The Adobe Walls Studio - Backstory
The 120-Year-Old, Handwritten, Historical Texas Deed Documents and their Significance...
How could I have known when I walked into the office of a land title company in Weatherford, Texas, so many years ago, that the pile of ancient abstract records lying on the floor in front of me would have such a profound impact on and application to my creative work?
Upon discovering that the pages of these records had a beautiful patina and were handwritten during the 1890s, I asked why they were piled up on the floor and what they were going to do with them? I was told that they were preparing to move their office location and that the documents had been digitally scanned and the brittle, decrepit books were going to be hauled to the landfill. I asked if I might haul the “dirty old things” to the “landfill” for them and they heartily accepted my offer. Needless to say, it did not take me long to back up my truck to their front door and load the “worthless cargo” before anyone changed their mind! I had no clue what I would do with them, but they were a beautiful treasure and I was elated with the timing of my office visit at the title company that day!
For years, the abstract volumes consumed storage space, and several times I considered disposing of them but I just couldn’t do it. We papered the walls of several rooms in our Sayles Ranch Guesthouses with some of the pages. It was an intriguing novelty to our guests, but in my heart, I knew there was a higher purpose for them…..
I have been an artist all my life. In high school, I started painting. I majored in art in college and grad school, but after graduation, real-life set in, and for forty years I did not paint. Although I wasn’t putting brush to canvas during all those years, Art was still happening in my mind and heart and I participated in various other forms of creative work.
In 2018, after a forty-year break, I started seriously painting again.
I grew up in Oklahoma, not far from Fort Sill, where the Comanches surrendered to after their defeat at Adobe Walls, and their history, especially the life of Quanah Parker held my interest. I determined that I would retell some of the stories in my paintings. From the very first painting, I used the old documents, gluing them to the canvas and painting on top of them, leaving areas of the archaic script to show through the paint. My initial interest was in the tactile quality of the 120-year-old paper and the beautiful script, but soon it occurred to me that there was an otherworldly connection between the historic documents and the stories I was painting…
I slowly made the connection that these documents were from Parker County, where Weatherford is the county seat…AND a bit of research revealed that Parker County was named after Isaac Parker who was an early settler and legislator from that area….AND Isaac Parker was the uncle of Cynthia Ann Parker, who at age 12, was captured by the Comanches. Isaac was one of the remaining family members who searched for Cynthia Ann for 20 years….AND during her captivity, Cynthia Ann became the wife of a Comanche Chief, and her most famous offspring was none other than Quanah Parker!
I was not conscious of all of this from the beginning, but I began to realize that I was embedding actual relics from the time, place, and subject of the stories I was telling into my artwork. Concept, reality, and story all became one. I am convinced this was not a coincidence.
Elizabeth Elliott in her book on creativity and making art, called “Big Magic” describes inspiration as an independent entity that visits the artist. She calls that muse or entity “Big Magic”.
Instead of calling it a coincidence that I stumbled into that title company in Parker County so many years ago…I think I will just call it Big Magic.
Terry Browder - Artist in Residence
Terry Browder grew up on a wheat farm in Southwestern Oklahoma and began painting during his teenage years. He came to Abilene, Texas, when he was 18, to attend Abilene Christian University, and has made it his home since that time. He acquired a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting and a Masters in Art Education from ACU.
Browder’s great grandmother came to Old Greer County in Southwestern Oklahoma, which was actually part of Texas at the time, in 1898 to homestead on some of the last free land in American.
She was a widow, who brought her children in a covered wagon to pursue an opportunity for a new life to sustain and reinvent herself. Her true grit and determination have inspired him, and the half dugout was located just a short distance across the prairie from where he and his family lived.
A glimpse of the Comanche’s sacred Wichita Mountains was visible from the Browder family’s living room window, and Fort Sill and the Reservation that was established there were in the shadows of the Wichitas. Because of his family history and heritage, the stories about the culture clash between the Native Americans and the invading white men have been part of his DNA.
These stories and images have found their way into the artist’s creative work, and a major body of his paintings incorporates this subject matter. These paintings incorporate 120-year-old, handwritten, Texas deed documents, which conveyed lands once controlled by the Comanche Nation.
Terry Browder’s faith heritage and the Texas Colonial, almost monastic quality of the architecture and ambiance of the Adobe Walls Studio, where he presently lives and works in Abilene, Texas, have also influenced his additional pursuit of ecclesiastical subject matter.
Browder’s educational background in art history has contributed to his interest in an additional body of artwork he calls “Neoteric Icons”. These paintings incorporate antique Latin Bible and Biblical book pages, archaic frames, and sometimes architectural features that harken to ancient church art, but are non-traditional with a styling that is more modern and abstract and “of today”.
Terry Browder’s paintings are more than just pretty pictures. They are visual narratives that include symbolism and embedded clues to deeper truths. He often uses historic documents, glued to the canvas, as a base, which gives an added dimension to the paintings because actual relics from the time and subject matter become part of the work. Art speaks when words cannot…