GLENN WHITEHEAD: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
For over 30 years I have lived in Smithville, a small, pleasant city between Austin and Houston. I set up my studio first in the back of my house. Later, Wanda Gamble and I shared rented loft space on Main Street.
From the get go Smithville was the place for me. The subjects of my paintings are familiar, local and commonplace. I can’t paint grand views of the Alps. I don’t own the Alps. But hay in fields, creek beds, small town alleys, piney woods?…. They’re mine.
I was born in Houston, 1940. Grew up there, attended public schools. Shortly after graduating from high school I was living in New York City. I worked as a delivery boy, and I was ridiculously poor. Except I never thought of it that way. The way I saw it, I was rich. I attended classes at various art schools: The Brooklyn Museum, The Art Student’s League, The New School, and sat in on classes at NYU and Columbia. And I spent a lot of time in the city’s great museums. It was only later that I realized I had learned so much from looking, just looking. Renoir said, “You don’t learn about art from nature, you learn about art in museums.”
Eventually I received the usual degrees, a BFA at the University of Texas and a MFA at Stanford. While at U.T. I joined the staff of the Texas Ranger, U.T.’s student humor magazine. I drew cartoons, especially cartoons of armadillos. The title of “Armadillo Man” has followed me most of my life. Anyway with the proper credentials in hand I got a teaching position at Wichita State University, Wichita Kansas. But I hated teaching and moved back to Texas.
Wanda, family and friends were instrumental in keeping afloat my determination to be a self-sustaining full-time artist. I was retraining myself then and most of my work was small scale. About this time a close relationship developed between myself and Harris Gallery (Houston), and the relationship continues to exist. Bill Davis, director of Davis Gallery, offered me exhibitions and sold a lot of my work.
In my reading of artists’ lives I am impressed how important the support of friends and family were to their progress. Stardom is for the very few. Realistically, what an artist wants is simply the privilege to live out the dream, however modestly, and to feel that one’s talent is appreciated, however modest.
Read more about Glenn at his website: GlennWhitehead.com