Publisher Letter: April 2022

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Dearest EXPLORE reader,

I wish I could be an art aficionado. I want to be able to stare for hours at a particular piece, digest all of its nuances, and discuss eternally the techniques, the inspiration, and the influences on an artist. I know people that do this, and I find it immensely fascinating.
It’s like they’re a member of a private club. They UNDERSTAND, ya know. They get that art is a priceless endeavor, and they can appreciate it far better than I can. They study art, the artists, and understand what good art is and what is not. As for me? I look at art, and I like it or I don’t. I couldn’t really tell you why, though. I can look at a painting of a city scene and say “Golly, that’s nice.” The aficionado will roll his eyes and say “You can see the artist’s statement on the American Industrial age, and you can see his conflict of color against the light of the scene. This artist was a master of light and water techniques as evidenced by the way the city lights reflect off of the puddles on the asphalt.” And I nod my head as if I understand a damn thing he just said.

The Hill Country is jam-packed with some fantastic artists. No, AMAZING artists. They work in every medium from watercolors to sculpture to music. And they create art that is breathtaking. But is “art” what is produced, or is the producing of the art the REAL art?
My late friend Bill Zaner painted landscapes. Big, giant, beautiful landscape paintings. He was world renowned, and his art sells for zillions. I think they’re very pretty. My art aficionado friends go on and on about his technique and his use of light, and clouds, and on and on. But I’ve seen Bill actually create one of those big landscapes, and the true art for me is watching his very elderly hands delicately paint a mesquite tree in a Big Bend vista painting. His brush barely touches the canvas, and he performs a little wiggle with the brush, and BAM – a perfect mesquite tree. I could spend hours trying to replicate that technique, and it would look like I drew it with a crayon. It’s really amazing the skill that humans can hone, and perfect. And that is ART.

I have another friend, Jon Whitaker, that plays guitar. I have his CD around here somewhere. I enjoy the music, and tap my feet, but I’m distracted and it’s background noise. But I watched Jon play at a local wine bar one time, and was transfixed. He plays all of these crazy chords, many of them I’ve never even heard of before. He bangs on his guitar with one hand in a rhythmic beat, and plays the guitar chords one-handed. It’s insane. I could watch him do it all night. And while I can appreciate his CD, it’s nothing compared to watching him CREATE the art of his music.

People are pretty simple, I’ve decided. We just like to see, hear, and experience art. But I don’t think it’s really the art we appreciate, it’s LIFE. The ultimate ART. We see the beauty in the art, but we see the inspiration in the creation. We see the years of practice, the study, the deep respect the artist has for his creation. We can relate to failing over and over again to perfect a skill, and it causes us to truly appreciate the art that is, essentially, perfect.

But I’ve also decided art is everywhere. And deeply personal. I like to sit on the picnic tables by the Dodging Duck and just watch the world go by. The other day a young woman came and sat at the picnic table as far away from anyone as she could get. She sat down, the wind blowing her hair slightly. Within a few minutes, she was sobbing quietly. Face in her hands, she sobbed. It was a private moment for her, but it was also deeply emotional for me. What could be bothering her so much? Did someone hurt her? Will she be ok? If I looked at a painting of that moment, I would say “What a sad painting”. Having seen the moment live and in person, I would say “It was a heartbreaking moment.” And the image is eternally mine. And hers, as well.

I also like to take in the view from the back porch of my house. I can see for miles across a beautiful Texas landscape of tree tops and gentle meadows, and I love it. You could paint me that picture, and I would probably think it looks like every other Hill Country landscape that exists. However, as I sit out there and hear the wind in the trees, and hear the birds chirping, and as I watch a squirrel zipping this way and that, it’s impossible to reproduce. Which makes it MINE. And while it’s not on a canvas somewhere, it’s locked in the vault of my mind, and it’s the most beautiful art that has ever been captured.

I suppose that we find the beauty where we seek it. Just watching a young family skip across Main Street while holding hands and laughing is beautiful. The shadows, the colors, the wind…it would make an amazing painting, but since I can’t paint…I guess I just try to appreciate it for what it is – a visual snapshot that I try to store away after appreciating it for a moment and making me smile a little, or after making my heart feel a little softer. And these moments are wherever you seek to find them.

Art is life. Life is art. And all art is personal, and selfish, and quietly inspiring. Just like life should be.

Get out there and find your ART. EXPLORE the beauty that is all around you, and take note. Whether it’s on canvas, or produced by the hands of a musician, or found on a picnic table by the river, take a moment this summer to appreciate the wonders of our world that happen all around each of us. Even if you don’t know why you appreciate the art, that’s ok. Just know that it’s out there, and it’s waiting for you.

Smiling,

Ben Schooley