I manipulate metals and minerals and bonding solutions in order to provoke emotional responses from people I will usually never meet. That which happens in the process some people call art. My talent for creating icons and illusions turned into a lifetime of manipulations... in various pigments, bronze and steel, some quite large, which loom in museums, schools, collections and public places all over Texas. Here on this blog you can watch my creative actions and insights unfold...

Monday, November 19, 2012

Leon is back... and better than ever

Leon Collins, the perennial sidewalk artist of Navasota, has re-established himself at Tejas Antiques where he began his amazing saga in American Art history. Leon is nothing if not persistent and resilient. If his sabbatical at his girl friend's garage taught him one thing, it was that even an art legend must have accessibilty. So Leon is back at work, prolific beyond comprehension, and wiser for the brief interruption in his downtown venture.  And the pressure is on. So many art buyers, so little time.

Leon produces art like a madman with a gun to his head. He paints an average of at least one painting a day. A LARGE painting. That includes time for prep-work and framing, and annoying me occasionally when he gets restless ;). He does not have time to think a thought. He paints what he sees, what he dreams, what he remembers, anything that comes to his mind.

If I ask him, what something is about, EVEN IF I AM BUYING IT, There is usually no symbolic theme, no deep story behind his works, no mission, no central message; A little girl avoids the jaws of an alligator, a man ducks his wife’s rolling pin, black women sail through a cotton field dragging enormous sacks… A crazy looking bird watches… you don’t know what it is… He is as purely stream-of-conscious as I have ever known. I might add that I often interpret his and his daughter's works with wonderful philosophical, metaphoric applications, deriving much more for me personally than they intended... and we laugh about it.

I purchased this painting by Leon Collins about a year ago. It now hangs in the Navasota City Hall. I had acquired two from him earlier but sold them for very satisfying profits. This composition is very tame for Leon, who often paints ghoulish characters overtaking expressive female forms, or black men and women in chains, suffering and enduring, often with allusions to Black Magic. His average customers are white, upper middle class, who seek and befriend him and embrace his work as if on a pilgrimage.

Smothered in approval and acceptance, Leon is even more addicted to the action … the thrill of painting and selling. He has no website, no business card. No agent. And he has sold thousands compared to my scores, just painting on the sidewalk in Navasota, Texas. Yet he has landed several magazine and newspaper articles about hs work, and a TV story on Bob Phillip's Country Reporter.. His highest art actually begins when he begins to talk about the paintings… then he is at his most creative. Leon is nothing if not the biggest, the most talented salesman and story teller in Grimes County. But his verbosity is matched only by his impatience. And if you catch him after a slow day, you will land a hell of a bargain.

Leon has had showings in Houston, College Station and Dallas, and been celebrated by fans all over the United States. His works are presently on exhibit at the African American Museum in Bryan, Texas.

Almost everything Leon Collins does is the antithesis to whatever any artist or professor or knowledgeable person has ever told me. And yet his sales outstrip whatever might be second. We talk all the time about the hows and whys... No doubt his rise is parallel to President Obama's,  but Leon's work and its success is a perfect storm, the juxtaposition of local color, black culture, popular fantasy, and the need of his mostly white following to... resolve something internal.  He is thriving purely because he offers a product that hits this culture right between the eyes… and they do not even know why. Ever since Picasso's Guernica, art has denied the soul. But when people meet Leon Collins, they seem to discover theirs. He is the high priest of racial atonement, and his sidewalk easel the confessional. And he has won thousands of converts.

And yet amazingly, against all workshops and lectures about marketing to the contrary, his success is completely dependent on word of mouth.

As is mine. (My advertising, auction donations, Internet activities etc. draw very little financial rewards) And amazingly, we are both having the best sales years of our lives. The two poles are quickening, but my success took thirty-five years of hard work to accumulate! He has been painting a fraction of that time. And that pretty much sums up the American art buisness, in this little art market microcosm of Navasota, Texas.

20" x 80" acrylic on hollow core door

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