Alice Leese pointed a finger across the exhibit floor, over to a permanent fixture in the Ellen Noel Art Muesum, apart from the new displays.
“That’s why I became an artist — that painting,” Leese said, pointing to a familiar sight for Odessans; the Tom Lea mural titled ‘Stampede,’ painted in 1940 for the city as part of the New Deal program, and put in the post office where it hung for 75 years.
It’s 16 feet wide, featuring bucking bulls and a rider tumbling from his horse, imposing, and impressionable — as is evident.
Just a few steps away, through a door and on another exhibit floor in the museum, the work of Leese’s daughter, Elizabeth Hendershot, stood shining with just as much command.
It’s stories just like that — about influence and progression in community — that flow through each corner of the new Celebrate Texas exhibit, which opened Friday night at the museum in Odessa.
The exhibit, now open through to early September, features work by Texans on two distinct show floors, with one highlighting paintings and other more traditional pieces dated from 1850 to 1940, and another floor focusing on the work of Texan fashion designers, showcasing pieces from 1910 to the present day.
Hendershot’s bridal gown from 2017 stands there, in a room lined with glistening pieces that have seen Hollywood and Project Runway, and have been further.
Leese grew up outside Odessa, and now lives on ranch land in Winkler County, and now, the work of her daughter, who grew up in the Permian Basin and went through Andrews ISD, is on display in the same museum as that post office painting that introduced Leese to the world of art years ago.
“This is what made me become an artist, and then it’s been passed down through her,” Leese said.
That’s a bit of a theme that runs through the exhibit, which over time can showcase influence and its result in a unique, certain part of the world: Texas.
“It’s another reason to be proud of being Texan,” said curator Daniel Zies, who put the exhibit together for the museum. “You get to see all these people getting to do stuff, and different forms of being creative.”
Zies said part of his goal with the exhibit was to bring together the work of artists who either are from Texas, or found Texas to be their home.
“The thing that I notice today, is if you go around the room, these are people that are from small-town Texas; small-town beginnings,” museum director Sheila Perry said. “But they had an aspiration.
“It kind of shows you the Texas spirit and determination,” she said.
Perry noted that on the floor featuring fashion design, the exhibit showcases something apart.
In trying to research and curate pieces for the exhibit, Zies found that there wasn’t much else to go on. As far as dress and gown designs by Texans, it’s something he found hadn’t really been done.
“When I went to grad school (at Texas Tech) for museum science, I did art for half of it and I did textiles for the other half,” Zies said. “So it’s really fun when I get to go back and do textiles — especially for us, for this museum. We’ve done a lot of textile exhibitions and they’re always our more popular shows.”
Leese, and husband and Hendershot’s father Robert Leese, attended Friday’s opening reception because Hendershot couldn’t make it. “So we took a lot of photos,” he said.
The two floors dedicated to the Celebrate Texas exhibit are attached to the museum’s Permian Basin Juried Art Exhibit, which features West Texas artists and explores the theme of ‘metamorphosis’ through June 29.
“Usually if you hear West Texas artists, you think cowboys, mountains,” said Olga Nedorub, of Midland, standing in the juried art exhibit but speaking to the creativity in both.
“I think it speaks to the fact that it’s celebrating Texas, not in the scenery of Texas, not the culture of Texas, but the people who live in Texas and their talents and what those people want to do,” she added. “I think it’s more about artists themselves vs. a theme.”
The Celebrate Texas exhibit — with all its variety and range — is on display through to Sept. 2.
“I thought Daniel did a really good job (as curator), because he paired the very serious and also the very historical with the fun and the aspirational,” Perry said.
“No matter what you like, and what you think celebrating Texas should be about, there’s going to be something for you.”