The Old Post Office Museum and Art Center will showcase the art of William (Jim) Clay, a resident of the Medlan Chapel Community along with the sculptures by Ann Ayres. Clay, 78, has a passion for art that drove him to paint and sculpt while working long hours in the newspaper business.
The veteran newspaperman worked in Quanah newspapers twice, Roswell, N.M., and Vernon before he came to Graham. Clay became the copublisher of the Graham Leader in 1986 with E.B. Harris, and later served as managing editor and head of the press room.
But still, Clay always found himself driven toward his true passions. This week's OPOMAC exhibit features paintings that prove his prowess through several mediums, including acrylic, egg tempera, watercolor, oil and ink.
Although Clay is predominantly a self-taught artist, Peter Hurd, one of Texas' most famous artists, helped the 20-year-old Clay develop his realistic style of painting. Hurd's landscapes are rendered in desolate earth tones conveying the harsh beauty of the Texas Panhandle, and his influence can be seen in much of Clay's art.
Clay's first book, “Windmill Country: Llano Estacado and South Plains of Texas,” contains prints of windmills, abandoned homesteads, careworn settlers, farmers, ranchers and the Comanches, as well as scenes from Texas' frontier era to the 1930s.
“All the Indians I try to do is the Comanches, who ruled this area for 200 years,” he said. “This was their land until after we killed all the buffalo, starved the Indians out, moved them to Fort Sill, and that ended it.”
The OPOMAC exhibit contains only one of his sculptures, “In the Wake of The Hide Hunters,” a depiction of a despairing Indian warrior gazing at the bleached bones of a buffalo. Before Clay attempted his Comanche sculptures, he researched and traveled to the Comanche Nation Headquarters in Lawton, Okla. Clay found that Donald Chashenah, the head dancer of the Comanche Nation, would have to be convinced that his art was an accurate depiction of his tribe.
Clay finally got his request for photos granted when he said, “If a Comanche Indian saw my painting of a Comanche, that's how it's supposed to look.”
The narratives accompanying his art are peppered with humor, but they also describe an early life of hardship. His family of farmers, including all his father's uncles, traveled from place to place looking for work, just like the Joads of the Dust Bowl in “The Grapes of Wrath.”
Read the entire story in this weekend's edition of the Graham Leader.