First Friday Art Trail (April 2013)

On the first Friday of April, 2013 I went on the First Friday Art Trail. The Art Trail is a monthly art event that happens in downtown Lubbock. It includes a series of galleries, food and live music. As a project for my West Texas Photography class, I visited and photographed artists and their work at the galleries. This was a fun experience to see the visual creations by local artists in the Lubbock area. I was able to visit with some artists about their work and also absorb artistic culture.

My first stop was at Mcpherson Cellars. They had two musicians playing in the corner as well as a collection of various paintings and photographs throughout the room. I was really impressed with the variety of visual art they had at their gallery.

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My next stop was at The Legacy. At this gallery the artists were accompanying their work.

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One of the painters I met was Linda Kinney. She does fine paintings through the medium of oils on canvas using a brush and pallet knife. Her art was very beautiful. It looked like something I would hang in my house.

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Another artist I met was Matt Burgett. He did drawings and photographs. His work was very close to heart and some was related to his family.

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A painter named Jo Beth Gilliam had an interesting “show.” Besides having her work displayed, she was also live painting. She had a mirror reflecting what she was painting to the audience. People were sitting down to watch her work while having free punch and crackers. I thought this was a cool idea.

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Besides paintings, drawings and photographs, the art trail also consists of other kinds of art. One example is jewelry! I came across a jewelry maker named Anna Henry. She had a lovely collection of handmade jewelry she put together herself.

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As photographer myself, I was impressed by the work of another photographer named Tif Holmes. She also had her work featured at The Legacy. Many of her photographs were artistic or at interesting locations.

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Among other cute things at The Legacy, I photographed a little girl dancing to the live music. That night happened to be her birthday.

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Among other places I visited was Urban Tech. This gallery featured a lot of beautiful architectural work as well as photography.

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The next place I visited was the Underwood Center for the Arts. This gallery was filled with beautiful paintings. Some paintings included mixed media such as film strips. It also included art that was filled with rich colors and brought a form of intrigue.

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Among other places I went to was Tornado Alley and the Cactus Theatre.

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I saw many beautiful art pieces throughout the First Friday Art Trail. I think this event is a great opportunity to view the fantastic visual work from local artists. Not only do you get to embrace art, but you also get to embrace culture. This experience was a memorable event that I definitely want to re-live again in other First Friday Art Trails.

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” -Thomas Merton

Quanah Parker Arrow (Discovering Old Tascosa)

On a beautiful Saturday in April I traveled to Old Tascosa to photograph an arrow on the Quanah Parker trail. This was for a group project as part of my West Texas Photography class. My PHOT 4300 class only consisted of seven members. It was an independent studies class that documented the various aspects of West Texas. The class project was to photograph sightings of the giant Quanah Parker arrows located throughout various areas in West Texas. The locations of these arrows are physical reminders of the Native Americans that once roamed the Texas Plains. Following the trail of these arrows symbolize following the trail of Quanah Parker…the last Comanche chief. The arrows are spread throughout a 52 county region of Texas extending through the plains and the panhandle. Each member of my class was asked to choose a single sighting.

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I was asked to go to Old Tascosa, which was a ghost town located a few miles Northwest of Amarillo. I did not know what to expect considering it was a ghost town. I imagined it was like something I would see on a movie. I pictured an old, deserted western town in the middle of nowhere with a tumbleweed rolling across a dirt road. Of course, this interpretation was nothing like what I saw when I got there.

I took a long drive north and passed Amarillo. The landscape went from the flat plains to shrubbery hills. I had read online that the Quanah Parker arrow was located inside of Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch. After searching for the right entrance, I came across Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch. When I arrived, I was surprised with that I found. Instead of seeing an old, broken down town, I drove through what appeared to be a school-like campus. However, I was confused with what it actually was. Not only did it have school buildings, but also a church, football field and water tower. It looked like a town that was not completely town. It reminded me of a college campus with the characteristics of a town and a summer camp.

I finally saw the visitors center and went in. I learned that the town Old Tascosa was technically no longer in existence. Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch was Old Tascosa. The town had theoretically been replaced with the settlement of the boys ranch. The only remnants of the town were the Tascosa courthouse and schoolhouse. This explained why the area did not really look like a deserted town. Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch is a supportive community for boys and girls that range from pre-school to high school to be nurtured by functioning families. This explained why the town looked like a school campus.

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When I explained my reason for being there, the visitor assistant gave me a map of where the Quanah Parker arrow was located. He also recounted a short history of the area and showed me where the Tascosa courthouse and schoolhouse was. The Tascosa courthouse had been turned into a museum. Although it was locked up at the time, they unlocked it for me so I could go in and take pictures. I found some really interesting pieces of history within that museum that I had not ever seen before.

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Among these things was a complete set of the works of Charles Dickens that includes his poems. They were dated back to 1880.

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I also came across a collection of brand rods as well as a Thomas Edison trademark record player. There was also a set of playing cards from the original Old Tascosa saloon and an old knit seat.

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There were also some worded signs that I found slightly humorous.

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The grave of Cal Farley was just outside of the museum as well as a statue of him and a little boy.

