, shares his fascination:
“There’s a simple reason for grain elevators, as there is for everything, but the force behind the reason, the reason for the reason, is the land and the sky. There’s too much sky out here, for one thing, too much horizontal, too many lines without stops, so that the exclamation, the perpendicular, had to come. Anyone who was born and raised on the plains knows that the high false front on the Feed Store, and the white water tower, are not a question of vanity. It’s a problem of being. Of knowing you are there. On a good day, with a slanting sun, a man can walk to the edge of his town and see the light on the next town, ten miles away. In the sea of corn, that flash of light is like a sail. It reminds a man the place is still inhabited. I know what it is Ishmael felt, or Ahab, for that matter – these are whales of the great sea of grass.” The Home Place, Wright Morris, 1948
Robert Douglass: My Life in Trees
Location: Hall Gallery
As a young architectural designer, Robert Douglass took great pride in the drawings he did for clients to illustrate his design proposals, and his clients always found them persuasive. But a problem nagged – he hated the convention that required him to draw trees and bushes on top of the pristine renderings of my designs. “And, he says, “My trees were, well, embarrassing. In fact, I hated my trees! It was frustrating! But my practice grew, and soon my responsibility to direct project teams and see to an increasing number of clients took precedence over spending my time doing renderings; I gave someone else that job. Professional success followed but the frustration persisted…Why can’t I draw a decent tree?! It hounded me into my retirement and to move to Georgetown.”
Douglass joined clubs of local artists – Central Texas Pastel Society, Sun City Visual Arts, the Austin Pastel Society – all with the single hope that by immersing himself in these talent pools he might finally learn to draw or paint a tree he didn’t despise. “This has been a long and arduous ‘quest,’” he says, “but what was once a burden – drawing a darned old tree – has become an affair of the heart. Trees, I’ve learned, are endlessly individual, often sensual, strongly expressive, reliably beautiful or brawny and seductively mysterious. The paintings in this show continue my exploration of these qualities.”
Robert Douglass, DDes, FAIA, works primarily in oil, pastel and acrylics; his subjects are landscapes. His subjects, other than trees, are often rural scenes and trees are often essential elements of the composition. Many subjects recall my life growing up on the plains of Western Nebraska, as well as rural scenes from Central Texas and the Gunnison Valley of Colorado. He often works from photographs and occasionally en plein air, but in either event, he says, “The painting eventually overwhelms the reference and tells me what it wants to be.
“My work is impressionistic, but I find inspiration in the abstract expressionists of the 1950’s and 60’s as well as Degas, Monet, Sargent et al. Drawing was important in my early career in architecture, but I began painting seriously around the year 2010. I have taken more than 40 workshops with distinguished artists in many parts of the country, mostly en plein air. Among the fine Texas artists are Bob Rohm, Rusty Jones, Denise Mahlke, Jane Jones, Ann Templeton (deceased), Dalhart and Michael Windberg, Jeri Salter and Mike Etie. In recent years I have enjoyed several working sessions with Albert Handell in his Santa Fe studio.”
Robert Douglass’ work has received more than 40 awards in local and regional competitions and is held in several private collections. More information and images are available at douglassarts.com.
(Sunday) 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Georgetown Public Library
402 W 8th St, Georgetown, TX 78626