The Topeka Art Guild’s April and May show will be titled Journey Through Topeka. I am a member of the Topeka Art Guild and try to put something in all of their shows. But I live in Lawrence. I have lots of paintings done in Lawrence and the surrounding countryside but I usually don’t paint in Topeka. So what could I contribute to this upcoming show? This got me thinking about what kind of images symbolize a city.
I’ve painted most of the sites that people think of as symbolizing Lawrence. There’s Potter’s Lake on the KU campus and the bridge at one end of it. I’ve done several paintings of the Kansas River both in winter from photos and on site in summer. The restored Depot in North Lawrence and the flower gardens in front of it are a good place to paint. So is South Park with its bandstand, fountain and surrounding gardens. I’ve also painted neighborhood scenes in either autumn with colorful trees or in April when the city bursts into bloom.
But what symbolizes Topeka? The most obvious answer, I suppose, would be the newly restored Capitol building. There is also Gage Park with its zoo and rose garden. I’ve done a few paintings there in the past but with one exception they have been sold or given away. The above painting is what I came up with as my symbol of Topeka. I think it must be the same for many people who live in smaller communities. When we drive into the city our most likely reason is shopping. I often go to the Westridge Mall in Topeka before I go to work at the Topeka Art Guild Gallery. On a visit to the mall this winter I liked the way the stormy sky looked as a backdrop for the cream colored exterior of one of the mall’s major department stores so I took a photo, which led to my painting symbolizing Topeka, the entrance to a shopping mall.
If you attend Theatre Lawrence’s production of “Other Desert Cities” which opened last night, don’t miss the photography exhibit by D. W. Gates in the lobby. Here is someone who can really see artistic possibilities. His snow scenes look as if they were photographed in the Rocky Mountains but the captions say they were seen in the Lawrence area. I asked him how he did it. He said after a heavy snow in the country that had drifted he would lie down to take his photo so that the drifts look like mountain peaks.