“Bait Anyone?” by E. Gordon West
“Bait Anyone?” by E. Gordon West

What does a warm, welcoming home for terminally ill guests have in common with a “gang” of artists that has been creating watercolor paintings for 53 years?

First, some of the wondrous works of art from the “Watercolor Gang” are displayed at the ABODE Home. Second, for the third year, ABODE and this roaming band of artists are partnering to put on an art exhibit. This year’s show is titled Texas Gulf Coast…and Beyond.

The Watercolor Gang. From left: Finis Collins, Clay McGaughy, E. Gordon West, Lee Ricks, and Roy Murray. Photo courtesy of the Watercolor Gang.
The Watercolor Gang. From left: Finis Collins, Clay McGaughy, E. Gordon West, Lee Ricks, and Roy Murray. Photo courtesy of the Watercolor Gang.

The show opens with an evening reception Thursday, Sept. 22 at St. David’s Episcopal Church, located at 1301 Wiltshire Blvd., from 6-9 p.m., followed by a showing and a demonstration by artist Finis Collins on Saturday, Sept. 24 from 1-3 p.m. The event culminates with a finale on Sunday, Sept. 25 from noon-2 p.m.

The gang consists of Finis Collins, Clay McGaughy, Lee Ricks, E. Gordon West, and guest artist Roy Murray, who are all donating 40% of the sales from the exhibit to the nonprofit ABODE Contemplative Care for the Dying. 

Third, a clear connection between ABODE and the gang is the contemplative nature of ABODE’s care and the therapeutic aspect of creating art. Art therapist Maripat Munley, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in art therapy, who has worked with ABODE clients, said “art as therapy for ABODE guests may be expressive, therapeutic, and contemplative.”

Some examples, Munley pointed out, are mandalas or circular drawings which have been documented across cultures for eons. “This type of art may be used to enter into contemplative prayer, often becoming a habit or spiritual discipline,” she said.

“Some use this tool to find a more relaxed state because it reduces stress and centers the artist by lowering vital signs such as heart rate and blood pressure. It is common for persons who are dying to naturally engage in a life review. Art making can be a safe mirror or window into that process. Many want to create a gift or talisman for a loved one who cared for them or for the ABODE caregiver. Others simply need to express their feelings in a way other than words.”

People in early to late stages of dying often use the process and resultant product of art making to explore and understand their lives, Munley added, “both past and present, as well as their personal, relational, physical, and even spiritual experiences of dying.”

Artist Clay McGaughy agreed that art is often used “therapeutically.”

“When painting, we are not in a trance, so to speak, but are very focused on the existence of the piece for its own self,” he said. “(It’s) a diversion, maybe contemplative art.”

McGaughy further noted that art could be perceived as a “shot at immortality. We all wish to leave a mark in some way. Maybe this is pertinent when we (the Watercolor Gang) are painting.”

The artist cited a well-known quote: “Death, what is death? It’s your influence that counts. Perhaps painting is a spiritual experience, sometimes religiously, but not necessarily so. In a sense, all art is apart from reality to some extent.”

The melding of contemplative expression and care can be spiritual – definitely therapeutic – and perhaps give someone a feeling of leaving something behind or influencing others with a truth expressed in water and paint.

The community is invited to attend the Watercolor Gang’s free art exhibit, visit with the artists, learn more about the art at the ABODE Home, and perhaps purchase a painting from one of the iconic San Antonio artists. Their pieces are treasures that will span lifetimes and help those at the end of life.

For more information on Texas Gulf Coast…and Beyond, click here.


Top image: “Bait Anyone?” by E. Gordon West 

Related Stories:

Commentary: Inside ] Out Art Show to Illustrate Addiction Recovery Stories

Exhibit to Focus on Power of Art in Healing Hearts

Sept. 11 Exhibit Travels to San Antonio, Opens at A&M’s Patriots’ Casa

Photography Icon Ansel Adams Featured at the Briscoe

Avatar photo

Peter Szarmach

Peter Szarmach is a part-time marketer and photographer. His site, www.composingbeauty.com offers some of the beauty around us we sometimes miss or take for granted. He's also a board member at large with...