Category Archives: Interview

LEE BAXTER DAVIS, A Lifelong Expedition of Discovery

Lee Baxter Davis was born in Bryan, Texas on October 20, 1939.  He was raised by his grandparents who were devout Methodists, so going to church was an expectant family activity.  When the sermons got a little too long for a five-year-old, his grandmother would offer him paper and pencil to hold his attention.  So, from an early age, his drawings were informed by words about heaven and hell.  What his grandmother could not have known at the time, was that the combination of the biblical stories he heard, and the drawing materials she had provided, sparked a lifelong expedition of discovery, introspection, and insights he would eventually pass on to generations of art students.

Lifelong Expedition of Discovery - Cartoon vignettes on the life of St. Clair
Life of St. Clair, 1982 mixed-media

Growing up in rural East Texas towns, Lee’s art library and gallery were the racks of comic books and paper backs in the local drug store.  From these, he taught himself rendering and began to create complex and portentous narrative drawings.  The subjects of these works were drawn from his imagination and inspired by myth and the origin stories of Adam and Eve and Noah.  These early drawings helped to shape the foundation of what was to become his artistic point of view.  After graduating high school, he joined the regular army and worked as a medic in post cease-fire Korea where he developed the habit of keeping sketch book diaries.

Lifelong Expedition of Discovery - abstract image on paper with a green square in the middle
Pod Pox, 1985 mixed-media
College and Beyond 

After his tour of duty, he attended Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas.  Despite initially wanting to be a painter, he continued to focus his attention on drawing, and because of the innate graphic quality of his work, his art teachers urged him to explore printmaking instead of painting.

Lifelong Expedition of Discovery - image of the bust portion of a woman
Nude Bust, 1882 mixed-media

Upon graduating from Sam Houston State with a BS, Lee continued his education at Cranbrook Academy in Michigan where he received an MFA in printmaking.  In 1969 Lee took a position at East Texas State University in Commerce, Texas to teach printmaking and quickly added a course in drawing to his teaching load.  It was not easy teaching concepts of narrative representational art when the rest of the academic world seemed to revolve around Abstract Expressionism; but, over his teaching career, Lee seemed to have been a magnet for students who appreciated what and how he taught.  By 1990, his personal interest in printmaking started to wain in favor of working with ink, pencil, watercolor, and acrylic, because these mediums allowed for more spontaneity and direct access to his, as he calls them, “Psychology Drama Drawings.”

Lifelong Expedition of Discovery - Image of man with fishing pole standing in a creek
Columbus in America, 1985 mixed-media

Over time, Lee’s interest in symbolism and religious ritual directed him towards Catholicism. Many of the Biblical stories were the same but the sacramental rituals provided a more complex structure for his temperament and ultimately a more fertile mythology from which to draw inspiration.  Having been, from early age, made aware of the protestant view of Heaven and Hell, the mythos of Catholic sacramentality provided a comprehensive visual construct. Lee retired from teaching as a full professor in 2003 to devote more time to his church and studio.

Lifelong Expedition of Discovery - Strange surreal scene with a man, a creature and a duck
There Is No Void, 1994, mixed-media
Detail of a the head of a man in the image above
Detail of: There Is No Void, 1994, mixed-media
Inspiration:

Early on, Lee would devise ways to develop his memory, visual acuity, and drawing skills.  Expressing his point of view regarding memory, he said, “It is remembering, not dismembering, that opens the door to collective memory, the source of all symbol and myth.”

Lifelong Expedition of Discovery - work divided into two parts, with an illuminated manuscript and calendar
Dancing Elephant, 1995, mixed-media

With this construct in mind, he would often look at an object for several moments and then attempt to draw it from memory without reviewing it until he was finished, “to not become image bound.”  Lee said that by drawing, “you are teaching your mind to think in contour and line.  This allows you to work with your inner eye as well as your outer sight.”

