This blog is dedicted to the anomalous cultural phenomenon of the arts in the Amarillo area. A phenomenon because in terms of cities of comparable size nationally, only Santa Fe has greater, and it is much greater, production in the arts.
But Santa Fe is crazy liberal creative, and the arts naturally fit. Amarillo, well, deep state red will do – CONSERVATIVE – the grand inhibitor of the creative, applies everywhere, except here. The arts here are a true anomaly, planet-wise.
And I plan to explore this cultural contradiction, in all of its creative varigations, in Keep Amarillo Artsy.
One location, more than any other: St. Mary’s Catholic Church in nearby Umbarger, represents this conundrum in all of its aspects, and so deserves mention in this inaugural blog.
How many places on the planet stand as testimony to warring peoples making common cause to create beauty that is both enduring and inspiring? This church, in tiny Umbarger, Tx is one of the few!
Six months after VE day, come 3500 Italian POW’s remained at Camp 31 near Hereford. Among these soldiers, who maintained their fascist allegiance, were a number of artists. In Nov. ’45 these artists held a public exhibition. One of those vsiting was the parrish priest from Umbarger, who asked the camp commandant if any of these artists could decorate his dull, gray barn of a church.
Eight prisoners volunteered, originally to get out of camp and eat home-cooked farm meals. Six weeks later, on the eve of repatriation, they completed the “Cathedral of the Plains.”
The large Assumption of the Virgin puts one in mind of Titian while the Visitation and the Annunciation bear a definite Fra Angelico bias, except that the landscapes show High Plains wheatfields. The carved panel on the front of the altar is a meticulously-carved rendering of DaVinci’s Last Supper while the Italiante-assembled stained-glass windows cast a kaleidoscope of colors reminiscent of Chartres.
Every tenet of reason militates against the existence of St. Mary’s: time – war; place – Nowhere, Tx; most of all human nature. Former national enemies rose above their politics, trusted one another, and created a work of transcendent beauty!
St. Mary’s also stands as metaphor for all of the amazing art of the Amarillo area, whose very existence is counter-intuitive. My happy task, in the collaborative spirit of St. Mary’s, is to acquaint my readers with the paradox and the endless permutations of Panhandle art.
In this journey of cultural enlightenment, our mantra will be: “Keep Amarillo Artsy! Keep Austin Weird! Keep Lubbock in the Rear View Mirror!!!!”