The Art of Bill Hutson: Homestead shown at Texas State Galleries

The Art of Bill Hutson is a unique, citywide exhibit celebrating the work of artist and San Marcos native Bill Hutson. As part of the exhibition, the Texas State Galleries at Texas State University, San Marcos presents a six-piece installation of works by Hutson, the centerpiece of which is “Homestead with Signs, Symbols, and Numbers.” This massive painting – over 6 x 9 feet – is accompanied by five preparatory studies for the work, including a sculpture entitled “Shotgun for Elton Fax”. The exhibit is on view in the foyer of the Texas State Galleries through May 18.

Bill Hutson was born in San Marcos in 1936. After graduating from high school in 1954, he entered the Air Force and in 1960 moved to San Francisco, where he attended the San Francisco Academy of Art. The artist moved to New York in 1963 and in the decades that followed also lived abroad in England, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Nigeria and Senegal. He has been the subject of more than 20 individual exhibitions and has participated in more than fifty group exhibitions. His works are part of numerous private and public collections, including the Brooklyn Museum, the Studio Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

The exhibition of “Homestead with Signs, Symbols and Numbers” is part of Hutson’s first presentation of art in his hometown of San Marcos, and stems from the artist’s memory of his family’s multigenerational ownership in 733 Center St. The painting contains many references to the site and to San Marcos, references that have personal meaning for the artist. According to Hutson, the confluence of abstraction and representation, coupled with the overlapping of forms and overall lack of depth, allows for a free composition of a specific time or space – as elusive as the memories that ‘it represents.

“…there was an invincible quality about San Marcos, a hidden magnetism, a secret vitality and a sacrosanct vibe generated by the city’s past…I wanted to convey the natural and metaphysical dimensions of a shut up,” Bill Hutson wrote.

The fragility and irony of the notion of “home” and, more specifically, of “farm” are reinforced by the title of the painting. A “homestead” refers to a house with attached buildings and land, but also to the Homestead Act of 1862, which granted ownership of “public” land to U.S. citizens and heads of families after five years of “evidence” of their claim. Neither Native Americans, who lived on the land long before it was “settled,” nor black Americans claimed these lands; indeed, they were still denied equal access to most public facilities when Hutson himself was a child.

He writes: “In a subtle way, this tragic paradox, of ‘home’ located in a place with a significant and recent history of oppression, servitude and insecurity, is conveyed in Homestead with signs, symbols and numbers.

For more information about Texas State Galleries, visit txstgalleries.org or follow us on social media @txstgalleries. Texas State Galleries is located in the Joann Cole Mitte Building at the corner of West Sessom Drive and North Comanche Street on the campus of Texas State University.

Christopher S. Washington