Lifelong Expedition of Discovery - Man riding on a fish
Disembarkation, 1995, mixed-media
Detail of the upper part of the image above
Detail of: Disembarkation, 1995, mixed-media
Detail of: Disembarkation, the image above
Detail of: Disembarkation, 1995, mixed-media

Throughout the early part of his career, unsatisfied with drawing the ubiquitous still life or landscape, Lee would search for unusual ways to generate personal images.   While teaching at East Texas State, he was invited to sit in on an English class where many types of unusual story-mapping techniques were discussed.  As Lee described it, they talked about a way to generate a paragraph where one randomly chooses a noun, and then made a chart under the noun with 8 lines.  On each line, was to be placed 8 randomly created words.  Then all these words were to then be combined to create a paragraph.  Lee further developed this technique to generate subject ideas for his work, narrative drawings of personally generated mythological events.

All surfaces should be activated into a dynamic, not just balanced composition. This is a fundamental aesthetic.  Here in lies the energy of the piece that gives presence to the personal, place and event of the narrative.  Dynamic composition makes the work more engaging than just recording of object.

Currently, Lee explores other techniques to manifest new subject ideas, such as his practice of visual meditation, a spiritual exercise of Jesuit origin.  Lee explains, “My technique begins with a statement or title.  Visualizing in my imagination and interpreting in a drawing provides an entry point into the pictorial space that creates a connection influenced by feelings, dreams, and reality.  Inspired by this visualization, I begin by ‘disturbing the picture plane’.”

Lifelong Expedition of Discovery - Tiger standing on two root-connected disembodied feet
Golden Fruit, 1999, mixed -media
Studio Practice

Lee will sometimes start by making a sketch or two of an idea, often to scale, and then move on to the mysterious part, disturbing the “pristine psychic window,” the clean white sheet of paper that is tacked to the drawing board on his easel.  Once the drawing process is initiated, Lee lets the work take on a life of its own and his job is to “essentially follow it” wherever it may lead, “often moving away from the threshold sutra to the more elusive ‘psychological drama’ of the mythos.  At this point further source material taken from sketch diaries may come into play.”

My drawings are compositions of recall.  Remembering is putting together an act of imagination that’s origin is found in the architypes. 

I asked Lee if he works on more than one drawing at a time.  He responded that he is normally working on three; one on the easel and the most recent two tacked up on the wall in order of completion behind him.  When he is satisfied with the last drawing of the three, it is removed and the second drawing is moved to the third-place position, and when the final touches are done to the one on the easel and it is judged finished, it is moved to the number two spot and a new “pristine psychic window” is tacked to his easel bound drawing board.

Lifelong Expedition of Discovery - Landscape with strange objects
Bell Truck, 1999, mixed-media

Today, Lee works on hot press BFK (Blanchet, Frères & Kiebler) Rives paper.  He says it is not too absorbent so it will hold both an ink line and properly receive a watercolor or acrylic wash.  He typically starts with a Black/Warm Universal ink and a graphite 2b pencil, and blenders.  Then he will often apply watercolor, both palette and tube, and acrylic paint, mainly white and blue colors, because they can be opaque, and occasionally he will use watercolor pencils.

My art is never objective but always subject.  I try to use objects (images) to reveal a subject.

Accolades

Lee’s work can be found in the permanent collections of the Dallas Museum of Art, the Contemporary Museum of Art in Houston, the Arkansas Museum of Fine Art in Little Rock, and the Haas Private Museum and Gallery in Munich, Germany.  In March of 2009, he was one of four artists representing the four major geographical areas of Texas in the Texas Biennial in Austin.

Lifelong Expedition of Discovery - Nude figure running towards the sea
A Boat With Avocados, 2001, mixed-media
Epilogue

In the modern Western Teacher/Student relationship paradigm, it is normal for a teacher and those who know their relationship to think that the student will always live in the shadow of the teacher and will rarely be thought of as their equal or to have surpassed their ability.  In ancient China, the Teacher/Student paradigm was almost exactly the opposite.  A teacher was considered successful and was venerated when a student surpassed the teacher’s skill level and technical ability.  They were expected to push the next generation of artists to exceed their abilities.

