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John Alexander Signs Volumes at McClain Gallery

BY Catherine D. Anspon // 03.25.15

We sat down for five minutes with Texas-born painter John Alexander on the occasion of his book signing at McClain Gallery Wednesday, March 25, 6 to 8 pm.

HOW DID YOUR CURRENT MEADOWS MUSEUM SHOW COME ABOUT?
It began five years ago as a conversation. Meadows director Mark Roglán and I loosely talked about it … Then Mark called two or three years ago and wanted to wait for the 50th anniversary of the Meadows Museum and the 100th anniversary of SMU. And make a lot bigger deal of the show. My work is part of the celebrations, which include bringing in a lot of works in European collections, but I’m the only non-Spanish artist included.

BESIDES GOYA, WHAT OTHER ARTISTS HAVE INFLUENCED YOU IN TERMS OF STYLE OR SUBJECT? SOME OF YOUR POLITICAL WORK, FOR EXAMPLE, CONJURES THE POWER OF MEXICAN MURALISTS. ARE THEY AN INSPIRATION?
Goya is among my most favorite artists. To see the show with my work and then glimpse Goya beyond the grand doors of the Meadows is so overwhelming and such a powerful feeling. Then in three weeks, more works will arrrive [The Abelló Collection exhibition] including Francis Bacon. And my paintings will be sandwiched between Goya and Bacon.

I also have a great affinity for James Ensor and a tremeduous love of painters from art history in general. Among the Mexican muralists, Diego Rivera. In fact, there’s a drawing in the Meadows’ show called Diego’s Girl. I’m aware of Rivera’s work, seeing a lot in museums in Mexico City. I can’t deny the political natural of it, the deep connection with the human condition and the political side of his time.

So for me, I have grand passion for the long march of art history, from Goya and Turner on, through the 18th and 19th centuries forward. And today I’m off to see the Rubens show at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

John Alexander
John Alexander’s ‘Diego’s Girl,’ 2008

HOW DO YOUR BODIES OF WORK RELATE? THERE’S THE POLITICAL WORK AND THE WORK BASED UPON NATURE.
The big idea is that much of what man does creates peril to nature. Even in my most beautiful landscapes, there’s something dark lurking. It’s a huge passion and a big worry for me. We’re losing the big open expanses of nature. For every 100 acres saved, 10,000 acres are lost. Everday, we’re loosing habitats. You can’t stop unbridled greed.

ARE YOUR LANDSCAPES, NATURAL VIGNETTES AND SENSITIVE PORTRAITS OF ANIMALS DRAWN FROM LIFE? MEMORY? BOTH? WHAT IS YOUR PAINTING PROCESS?
Woods, bogs, swamps, camping and fishing … Louisiana and Texas. I was raised by an older dad. He was 68 when I was born, and he was already retired. We spent time together in nature. My father was an early environmentalist … I’ve returned my whole life to this. A lot of taking watercolors and sketchpads outdoors … I also go in New York to the Museum of Natural History and make studies there. The carousel in my paintings is based upon an actual carousel, and I’ve researched others … so my paintings are always based upon direct observation from nature. And today I’m headed out to the Houston Zoo to draw more animals.

FAVORITE PLACES ON THE PLANET TO PAINT?
It’s an interesting phenomenon. I was painting the seacoast of Maine, and it still ended up looking like Beaumont … I’m always coming back to the East Texas woods. I spend summers in Amagansett in an old 1700s barn and studio, surrounded by marshes that feel like the Louisiana swamps.

Home, chic home.

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