Guest Writer: Dr. Todd Giles, Assistant Professor of English and WFMA Advisor Board member
David Bates, a Texas artist of national importance, had a major retrospective exhibition at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas in 2014. Originally from Garland, Bates studied at the Whitney Museum in New York before returning to Dallas to complete his MA from SMU in 1977. Much of Bates’ work depicts his summers on Galveston Island, as well as the fishing and hunting guides he befriended at Grassy Lake in Texarkana in the 1980s. More recently—and much more politically—his work depicts the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana.
Bates’ large-scale oil paintings of Gulf Coast fishermen, such as Bait Fish (1989) and Shark Line (1990), depict heroic, stylized, primitive-looking men fishing the rocky jetties that populate Galveston’s shoreline. Bates’ untitled 1991 lithograph in the permanent collection of the WFMA seen here differs from many of the Galveston paintings in that this fisherman is posing for a portrait, unlike most of Bates’ subjects who are actively engaged in the act of fishing: hauling in jetty nets, crabbing, or holding up their catch. Here the un-named subject is portrayed atop cooler in a bright blue and yellow plaid shirt and jeans, back turned away from the crashing waves as they explode against the rocky jetty, rod held vertically in his hands.
Bates’ lithograph was added to the WFMA’s permanent collection in 2011 through a generous gift from the Museum’s Collectors Circle, which was established in 2010. Established in 2010, the Collectors Circle is an opportunity to learn about fine art collecting, while also contributing to the culture of our region by helping build upon the Museum’s already impressive collection of American works on paper. To date, members of the Collectors Circle have donated nearly $60,000, enabling the addition of more than fifty important artworks to the Museum’s permanent holdings.
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