Judging by the success of many of Lee’s students, and the high regard they hold him in, years after they graduated, Lee’s impact on their careers has been more than measurable.  Time and time again, they show their appreciation by testifying to Lee’s contribution to their ongoing success as artists.  In an online announcement of an exhibition of Lee’s work at the Meadows Museum at Centenary College, posted February 6, 2017, there is a quote that reads, California artist Georganne Deen relates a time when a student argued with Davis over whether a work was “good enough.” The student challenged, “If it gets you on the cover of Art in America would it be good enough?” Davis responded, “Depends on whether your motive for making it was to be on the cover of an art magazine or to push the wheel of evolution.”

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To see all available FAE Collector Blog Posts, jump to the Collector Blog Table of Contents.

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For comments about this blog or suggestions for a future post, contact Kevin at kvogel@fineartestates.com.

Learn more about the artists whose work you will find on FAE:

DONALD  S. VOGEL, His Philosophy and Studio Practice
Artist standing in her studioECHERYL D. McCLURE, Freedom through Abstraction
An image of the artistELLEN SODERQUIST & Drawing the Nude
Detail image of an Otis Huband painting, there is a sculpture of a nude female torso in the center of the interior of a studioOTIS HUBAND: A Consummate Artist
Landscape of a farm house and a windmill by William ElliottDallas Painter WILLIAM ELLIOTT (1909-2001)
photo of a young Valton Tyler smoking a cigarette in the printroom at SMUThree Important Early Paintings by VALTON TYLER
Photo of the printmaker working in his studioYUKIO FUKAZAWA: Master Printmaker
A mixed-media work on paper by M. J. LeeM. J. LEE Estate Gifts to the Amon Carter Museum
An early painting of a male deer standing in the foreground of a deep rugged landscapeEarly Career Paintings by JIM STOKER: The Eternal Naturalist
a brush, pen and ink landscape drawing by Everett SpruceDrawings from the Estate of EVERETT FRANKLIN SPRUCE: Texas’ Most Celebrated Modernist
Watercolor and collage of an abstracted landscape by M. LeeMARJORIE JOHNSON LEE, An American Modernist
Photograph of John Albok with his cameraIntroduction to the photographs of JOHN ALBOK, Part II: the Photographic Archives Collection

 

 

Ellen Soderquist and Drawing the Nude

FAE is pleased to offer artworks by Dallas artist Ellen Soderquist. Ellen has been working as an artist since 1973, and has been teaching life drawing classes since 1979.  Highly respected as an artist and educator, Ellen is known for her exquisitely rendered and highly developed graphite drawings of the nude figure.  She teaches life drawing and lectures on the nude as a form of art explored by artists throughout history.

Ellen in the Studio, 1983
First Inspirations

Ellen Soderquist was raised in Texarkana, TX, where she showed an artistic inclination from a young age.  Because Ellen’s father was a photographer, there was always art on the walls of their home while she was growing up.  Along with his photographs, there were also drawings and watercolors by other artists, and they had artbooks in their library.  However, her favorite book was not an artbook, it was her mother’s copy of Gregg Shorthand.  She told me she “loved looking at that book and all those squiggles.  Before I learned to write, I remember writing pages and pages of squiggles.”  With amusement, her mother would later read the imaginary letters to her.

In Kindergarten, Ellen was inspired by one of her teachers who illustrated children’s books.  She would often draw her students while they were playing at recess.  During naptime, she would let Ellen peer over her shoulder to watch her draw.  Watching an artist work made quite an impression on her.

Image of a 2008 graphite on paper drawing of a nude figure and her shadow
Shadow Play: Yvette’s Gloves, 2008, Graphite on Coventry Rag paper
Why the Nude?

Ellen’s first formal art training was at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.  Unfortunately, she found her first drawing class, where they worked from still life setups, so tedious she nearly switched majors.  It was not until she first started drawing the nude from a live model that Ellen was “hooked.”  Even though life drawing was only “taught to discipline and train the eye and hand,” like the still life setups that had totally bored her, she completely embraced the challenge of drawing from the model.  She was fascinated with the discovery that “the slightest movement or nuance of pose can change everything.” To Ellen, this was a revelation.

Even though Life Drawing was not emphasized in SMU’s art program, Ellen was intent on pursuing drawing the figure. This discipline was only required for two semesters, but Ellen was able to outwit the Registrar by finding a way to take a life drawing class every semester.

