By Jessica Cuevas
As I entered the Sam Houston Memorial Museum Walker Education Center, I was greeted by warm and friendly smiles from the staff and both the former director Mac Woodward, his wife Leanne Woodward, and current director Derek Birdsall. This was no ordinary day over at the Walker Education Center, for artist, Lee Jamison, was exhibiting a select paintings in the gallery, reflecting his work on East Texas.
Lee Jamison, of course, was also there greeting and thanking EVERYONE individually for coming. He was featuring paintings from Huntsville, one of Sam Houston’s Woodland Home itself, and others from across the region.
The room was matched the title of the exhibit, as all the paintings expertly captured the essence of East Texas. Jamison even commented how he had brought more paintings than the room could fit!
The three paintings that stood out the most to me were (1) Roots of Texas (2) His first painting (3) Old Main.
The Roots of Texas is a painting of a tree, its roots, and the trench near it. It was significant since it told the story behind how our beautiful state got its name. It originated from the word Tejas which Caddo Indians used to describe friends. I thought it was amazing that he included his very first painting in this exhibit but also that it was placed next to the Roots of Texas one.
I believe it to be because they are both origin stories, one of how Texas got its name and the other of how Jamison’s art career began. There is nothing better to show that than his very first painting, which is different than the rest of his works. It definitely stands out.
This other art piece just takes your breath away and leaves you admiring its beauty. It is a perfectly beautiful painting of Sam Houston State University’s famous Old Main Building. You can really see and adore the architecture and how majestic Old Main was. This was one painting that everyone stopped to look at and engage in conversation with those around them exchanging their stories and memories of this building. Even that of the night that broke everyone’s spirit as they saw this building burst into flames.
When the clock struck 6:30 p.m., the crowd went over to the next room and took their seats, and waited to hear from Jamison. The opening speech was the quickest history lessons I had ever heard about Mexico and Texas. It was given by none other than Caroline Crimm.
I learned that back then, one of the conditions needed to become a Mexican Citizen was to convert to Catholicism. This was particularly interesting since the LEAP Center is volunteering for a U.S. Citizenship Prep Course.
Crimm’s history lesson led very well into what Jamison would discuss since in her crash course she discussed what happened in East Texas over the course of centuries. Hence, Jamison’s book title and the exhibit’s name Ode to East Texas.
He went in depth about the evolution and stories behind a couple of his paintings, some of which were exhibited, while others were not.
The stories behind each of his paintings really resonated with me since there was a meaningful significance behind all of them, which I found inspiring. When discussing origin stories, for example, he discussed his time at Lon Morris College, where he not only learned to refine his artistic skills, but also met his wife, Melinda!
After his speech, many people re-entered the gallery room to see the exhibit one last time before the museum closed. Jamison even stayed longer to sign copies of his book “Ode to East Texas,” which was on sale at the museum store.
The Jamison exhibit will be displayed at the Walker Education Center until May 28, 2022. Be sure to check it out if you have not already!