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Deep in the art of Texas

Courtesy Forsythe Center Galleries

A ball-peen hammer and a butter knife might seem like odd media for a sculpture, but the unusual work of Beaumont resident Felix “Fox” Harris makes the Art Museum of Southeast Texas a delightful stop.

At the other end of the spectrum, noted American artists from Winslow Homer to Childe Hassam are also on display at Texas art museums.

Texas loves its art and artisans, and its galleries and museums feature regional works alongside internationally recognized artists. Generous Texans have traveled the world and donated priceless pieces to museums throughout the state.

The collections are varied and vast — expanding the horizons of even the most seasoned art lover.

Art Museum of Southeast Texas

The permanent exhibit “Somethin’ Out of Nothin’” at the Art Museum of Southeast Texas, located in downtown Beaumont, features Harris’ forest of 26 totems that were created from scrap metal, old toys, street markers and discarded objects. Some of the large statues measure 15 feet tall.

“He was known as the Voodoo Man, and he created folk art sculpture out of a butter knife and a ball-peen hammer and displayed them in his front yard,” said Ashley White, the Beaumont Convention and Visitors Bureau’s communications manager. “We also offer a book highlighting Fox’s work with images by internationally recognized photographer Keith Carter.”

The museum’s Two Magnolias Cafe accommodates groups.

MSC Forsyth Center Galleries
College Station
Bill and Irma Runyon gathered artwork on their travels because they wanted the students at Texas A&M to learn about arts and culture.

The more than 1,200 decorative arts objects in the MSC Forsyth Center Galleries include English cameo glass vases and vessels of all shapes that are made of several layers of blown glass and then carved to create detailed works of art.

In addition, the Forsyth Collection contains glass creations by Louis Comfort Tiffany, Steuben Glass Works, the Mount Washington Glass Company and the New England Glass Company, plus long-term loans of French cameo glass.

More than 100 American paintings range from Western landscapes to American impressionism and portraiture. Significant artists include Winslow Homer, Thomas Moran, Frederic Remington and Childe Hassam.

The Forsyth Galleries is now housed on downtown Bryan’s Main Street while their former home, Texas A&M’s Memorial Student Center, is under renovation.

“In addition to our amazing collection of art glass and American paintings, the Forsyth is proud to have recently received an important collection of American and European Majolica,” said Nan Curtis, director of the Forsyth Center Galleries. “It will be featured in our grand opening exhibition when we return to the renovated MSC in late August 2012.”

Tyler Museum of Art

The two main galleries at the Tyler Museum of Art, which opened in 1971 and houses a 1,500-piece permanent collection, focus on paintings, sculpture and mixed media by early and contemporary Texas and American artists.

Also, the Laura and Dan Boeckman Collection of Mexican Folk Art features one of the nation’s largest accumulations of contemporary Latin American and Mexican folk art.

“The Boeckman collection includes three-dimensional pottery, figurines and decorative art,” said Zoe Lawhorn, the museum’s public relations and marketing coordinator. “The artworks are vibrant and among my favorites because they’re so imaginative and tell the story of a culture that’s close to Texas, which is one reason we’ve made the collection a priority.”

Displays include both national touring exhibits and works from the museum’s permanent acquisitions. Next fall, the museum will host “The Wyeths Across Texas,” a selection of works from various public and private Texas collections. Many items have never been publicly displayed.

When groups visit the museum, docents lead them on tours that highlight selected works from the exhibits.

“Because they focus on a few of the items versus a broad stroke, it’s a great way to get an in-depth look at some of the highlights of an exhibition,” said Lawhorn.

The museum cafe features homemade soups, salads and sandwiches. The museum shop offers a wide selection that includes fine art and photography books, handcrafted pottery and decorative home items, such as clocks created by a local artist.