Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Favorite paintings*

Lee Baxter Davis, "The Essentials of Love", 18 by 22 inches, ink and watercolor on paper.

For over thirty years Lee Baxter Davis was a professor (he's now retired) at my alma mater, East Texas State University (now Texas A&M Commerce). I actually had him as a teacher in a woodcut class. We had a pretty rocky teacher-student relationship since his was one of the last classes I was taking before graduation, and I never understood why such a class was on my degree plan, since woodcuts were the last thing to possibly interest me or to have any relevance to the direction I was going. Lee, of course, thought it was the most important class ever. It was at seven-thirty in the morning, plus I was going through some weird personal stuff, never mind the stress of trying to get out of school once and for all, so conflict was, I suppose, inevitable. Lee also had a dim view of communication arts, which was my major, so that only added to the tension.

That said, I always admired his work, and years after I was out of school as a student I returned to the University for one of their Christmas art sales. This painting, an ink and watercolor piece, was available, so I snapped it up. While it's not as wild as much of his imagery, I liked everything about it, including the "love" references. I was newly in love at that time, so it seemed to find a place in my interests.

Lee was a very successful teacher, my issues notwithstanding, influencing many disparate artists working today, including Gary Panter, the renegade punk cartoonist who is best known for his many published sketchbooks outlining life as he sees it, as well as his art direction and design for "PeeWee's Playhouse", probably the best avant garde performance art concept turned popular children's show ever made. Greg Metz, a powerful political artist who also teaches at the University of Texas at Dallas, was another of Lee's students. So was Whitney Biennial artist Trenton Doyle Hancock.

Lee's work is included in the Dallas Museum of Art and Houston's Contemporary Art Museum. He was represented in New York by the Clementine Gallery until recently. He is now living in Greenville, Texas, and, I imagine, continuing to happily explore his singular vision. I'm happy we have this painting to enjoy.

More of Lee Baxter Davis' work can be found at his website, www.leebaxterdavis.com.

*Which I also happen to own.


RRogers said...

Ray-Mel, thanks for sharing your information on Lee Baxter Davis. I am well aware of the success of some of his students however I had not ever seen his work until your post. Thanks again!

Ray-Mel Cornelius said...

You're welcome! Thanks for reading.