Friday, August 23, 2013

Cotton Gin, Cotton House, and the Yonder Years of the Lone Star State

A.C. Gentry Jr.
Cotton Gin at Frankston, Texas
14 x 18”

Question: How do you see all of Texas for free and have it make a personal impression on your well-being and childhood upbringing?

Answer: Ride around with your father and uncle who are Civil Highway Engineers.

That’s exactly what a young A. C. Gentry Jr. did. 

At five years old he started to tour the rural back roads of Texas, seeing barn after barn, farmlands to ranch hands, self-built houses to bootleg shacks.  In the process, he began to draw and sketch these moments, these memories, and these nostalgic recollections.  He saw Texas being built up to become the metropolis it is today, one road and one highway at a time; continuing to explore the back roads of Texas as an adult gaining insight and understanding of the unique people and lands of this great state.

Born in Tyler, Texas 1927, Gentry’s artwork spans over five decades. A life’s worth of art that delivers picturesque and historical imagery that recalls the times long forgotten. 

Houses, barns, and landscape capture sentimental scenes of outdated but, longed-for Lone Star living.

In its curatorial exhibition summary the Tyler Museum of Art’s One Man exhibition for A.C. Gentry titled, The Past is Present: Watercolors by A.C. Gentry,  said,” his sketches and paintings record what resonates within us and preserves our memories as if they were before our eyes. He can tell you where they are – or where they were – when he made them a part of his life's work. And the past comes rushing back to us poignantly and real in the present.”

Cotton Gin at Frankston, TX is a watercolor painting that looks to be painted plein aire in the quaint backdrop of Frankston, Texas.  Deep and shallow shadows, wispy vegetation, and large swaths of color washes capture a rusted metal roofed building; a two-story gin house.

We see the rutted dirt road that circles up to the front, wheel grooves from horse drawn carts weighed down with the 400-500 lb. cotton bales that would make their way to the Galveston or Velesco port to be shipped to textile mills in New England and Great Britain.

Dry patches of undergrowth linger along the xeroscape landscape, desert vegetation of East Texas -- windblown and sun scorched. 

Awash with earth tones, Gentry adds color with browns and darker greens; the blues are faded, perfect for the nostalgic qualities of his iconic Texas subjects.

A tall pole on the left of the composition leads us into the angled depictions of a one point perspective. Roof lines and pitched eves guide us down the row of utilitarian structures.
Is it now dilapidated, ransacked, or bulldozed? No one knows for sure as the East Texas landscapes fall to the ever sprawling cities, gobbling up rural as urban expands.

But we know for sure that this Gin House is now forever depicted in Gentry’s painting; fearing neither eminent domain nor urban gentrification.

©Gabriel Diego Delgado/ JR Mooney Galleries

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