The course load emphasized what Ellen refers to as the “isms,” studying abstraction, expressionism, and minimalism. These influences can be seen in Ellen’s rendering of the figure in the void, using a minimalist background to draw the viewer’s consideration to only the figure and what is being said through the body and its pose.

Vittoria Colonna #2 (yellow), 1985, Graphite and Nupastel on Rag Paper

Ellen received her Bachelor of Science in Art Education from Texas Tech University in 1968. Her portfolio included expressionistic paintings, watercolors, prints, drawings, and a few abstractions and landscapes – but more than anything the nude was the dominant theme throughout her portfolio.

In 1971, Ellen went to Austin to work for the University of Texas.  As an employee, she was able to take classes for free, so she signed up for a life drawing class in the UT Art Department.  At the same time, she was reading Kenneth Clark’s book, The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form, and came across the concept that the nude is not just a subject, but is a form of art. These realizations cemented her direction as an artist, and she decided that her art was “the nude”.

Odd Jobs and Influences

The University of Texas hired Ellen as an illustrator for academic papers and projects.  Her first job on campus was working for Gérard de Vaucouleurs in the astronomy department. Ellen was part of a team of artists that worked for NASA through the university to draw maps of Mars under the supervision of Dr. de Vaucouleurs. They worked from the Mariner 9 photographs of Mars’ topography to add in the planet’s albedo, or light and dark markings, with graphite.  Their work was published in Sky and Telescope magazine.  Ellen’s second job in Austin was working for the Zoology department, making illustrations for the professors’ published articles.  For this job she worked in ink on a kind of mylar called Herculene.

Ellen’s quadrant of the Mars albedo project, published in Sky and Telescope magazine

Both illustration jobs helped Ellen hone her drawing skills and define her later working practice.  While rendering her illustrations of fauna at the Zoology department Ellen became accustomed to working on mylar, and from the Astronomy department she worked with graphite. Drawing extensively with these materials led Ellen to her “particular technique” when she moved to Dallas and became a professional artist.

In her Dallas studio, 1983, this photo illustrates how Ellen sharpened her graphite and pencils in the same way that she learned from drawing Mars’ albedo.

In 1981 Ellen was awarded a $2,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.  With that money, she purchased a drafting table and used the rest to produce a series of three lithographs in collaboration with Texas’ finest fine art print shop at the time, Peregrine Press.

Ellen in the studio, working on lithostone in 1982.
Controversy and Censorship

Ellen knew that her choice of subject matter would occasionally cause controversy.  She recalled her first group exhibit at DuBose Gallery in Houston, where she was confronted by a gallery patron who labeled her artwork as pornographic.  Ellen said she spent time visiting with the woman explaining what her artwork was about.  She was pleased to learn later that the woman had purchased one of her drawings.

Image of a 2008 graphite on paper drawing of a figure's torso from the side
Jamie’s Torso, 2008, Graphite on Arches Paper

In 1981, Ellen was surprised that one of her works was removed from an exhibition at the Plaza of the Americas, an office building in downtown Dallas.  The show’s sponsor, The Texas Fine Art Association, had awarded the work second prize.  One of the people in charge of the building decided to exclude five works from the exhibit, including Ellen’s, saying that they were inappropriate for public view.  Ralph Kahn, a Dallas dealer who was known to not shy away from controversy, offered to exhibit the five “inappropriate” works in his gallery.  Bill Marvel, art critic for the Dallas Times Herold, wrote an article about the incident titled, “No Nudes is Good Nudes.”

Dallas Times Herald article, “No Nudes is Good Nudes,” April 4, 1981

Ellen believes that people who react to her work in this way do not understand her intention. She wants “the graphite to feel like flesh on the surface of the mylar.”  She wants the gesture to convey the figure’s inner spirit to the viewer.

An Artist’s Voice

These encounters deeply affected Ellen. She wants her figures to communicate a sense of strength, intellect, and capability.  The critiques that she is most pleased with describe her figures as “intelligent, sensual, highly developed, elegant, and provocative.”  She has examined attitudes about the nude throughout the history of art and sees this art form as a means of “understanding our humanity.”

