With James Surls at the Amon Carter

With James Surls under Seven and Seven Flower, photo by Charmaine Locke

The Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth recently unveiled their newly designed interior and I went to check it out the day after their big grand re-opening.  It was Sunday (after 1st service) and their website said “Open today at 10 am!!!” So, I drove over to see the new interior design. It turns out that there were a few of us there early, but the website had not been updated overnight. So we hung out in the parking lot under the oak tree shade. 

At noon, as we were walking inside, I overheard a lady behind me speaking to one of the attendants and she said “… well, that’s James Surls”.  I looked at the guard who didn’t seem to register the name, and I turned to her and said “That’s James Surls?”  She smiled and said “Yes, and I’m Charmaine, his wife!”  James and Charmaine were checking out the placement and hanging of his newly installed piece Seven and Seven Flower for the museum.  It was pretty cool, the hanging of the piece had been supervised by one of James’ assistants, and we were seeing it together for the first time in-situ.

If you know Texas artists, you’ve seen dozens of James’s work in art museums and corporate collections.  But, this one is pretty special.  It’s massive and cool with wonderful wall shadows.   

As we were talking, James walked back over, and Charmaine introduced us.  I told him that his name had been on my resume for almost 15 years.  Back in 2005, James was juror of The Texas National at Stephen F. Austin University in Nacagdoches.  James selected my piece “St. Leon of the Steelworkers” for that show.  I’ve always been extremely pleased that he included this portrait of my grandfather.  I’ve always thought it gave me some Tex-Cred!

St. Leon of the Steelworkers
Oil on Canvas
30″ x 36″

I did not share with James and Charmaine my other James Surls moment.  A number of years ago, around the time the kids were in diapers (all grown now), I was at the Fair Park Flea Market in Dallas where Terri and I used to spend hours looking for unique treasures.  One month I spotted a small maquette obviously by Mr. Surls.  It was about 5-6 inches in diameter and maybe 6 inches high.  I very gently picked it up and marveled at this extremely cool work of art. The proprietor of the booth saw me, and smiled, and showed me a letter of authenticity, but if you know James’ work, it was obvious who made it.  The price was $500, which even though a great price, at the time it was about 100 times what I had to spend.  I looked for awhile, sat it down, looked for another long while, sighed, and walked off. 

It’s tough to love great art on a budget.

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