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There were many parts of the town that I found quaint and worth taking a picture of. Their chapel was among the biggest and most beautiful I had ever seen. They also had a football field and a schoolhouse. The schoolhouse was one of the remaining structures from the original Old Tascosa.

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Before heading out of the ranch I of course stopped to take pictures of the Quanah Parker arrow. The arrow was not hard to miss considering it stood 23 feet tall. I was able to take pictures of it from different angles, but also had a friend take a picture of me by it. I traveled too far to not have a picture with the arrow that had I adventured to find. It was also a good representation of the arrow to person height ratio. Granted, I stand around 5’4’’.

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Overall my trip to Old Tascosa, now Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch, was a pleasant surprise. I discovered a part of Texas I had never been to and learned some interesting historical facts. I also got to see some fascinating museum pieces and structures that hold a lot of history. Visiting this Quanah Parker arrow was a way of me connecting with my classmates. Although each of us traveled to different arrow locations, we each combined our discovery with the same purpose. West Texas has a deep history, but it definitely holds its ground with Quanah Parker and the impact of Native Americans throughout the plains.

Story of a Small Town: Olton, Texas

“One of the pleasant things about small town life is that everyone, whether rich or poor, liked or disliked, has some kind of a role and place in the community. I never felt that living in a city — as I once did for a couple of years.” ― Edward Abbey.

West Texas is a beautiful area that largely comprises of agriculture lifestyle. With this being said, this part of Texas is largely dominated by the strong presence of small, rural towns. I happen to be from a small West Texas town. Growing up in such a lifestyle has taught me many things. Although it has been an adventure to escape from it, I don’t regret growing up in it. Coming from humble beginnings has taught me to appreciate the simple things in life.

Out of all the projects I could do, I decided to make a project out of my hometown of Olton, Texas. Olton is located at about an hour drive northwest of Lubbock. It has a population of roughly around 2,000 people, and is primarily an agriculture centered community. Even though I grew up in Olton, I felt that doing a project about it would bring more appreciation to the town itself. It would not be hard to find a variety of pictures and stories from a big city, but small towns rarely get highlighted for how special they are. With my grand excuse to go home, I made the easy drive from Texas Tech to my hometown of Olton where I photo documented some important spots.

Documented below, Main Street in Olton is (you guessed it)…the main street. Although there are other streets that have important places such as the school and local restaurants, Main Street is where the prominent local businesses are lined up. Among the businesses on Main Street are Wild Plum Inn Bed & Breakfast, and the Mini Mall.

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As I walked along the sidewalk near the local stores I found some quaint places that made lovely photographs.

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Among the stores I went into, I walked across the street to the local grocery store. The grocery store is named Leon’s II. Why II? Well, Olton’s first grocery store was named after the guy who owned it: Leon. Leon’s was Olton’s grocery store in the 1960s before the business was passed on to other business owners. They renamed the store, and this remained Olton’s grocery store for a number of years. Eventually, the store ran out of business, and for a few years, Olton did not have a grocery store. Nevertheless, the store was taken over to prosper again. To honor Olton’s past, they named the re-opened store Leon’s II in honor of Olton’s original grocery store.

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After visiting the grocery store, I went across the street to another strip of prominent businesses. This line of businesses would include the Olton Chamber of Commerce, the Olton EnterpriseOlton Clinic, Olton Pharmacy, Flourish Flowers and Pizza Parlor.

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The Olton Post Office is small and quaint. It’s funny how the second “o” is a missing on the lettering.

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The Sandcrawl Museum is a unique attraction to get to know Olton’s history. The museum is dedicated to the past and recent history of Olton and the people that make it what it is.

The description on the museum’s Facebook page had an interesting explanation of the Sandcrawl Museum:

“An eminent geologist, the late Frank Bryan, referred to the sand dune formation south of the City of Olton as the Sand Crawl. The Sand Crawl is a relic remnant of the upper Pleistocene Brazos River. The three to twelve mile wide strip of sand dunes extends from Curry and Roosevelt Counties in New Mexico into the western part of Hale County Texas, where it mysteriously ends. Some historic writings also refer to it as The Blue Sandhills. The sand does, indeed, crawl and is helped along by the gusty West Texas winds. The museum, which was once called ‘The Olton Museum,’ had its name changed in November of 1996 to The Sand Crawl Museum to reflect the sand dunes outside of Olton which hold so much of Olton area history.

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Built in the 1940’s, the Roxy Theater once served as the town’s movie theater. After ceasing operation in 1953, it sat empty for many years until Olton citizens decided to raise money and restore it in 1996. The Roxy Theater is now used for musical concerts, talent shows and movies for high school students.

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Olton Independent School District is a public school district with three campuses: Olton High, Olton Junior High and H.P Webb Elementary. I also took pictures of the Olton football field. The football field is iconic because small town football is iconic. The track was recently restored in 2011, and small town pride in sports is seen everywhere.

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Olton may be small…but it has a lot of heart. The town has personality because of the people that are in it. It is a community with loving people and a lot of compassion. One thing is for sure…no matter what I do or what I accomplish, I will never forget my foundation. I grew up in a small, humble community that raised me to be the person I am today. I will never forget where I came from because sometimes the most important things in life are the simple things.

