Texas Moderns: Bill Bomar

Texas Moderns: Bill Bomar

Old Jail Art Center (map)

Curated by Shannon Steel. 

Artist, collector, Fort Worth Circle member, and Old Jail Art Center co-founder are just a few descriptions associated with William P. “Bill” Bomar (1919–1991). Bomar was born and grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, though claimed by Albany, the hometown of his mother and extended family. His lifelong artistic passion began at the age of seven. He studied painting at the Cranbrook Art Academy (1940–41) and later individually with painters John Sloan, Hans Hoffman, and Amédée Ozenfant. Bomar lived in Texas and New York and then moved permanently to Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico.

Bomar’s paintings and drawings often included the traditional subject matter of landscape, portrait, and still life. Yet, the styles for these subjects varied over his artistic career from purposeful application to loose and expressionistic application of various media. Simultaneously, Bomar used a mixture of these approaches to create works that incorporated mystic symbols and inner fantasy. Upon examination of his large body of work, he appeared more intent on experimentation of media and subject than establishing a personal or identifiable artistic “style.”

The surreal worlds manifested in his works resist depicting logic and clarity or recognizable reality. Instead they represent personal visions of a universe that are difficult to translate, but that contain familiar images that speak to the viewer in an alternative language of his own creation.

The OJAC’s core collection derived from Bomar’s eclectic personal collection of American and European art. Observed closely, one can see the influence of artists he admired and collected in his own works. Often the styles of Amedeo Modigliani, Paul Klee, Arthur Dove, and John Marin—not to mention his fellow Fort Worth Circle artists—were appropriated and reinterpreted into his own artistic language.

Bill Bomar first exhibited in Six Texas Painters at the Weyhe Gallery in New York in 1944. His art is in the permanent collection of the Brooklyn Museum; Dallas Museum of Art; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Harwood Museum of Art, Taos, New Mexico; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth; Museum of Fine Arts Houston; Old Jail Art Center; and numerous private collections. 

The OJAC has invited Shannon Steel to guest curate this installment of Texas Moderns featuring the works of Bill Bomar. Steel’s parents, Pat and Sara, were close friends of Bomar and Shannon’s personal relationship with Bomar developed as he spent part of his summers in New Mexico visiting, observing, and working with the artist at his home and studio. 

[Bill Bomar, Rita as Medea, c.v 1960s, oil on Masonite, 19.5 x 15.25 in. Collection of the Old Jail Art Center. Bequest of Bill Bomar known as the Jewel Nail Bomar and William P. Bomar Collection. 1993.026]

Texas Moderns: Bill Bomar is sponsored in part by Diana Nail, Betsy & Chuck Senter, and Rick Weatherl.

Want to learn more about Fort Worth Circle Artists like Bill Bomar? 

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Ron Watson: Order Among Chaos

Ron Watson: Order Among Chaos

Old Jail Art Center (map)

Curated by Patrick Kelly. 

Ronald Watson utilizes strict systems of order, artistic intuition, and the viewers’ perception to construct complex and intriguing sculptures with acute attention to detail and craftsmanship.  Watson’s work conveys a sense of stability in a world that is perceived to be in a state of chaos. 

The laws of nature, mathematics, and geometry are fundamental to Watson’s works and are utilized during the creative process. Paper, solid wood, and plywood are methodically cut and glued by hand to form the intricate structures. Pigmentation is applied not as surface decoration but to enhance or alter aspects of perception. Finally, similar shapes are repeated to form unified works representing a molecular level of nature.

Watson is a native of Nebraska and earned his BFA and MFA from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. He is a recipient of an Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment of Arts and two grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities as well as other distinguished awards. He has been represented in 18 solo and more than 100 group exhibitions throughout the US. Watson taught in the art department at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth for 30 years and also served as the first Director of TCU’s School of Art. He has an extensive record of teaching, lecturing, consulting, and arts administration in Texas and throughout the world. Watson retired from TCU in 2012 to work full time in his studio.


[Ronald Watson, Departure, 2014, painted plywood, 55.75 x 55.25 x 4. Courtesy of the artist.]

Click above Image for artist interview [via Ft. Worth Community Arts Center]

Ronald Watson: Order Among Chaos is sponsored in part by Jon Rex and Ann Jones.


Cell Series: Kelly O'Connor

Cell Series: Kelly O'Connor

Old Jail Art Center (map)

What do the Emerald City of Oz and the city of Odessa, Texas have in common? For Kelly O’Connor, Oz represents a city of dreams and a means back to reality, while Odessa represents dreams bound by harsh realities.

In Kelly O’Connor’s site-specific installation in the upper galleries of the 1877 jail building, the artist attempts to reveal the similarities and polarities of the two cities and their inhabitants—one fantasy and one real—to weave a non-linear narrative. A visual excess of color, symbolic references, seemingly disparate objects, and perfume oil will become the sensory vehicles for viewers as they explore themes of authenticity, disillusionment, excess, and escapism. References to Judy Garland and O’Connor’s grandmother (both named Dorothy), “institutional” green used in jails and asylums, and other powerful imagery will await viewers in this complex and thought provoking installation.

For almost a decade, San Antonio artist O’Connor has appropriated images from paper media produced during the 1950s and 1960s in the creation of her collages and sculptures. Her work is less about nostalgia than understanding how myth and reality shape our understanding of the world.

View examples of Kelly O'Connor's work and listen as she shares the history of her narrative. 


Kelly O’Connor, Dorothy II (Portrait of the artist's grandmother Dorothy) (detail), 2017, digitally printed image and mixed media collage, 30 X 22 in. Courtesy of the artist and David Shelton Gallery. Photo credit Ansen Seale.

The 2017 Cell Series is sponsored in part by Susie and Joe Clack, Amy and Patrick Kelly, McGinnis Family Fund of Communities Foundation of Texas, and Kathy Webster in Memory of Charles H. Webster.