In numerous series of artwork, Ellen has pursued a conceptual itinerary that spans the gamut of human emotions and relationships and she has explored contemporary attitudes about the nude as well as those of other cultures throughout the history of art. She strives to bring the complex relevance of the unclothed human body to the consciousness of contemporary culture.

*****

Available artworks by Ellen Soderquist on FAE

Detail image of an Otis Huband painting, there is a sculpture of a nude female torso in the center of the interior of a studioOTIS HUBAND: A Consummate Artist
Landscape of a farm house and a windmill by William ElliottDallas Painter WILLIAM ELLIOTT (1909-2001)
photo of a young Valton Tyler smoking a cigarette in the printroom at SMUThree Important Early Paintings by VALTON TYLER
Photo of the printmaker working in his studioYUKIO FUKAZAWA: Master Printmaker
An early painting of a male deer standing in the foreground of a deep rugged landscapeEarly Career Paintings by JIM STOKER: The Eternal Naturalist
a brush, pen and ink landscape drawing by Everett SpruceDrawings from the Estate of EVERETT FRANKLIN SPRUCE: Texas’ Most Celebrated Modernist
Watercolor and collage of an abstracted landscape by M. LeeMARJORIE JOHNSON LEE, An American Modernist
Photograph of John Albok with his cameraIntroduction to the photographs of JOHN ALBOK, Part II: the Photographic Archives Collection

 

 

To see all available FAE Collector Blog Posts, jump to the Collector Blog Table of Contents.

To see all available FAE Design Blog Posts,  jump to the Design Blog Table of Contents.

Sign up with FAE to receive our newsletter, and never miss a new blog post or update! 

Browse fine artworks available to purchase on FAE.  Follow us on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter to stay updated about FAE and new blog posts.

For comments about this blog or suggestions for a future post, contact Kevin at kvogel@fineartestates.com.

The FAE Collector Blog Table of Contents

The FAE Collector Blog provides easy access to more in-depth information about the Collections and Artists that appear on the FAE Website.  The FAE Collector Blog Table of Contents consists of:

  1. Most Recent Post
  2. Collections
  3. Artists

1. Most Recent Post:

Lee Baxter Davis,  A Lifelong Expedition of Discovery

 

2. Collections:

Katherine Brimberry and Mark Smith standing behind etching pressFlatbed Press: A Texas Fine Art Institution
Andy and Beckie Reisberg stand in the main exhibition space at Phonographic Archives GalleryThe Photographic Archives Collection of Andy and Becky Reisberg
Regionalist landscape watercolor by Charles T. BowlingThe Dorothy and Mat Garland Collection

 

3. Artists:

LEE BAXTER DAVIS,  A Lifelong Expedition of Discovery
DONALD  S. VOGEL, His Philosophy and Studio Practice
Artist standing in her studioECHERYL D. McCLURE, Freedom through Abstraction
An image of the artistELLEN SODERQUIST & Drawing the Nude
Detail image of an Otis Huband painting, there is a sculpture of a nude female torso in the center of the interior of a studioOTIS HUBAND: A Consummate Artist
Landscape of a farm house and a windmill by William ElliottDallas Painter WILLIAM ELLIOTT (1909-2001)
photo of a young Valton Tyler smoking a cigarette in the printroom at SMUThree Important Early Paintings by VALTON TYLER
Photo of the printmaker working in his studioYUKIO FUKAZAWA: Master Printmaker
A mixed-media work on paper by M. J. LeeM. J. LEE Estate Gifts to the Amon Carter Museum
An early painting of a male deer standing in the foreground of a deep rugged landscapeEarly Career Paintings by JIM STOKER: The Eternal Naturalist
a brush, pen and ink landscape drawing by Everett SpruceDrawings from the Estate of EVERETT FRANKLIN SPRUCE: Texas’ Most Celebrated Modernist
Watercolor and collage of an abstracted landscape by M. LeeMARJORIE JOHNSON LEE, An American Modernist
Photograph of John Albok with his cameraIntroduction to the photographs of JOHN ALBOK, Part II: the Photographic Archives Collection

 

*****

To see all available FAE Design Blog Posts,  jump to the Design Blog Table of Contents.

