Last updated: September 26. 2013 10:53AM - 3179 Views
by Rose Fischer

Taking a break while enjoying the art are, from left, Linda Wiginton, Susan Grimes and Patti Ray.
Taking a break while enjoying the art are, from left, Linda Wiginton, Susan Grimes and Patti Ray.
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Art is on the upswing in Altus, as evidenced by the recent Saturday afternoon “Art in the Garden” event in the backyard oasis of retired Air Force Col. Don Stone and his wife, Cathy. The artists’ showcase was the first one sponsored by Altus’ Friends of Artists Guild.
The public viewed paintings and photographs by seven artists (four local and three with Altus connections), tastefully arranged around the Stones’ tree-lined garden and swimming pool. Five hostesses served cookies inside the home, which was beautifully decorated with furniture, paintings and treasures collected during the Stones’ numerous European tours of duty in many countries.

Displaying works of art were Sue Messerly, Lyn Taylor, Paulette Peterson and Joan Wilcoxen, all of Altus; photographer, Rob Goddard of Elk City; Joy Willingham of Verden; and Gloria Lamar of Norman. Hostesses included Cathy Stone, Donna Tucker, Ellen Yates, Rose Fischer and Messerly.

According to Cathy Stone, Willingham originated the idea for the art event a year ago while teaching painting at Val’s It’s About Time restaurant in Altus. “I took art lessons from Joy and she talked about doing an ‘Art in the Garden,’” Stone said. “I said, ‘My house would be perfect for it.’ But it took a whole year to finally make it happen. It happened because of Donna Tucker. I’m taking voice lessons from Donna and when she mentioned it, I said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

Tucker spearheaded a “September Salon” in her home in 2009 to showcase the early cubism-style paintings of her sister, Gloria Lamar. Tucker also chaired an exhibit at the Altus Public Library in November 2009 of oil paintings by two Altus artists, Messerly and Loweta Chesser, both winners of numerous best-of-show and first-place awards. Messerly, who specializes in West and Southwest landscapes and wildlife, also brought her paintings to the garden event—“An Autumn in Telluride,” “Two Does,” and a close-up of a buffalo.

Willingham’s 3x4’painting of Quanah Parker attracted the crowd’s attention. Well-known across the state for painting murals, including one at the Grapevine restaurant in Altus, Willingham also displayed impressionist oil paintings on masonite and other masterpieces. Goddard’s photographs included close-ups of flowers, raindrops on leaves, a bird in flight and a picture on canvas; he snapped an eye-catching lightning strike in the clouds. Wilcoxen’s oil paintings featured landscapes and sunflowers in a pot.

Peterson not only displayed her still-life oil paintings, but she also brought a children’s book that she wrote and illustrated. Her talents include freelance writing, illustrations and web graphics. All of her paintings are for sale except “My Dad’s Boots.” “I painted his boots the very way he left them,” she said. “This is a great opportunity for us to showcase our art work; we don’t have that many opportunities here.”

Kathy Bayers of Altus considered the event quite exciting. “I love that photo on canvas and the lightning photograph (both by Goddard); it’s just wonderful. Knowing that we have this much talent, it’s nice seeing it showcased in a lovely setting,” she said. “We are not the back woods; the museum and everything else we have in Altus show that we have the talent.”

Dean Johnson, co-owner of Altus’ Dusty Covers Bookstore in the old library building on Broadway, attended the event; he recently joined the Shortgrass Arts and Humanities Council. “It’s interesting because there is a great appreciation for art here in Altus but not necessarily a great market for it,” he said. “I wish there was, because there is nothing better than having a couple of pieces of beautiful art, especially local art, in your home.”

 Among items displayed by Lyn Taylor were a portrait and a large, attractive painting of the alphabet for children. Taylor coordinates monthly art lessons at the Altus Public Library and teaches watercolor painting. Others teachers include Messerly, oils; Bobby Avila, pastels; and Ray Miller, photography. The introduction of woodcarving is among future plans for Saturday workshops at the library. “The art world seems to forget this quarter of Oklahoma,” Taylor said. “We need to have more events like this; the more we do it, the more we’ll draw our local artists—not just in Jackson County but from the surrounding counties.”

Tucker said she hopes to see more such events in Altus. “We do have creative people—not just visual arts but music arts, dance, drama; and we have people in Altus in place to promote the arts and to come up with ideas; we just need people to make a commitment to it; I think it will benefit the community so much,” Tucker said. “Everybody wants the arts in Altus, but we have to be willing to put out a little bit of effort and do a little bit of organizing. I want everybody to be involved who wants to; art is for everyone.”

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