Adventures in Palo Duro Canyon

On a pleasant, overcast day in January, I traveled to Palo Duro Canyon State Park for the first time. Having grown up in West Texas, many might find it surprising that I had never been to the canyon before. I find it funny that in particular cases, the people that live in a certain area rarely ever explore the major tourist attractions that are nearby. I suppose this would be my case. I took a memorable day trip with some great friends to hike throughout the canyon. As a novice photographer, I was able to test my skills at landscape photography.  Throughout this daylong hike, I was able to capture spectacular scenery and memorable moments. I was able to view the beautiful world around me through a lens.

On that brisk Saturday morning, my friends and I left Lubbock on a 2 hour trek toward the panhandle to have an adventure in Palo Duro Canyon. I accompanied my friends Tanner Morgan, Toby Oleru and Hunter Thomas. While on the drive, we passed by beautiful farmland, dodged a few tumbleweeds and stopped at a convenient store to buy bread for lunch.

Upon entering the state park, we were overwhelmed by the richly colored rocks cut deep into the earth. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before. The pale sky contrasted the lush color of the canyon. The canyon itself was a mix of deep red, brown and orange rock intricately entwined with the green brush of the landscape. As we made our way down into canyon, our ears popped due to the sudden change in pressure. When we reached the bottom, we traveled to a picnic area where we ate a typical college meal of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and pop tarts. After having a filling lunch in the heart of the canyon, we embarked on our journey to explore the trails.

Soon after we started off, we came across a rocky tunnel. I found the perspective of this tunnel to be quite striking. The light became darker until the light at the end of the tunnel could be seen. The canyon rocks themselves were magnificent. I was in awe at the layers of rock and the different colors each layer had within them. It was like looking into the past. I really loved being able to be in a place that had so much history and beauty behind it. The rock was carved in a ruggedly perfect way.

Rocky Tunnel Canyon Rock

Colorful Rock

My friend Tanner was probably the most daring of the four of us. As the day progressed, I was able to take some amazing shots of him at different locations in the canyon. During our hike, Tanner found a spot near the edge of the canyon that was wide enough to do a handstand on. Given the illusion that he was doing a handstand near the edge of a cliff, I decided to take multiple snapshots of him doing his one-handed skill on the brink of the canyon. The end result was picture that would bring a sense of danger, excitement and grace. I was also able to capture an impressive silhouette of Tanner at the top of a mountain. The bold clouds made a dramatic impression behind him as all the viewer can see is the frame of a person.

Hand Stand

Tanner Morgan does a one-handed handstand on what appears to be the edge of a cliff at Palo Duro Canyon. I bent down to take multiple snapshots of this quick action to get the final photograph. The end result was picture that would bring a sense of danger, excitement and grace.

Mountain Silhouette

As we continued on our journey, we saw a variety of plants that were indigenous to the canyon. I took a detailed snapshot of a cactus, and later came across cacti that were purple. Since I had never seen purple cacti before, I found it to be quite unique.  I learned that the cacti only turn purple in the winter time. There were also dry, golden plants I found that swayed in the wind at the bottom of the canyon. Its golden tone accented a photograph I took of a mountain with the richly yellow plants at its base. I also took a nice photo of golden grass surrounding a river at the bottom of the canyon.

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Swaying in the Wind Mountain Landscape

Low Point View Canyon River

While traversing across the rocky landscape for a number of hours, we discovered a large cave tucked away in a crest of the canyon wall.  Pulled by our curiosity of what lied within, we climbed to the mouth of the cave.  When we walked in, the cave greeted us with a cold breath of air. Although it was dark, there was a hole at the top of the cave that let in rays of sunlight. This soft light made its dimensions visible to the eye. It was peaceful and solitary. The rock walls were a profound red and brown. Being inside gave me a sense of security as well. After some minutes of taking pictures, I heard Tanner call my name. Seeing that he was nowhere near, I finally looked up and saw him standing over the hole that let in sunlight. After asking him how he got up there, the whole group made its way to the top of the cave.

The Cave Looking Down

From the Cave

Although climbing to the top was a bit more a struggle, the view was completely worth it. Being at a high point of the canyon allowed me to see Palo Duro in a bigger perspective. I was able to view the contrasts between the low ground and high ground, the sky and rock and the shrubbery on the bottom and top of the canyon. The natural earthy colors of the canyon drew me into its fascinating beauty. We found a place at the top of the cave to see the bottom of the cave from a higher perspective. This is when I decided to sneak a shot of Tanner, who was sitting on the edge overlooking the base of the large cave.

High Perspective Looking into the Cave

We left the cave with enough time to hike back to our truck before the sun set. After a tiring hike back to our truck, we ate left overs of our lunch for dinner and then headed back to Lubbock just before the sun set. On the drive back, I looked out the window and saw the day slowly turn into dusk. As I watched the West Texas sky turn a bold pink and yellow beyond the fields, I reflected on the amazing day I had enjoying God’s beautiful creations. My day trip do Palo Duro Canyon is definitely a trip I will never forget. As simple as some people may say West Texas is, there are some places that can take your breath away.