Sign up with FAE to receive our newsletter, and never miss a new blog post or update! 

Browse fine artworks available to purchase on FAE.  Follow us on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter to stay updated about FAE and new blog posts.

For comments about this blog or suggestions for a future post, contact Kevin at kvogel@fineartestates.com.

The Photographic Archives Collection

Part I in the Photographic Archives Blog Series:

FAE is now representing the photography collection of Andy and Beckie Reisberg, whose Photographic Archives Gallery was a fixture in Dallas, Texas from its opening in 1989 through 2006.  In their time as art dealers, Andy and Beckie befriended many of the artists they exhibited and promoted, often acquiring hundreds of an artist’s photographs for their personal collection.

The Reisbergs graciously granted an interview with us to discuss their memories of these artists, who are the focus of this blog series.  In this first installment of four, the Reisbergs share with us their background as art dealers and gallery owners.  The following three posts will focus on the friendships they had with the photographers John Albok, Myron Wood, and Andy Hanson.

Left: John Albok (1894-1982) Right: Untitled
The Darkroom

Before they were art dealers the Reisbergs spent most of their time in their darkroom on Lovers Lane in North Dallas, building a specialty photographic negative printing and print restoration service.  As the quality of their work became known and their reputation grew, they established ongoing relationships with Southern Methodist University, The University of Texas at Arlington, The Dallas Historical Society, and the Dallas Public Library.

“We were darkroom subcontractors for the main library for over 25 years.  At that same time the DeGolyer Library was fulfilling orders from the public, from their permanent collection,” Andy explains.  “I would be the one to make a copy negative of a historical print, or printing from the historical negative.  That was a wonderful relationship for about 20 years.”  When the Reisbergs decided to expand their location to open an exhibition space, their ties with these institutions provided a vast resource to draw from.

The Gallery

The Reisbergs decided to begin hosting exhibits in 1989, “for the sheer joy of photography.  Our livelihood was still in the restoration and conservation of photographs, but the gallery became a gathering place for photographers in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, in particular, photography classes from high school to college level.”  In an effort to share their excitement about everything photographic, the Reisbergs “hosted many group shows for area educators and their classes.  Our calling card for the gallery read, ‘Specializing in Regional and Historical Photograph Collections.’”

“In 1991 we occupied the remainder of our 3,000 square foot building and formalized the gallery.  From 1991 to 2006 it was a regular feature in Dallas: The Photographic Archives Gallery.  I curated over 200 shows and brought together photographers, focusing on the Southwest from Texas, New Mexico and Colorado.”

Left: “Patio In Sunlight, Abiquiu, New Mexico,” 1980 Right: Myron Wood (1921-1999)

When asked about any particularly memorable exhibitions, Andy’s first thought was an exhibition he co-curated with a friend on contemporary pinhole photography they called Gleaning Light.  He recalls, “We organized a group show, with a call for entries around the country and the world.  We had artists from Mexico and Canada participate.  It turned out to be over 100 photographs from nearly 75 photographers.  This was the first time I’d been involved in organizing such a show.  It took about a year to put that show together.”

The Reisbergs coordinated gallery talks and workshops, as well as hosting travelling shows by the Texas Photographic Society.  They often produced catalogues to accompany their exhibitions, some of which are included on FAE’s artist pages, such as Andy Hanson: Another Side and John Albok’s For the Children.

Left: Andy Hanson (1932-2008) Right: “Cab Calloway,” 1978

Works from The Photographic Archives Gallery Collection are available on FAE here.  Check back for our next blog post in the series, about the Hungarian-American photographer John Albok.  Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to stay updated about FAE and new blog posts.

*****

See all available works from the Photographic Archives Collection.

To see all available FAE Collector Blog Posts, jump to the Collector Blog Table of Contents.

To see all available FAE Design Blog Posts,  jump to the Design Blog Table of Contents.

Sign up with FAE to receive our newsletter, and never miss a new blog post or update! 

Browse fine artworks available to purchase on FAE.  Follow us on FacebookInstagram, or Twitter to stay updated about FAE and new blog posts.

For comments about this blog or suggestions for a future post, contact Kevin at kvogel@fineartestates.com.