Although on a long road trip, I’ll post when time allows. This morning light landscape was observed in the far reaches of East Milam County, Texas shortly after my drive began. Going through a few states now, revisiting familiar places.
Ibis at Taylor’s rookery on Sunday evening, along with a Waxing Crescent moon. I’m keeping it short and simple all week, on a long road trip.
These photos aren’t tied to news or weather, just some things I like. All were taken last week in Georgetown, at the Sunken Garden in San Gabriel Park, also by the pond at Rivery Park. Sometimes, I just like to focus on the details. The hummingbird at the Sunken Garden was an unexpected bonus. As was the dragonfly at Rivery Park. Honestly, I’d love some butterfly photos, but am seeing very few in our area.
Two things gobsmacked me when returning to Texas in 2009. One was the impressive spire at New Sweden Evangelical Lutheran Church. The other, just down the road in Couplan, was the Huntington Sculpture Garden, a collection of massive granite and steel sculptures dominating a small piece of land in this community of less than 300 people. The sculptures are the work of Jim Huntington, who for years has overseen the Huntington Sculpture Foundation. He was born in 1941 in Elkhart, Indiana. Through the years, he lived in Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco and New York City. Growing tired of crowds, he found Coupland on the map, moving here in 1994. A few years ago, I did a story on Jim and his masterful pieces, many weighing several tons. These days, I often drive through Coupland, usually on the way to somewhere else. This week, however, I stopped by a couple of times for some fresh photos. The way light falls on the work can be astonishing. On the second visit, I stopped to visit with Jim for a while. He’s slowing down a little, as happens to us all as we age. Working with the massive stone has put him into a lower working gear, but he still paints and draws, sometimes working on smaller pieces. During our visit, I made some portraits of Jim. His face is as expressive as his sculptures. And he’s a reader. In the last photo, he settles in for the evening, surrounded by books, one a work by Rick Bass, a native Texan now living in Montana. At least I think he’s still there. If you’re in the area, visit Coupland. See the sculptures. You won’t be disappointed.
A scene this evening along the railroad tracks near Williamson County Grain and Fannie Robinson Park. Enough said.
“Drawing for me began with Sharpie all over my arms in high school. “
So began the fascination with art for Georgetown native Travis Cook, 42, a 1997 graduate of Georgetown High School.
“I was going to be a writer,” says Cook, “but made the decision when I went to sign up at Sul Ross,” where he spent his freshman year.
Cook credits Sul Ross art professor Carol Fairlie as his inspiration for the career change. “Fairlie was very inviting and is still wonderful. It was really epic year,” he explains.
After his freshman year at Sul Ross, Cook transferred to University of Texas at Austin, earning a degree in Fine Art in 2003.
Through the years, Cook has continued his art, also working in graphic arts concerns in the area.
2020 was a year filled with change, when Cook suffered a gran maul seizure. The defining event led to a month-old stay at Houston’s M.D. Anderson Hospital, where he found out he had brain cancer. 60% of the tumor was removed. After his insurance lapsed, he returned to Georgetown, where he continues to be treated at Texas Oncology. The cancer, he says, is still there, but hasn’t grown or progressed.
After returning home from M.D. Anderson, another crisis emerged, a blood clot in his right leg. On his birthday, his leg had to be amputated. He now walks well with a prosthetic leg.
He settles into his painting most days in the apartment behind his parents’ home in Old Town, sharing the space with a cat called Elis. Canvas pieces line the spaces inside.
Cook’s medium is mostly oil-based. He describes his style as Symbolism (Jung) and Surrealism (Freud). “I always considered myself a Symbolist like Freud thought,” he explains, adding “Symbolism is more about the favour of spirituality, the imagination and dreams.”
For inspiration and guidance, he points to his parents, Patricia and Mike Cook. “My parents are the best! I probably wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for them.”
When not creating art, Cook enjoys listening to music, all types. His preferred format are vinyl albums. He’s very much into analog recordings. “I really feel like you get more art with the music,” he says, adding like on Houses of the Holy (Led Zeppelin). “I also feel like the music sounds better played through my 1979 amp.”
Recently, Cook and friend Shawn Losier spent an evening at Taylor’s Black Sparrow Music Parlor, where it was Hip Hop Night. The bigger draw for Travis, however, was probably Waxplant, a vinyl record shop located inside Black Sparrow. There’s an extensive collection of work for analog aficionados there.
Travis is looking forward to September, when he and his parents travel to Ireland. While there, he has an interview with the Limerick School of Art and Design, where he has applied to be a part of the Masters program. If accepted, he would move there.
Other than Limerick, Cook would like to show his work to as many people as possible.
“Sales aren’t a priority for me,” he says. “It is all about the discussion. I have some pretty political pieces. Maybe they will be encouraged to start the revolution.”
Through it all, Cook is focused and determined, a voice to be heard and seen through his continued vision and perseverance.
The art pieces at the end of this post are examples of his work.
I can’t decide if the Saharan dust phenomenon has returned, or it’s simply the wonderful prairie skies at work this evening over Coupland, Texas. I believe that’s milo in the foreground of the opening photo, which often produces a nice reddish-orange stalk. St. Peter’s Church of Coupland is apparently getting a makeover, as seen in the last photo. I can’t tell if that’s an undercoat, or if the finished product will look like that. Time will tell.
Most of the time I’ll do multi-picture posts because I like to explore subject matter. Tonight, it’s just this one. I wish the brush hadn’t been crowding out the foreground, but that’s okay. Sometimes these prairie skies just cry out to be documented.
A few photos taken this week in downtown Taylor, Texas, the town where we live. With the impending arrival of Samsung’s chip factory, this community of 17,000 is beginning to be noticed. The first photo is the dashboard of a 1950s-era Cadillac. The statue honors Taylor native Bill Pickett, inventor of the rodeo sport called bulldogging. Will progress minimize this town’s essential character? Time will tell.
If you were to visit our farm country in Williamson County, Texas you would see thousands of acres of corn adorning the land. Much of it is being harvested now. Houses barns hidden behind the crops are again becoming visible. Corn leaves and husks, lifted from their stalks by combines become airborne. If you were to go into an unharvested cornfield, you might hear nature’s music as the plants swish and flow in the prairie wind. For the past few years, I’ve focused on a farm family during this time. This year it’s David Hajda, 49m sometimes assisted in the task by his five sons. Three of them were helping on the days I spent with them, including Caige, 19, Cash, 17, and Colt, 12. Cash navigates the combine, joined by Sheldon, the family dog. Colt has no problem driving the tractor hauling a grain bin. He’s been at this a few years. David’s wife, Deborah, is there when needed. This year the harvest was 900 acres, mostly on fields west of Granger, where David was raised by his parents, Wesley and Henrietta. Wesley is a retired farmer. Wesley’s father, V.J. Hajda, was also a farmer. It’s not been a good year for corn, or any crop, for that matter. The ongoing drought has taken its toll. If you add unexpected expenses, it becomes more tenuous. While navigating a combine through the field, a tire blew out. The tire was replaced, at a cost exceeding $7,000. When the last field work is done, Deborah meets David with a fresh change of clothes. They were off to a Great Divide concert in Belton. Colt relaxed on the front porch of his grandparents’ home. Of his five sons, David thinks Colt might be the one to take on the work of farming. Time will tell. Development here is swallowing up many fields.