Texas State Rep. John Bucy III (D-Austin) is hosting three paintings by a former Leander resident in his office at the Texas State Capitol through the month of August.
The paints by Frank Robinson, now a Hutto resident, include “President Johnson Ponders Dr. King,” “Lincoln Revisited in Strange Light” and “Reflections On a Dream,” which is a painting of former Pres. Barack Obama.
Bucy’s office is displaying the paintings as part of its Artist of the Month program, which aims to highlight local artistic talent in the district. Robinson also received a Certificate of Recognition from the office as part of being featured.
Bucy’s Chief of Staff Max Lars said they have been impressed by the sheer amount of talent on display in the approximately 50 artists who have submitted for considerations for being featured in the program.
“We were joking that the paintings make the office look like a museum,” Lars said. “Rep. Bucy has been a major proponent for the arts. He believes that the arts are the foundations to a child’s success.”
Lars said they were impressed by how realistic Robinson's work looked, particularly given they are portraits.
Robinson, who has also been an ordained minister since 1983, said he has been drawing since he was a child. He said he struggled to communicate above a whisper at a young age due to a paralyzed vocal cord caused by a severed nerve, so he turned to arts as another way to communicate and make himself understood.
Robinson’s artwork over the years has included many civil rights figures. He said some of his inspiration is drawn from his own experiences as a young minister in an interracial marriage in southern Alabama in the early 1980s. His said engagement came shortly after a lynching in a nearby area, so his family feared the threat of being murdered or their church bombed. Based on these concerns, he wrote a series of letter to his son in the event he was killed, which he later compiled into his book Letters To a Mixed Race Son.
He said he was also interested in the role these figures each played in the country’s pursuit of justice. “People fascinate me,” he said, and that wanted to express something about them in his art “that you can’t simply capture with a photograph,” such as the common humanity all people share with each other.
“I’m working towards painting things that are worth painting, saying things that are worth saying,” Robinson said. “You can say things with pictures that you may not be able to say if you simply said them with words.”
He pointed to teachers in the Bible, who would break through people’s polarization and get them to hear their lessons by using stories. He said he emphasized the importance of being willing to listen to what other people have to say in his Johnson painting, posing him in a position where he is listening to Dr. King.
When asked what he hopes people will get out of his three pieces, Robinson said, “I do hope that people that look at them can begin…to question, for example with Lyndon John, ‘What was he listening to?’ and ‘Why was he listening?’”
“Maybe someone can look at these and ask ‘Well, what am I going to do in my hour and in my time?’”