It was one of those perfect spring days in Texas, with the sky a vault of blue, and the wild flowers in the kind of profusion that reminds one to be thankful for Lady Bird Johnson. My friends and I had decided to head up to College Station to tour the George Bush Presidential Library. The drive was little more than an hour from Montgomery County and took us through a virtual explosion of nature’s colors along the highways.
The museum itself was a wonderful experience with all the expected memorabilia of the presidency of George Bush the elder. There were mock ups of Air Force One and the Camp David Retreat office, a wonderful film covering the life of the president, displays of his military and government service, and eerily, an entire hall detailing the history of the Gulf War of the early 1990’s. With its pictures of bombings and Saddam Hussein, it looked as if it had been assembled from today’s headlines.
But on this occasion there was a special treat in store for visitors. It was the spectacular “Legends of the West” exhibit currently in place, and continuing through July 5, 2003. Those who love the art and lore of the West should not miss this show. The museum describes the exhibit as capturing “…the spirit and determination of a new breed of Americans as our nation expanded west.” It explores the “…sense of freedom… restlessness, and … dreams that called settlers.” The details of those dreams are vividly captured in this remarkable collection.
Through the use of American art, American history, and American cultural artifacts, the exhibit explores the extraordinary events of our nation’s westward expansion. Renowned western artists such as Frederic Remington, Charles Russell, Peter Hurd, Frank Reaugh, Tom Lea, and Thomas Moran are all represented in bronze and oil in this stunning exhibition of sculptures, paintings and drawings. There are more contemporary artists, such as Carrie Fell and Larry Pirtle, who give us their take on the West as a state of mind. A 1940 classic Indian motorcycle is displayed beside its modern cousin against a backdrop of exquisite 19th century black and white photographs of proud Native Americans. And if that isn’t enough, there is an exceptional collection of eighty pairs of cowboy boots with intricate designs and workmanship.
I am a U.T. Longhorn (B.A. 1966) through and through. The last thing I would ordinarily encourage is a pilgrimage to the College Station campus of archrivals, Texas A&M. But it is only fair to make an exception for this exceptional exhibit. Saddle up the family mini-van and hit the wildflower trail. You won’t be sorry!
The library and museum are open seven days a week, with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Hours are Monday-Saturday, 9:30a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. For further information and directions call 979-260-9552.
(The Courier 4.6.03)