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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

San Marcos exhibit reveals how alumnus finds beauty in resilience

A+photo+of+the+Diversity+Mural%2C+Sunday%2C+April+3%2C+2022%2C+at+E+Martin+Luther+King+Drive+and+S+LBJ+Drive.

A photo of the Diversity Mural, Sunday, April 3, 2022, at E Martin Luther King Drive and S LBJ Drive.

It was a pen and ink drawing of an African warrior that became Robert Jones’ first award-winning piece of work.
He was in middle school at the time and was mostly encouraged by his mother to enter the contest.
While he’s long surpassed middle school art contests, Jones’ family continues to motivate his work today. He still remembers the intricate wooden sculptures of a horse, tree and cactus clump that his father carved with a pocketknife from old apple crates and the colors and patterns of his mother’s handmade quilts.
Jones’ latest exhibit “Walking in My Shoes,” reflects his life experiences and the resiliency he’s carried with him. The exhibit is set to run at the San Marcos Art Center from April 6-30. One of the original pieces included is a painting of an old, torn-up pair of Chuck Taylors that is reminiscent of a pair Jones wore when he was younger.
“Anything can be beautiful. A rusty pair of shoes or a person that’s heartbroken and whatnot in some of the paintings that you see,” Jones said. “‘Walking in My Shoes’ is kind of a synonym or resemblance to what I’ve had to go through — ugly stuff to get to where I am now with the beautiful artwork and fine art that people see.”
Jones grew up in Gonzales, Texas, and was involved in art throughout school. During his senior year of high school, Jones placed second in an art contest and received a scholarship that would help send him to Southwest Texas State University where he earned a degree in commercial art.
Upon his graduation in 1978, Jones began working jobs for the City of Austin in which he used his creative gift and newly acquired expertise from Southwest Texas State. He took photos and wrote captions for local newspapers, designed brochures as a public information officer and even created the official logo for Austin Energy, something he said is his “claim to fame.”
He credits his motivation to pursue his art career to his parents who supported him from when he began painting at five years old. If his father, an artist who never had the time to practice his passion, could find time to create, Jones knew he could do anything.
“[My dad] just said, you know, ‘go for it.’ And my mom did too,” Jones said. “So, they were proud of me that I made it and had my artwork all over Austin and you know [I’m] making a living and feeding and supplying for my family.”
After working for the City of Austin for over 10 years, Jones moved on to the museum business, working as a designer and curator. He helped establish the Bob Bullock Texas History Museum in Austin in 2001 then moved to the George Washington Carver Museum.
While he was working to make a living, he was also completing freelance design and commission work outside of his regular job.
“I tell my wife all the time, that if I’m not creating something, I feel like I’m not alive,” Jones said. “I feel like just a bump on a log or dead in the water or dead man walking or whatever. So, I try to just create something if it’s just, you know if I just see a leaf or something, or you know, or some crumbs on a table, I’ll try to pattern them on the table where they look like a design or something.”
When Jones retired in 2018, he saw it as an opportunity to return to his roots and get back into fine art from graphic design.
Conversations about giving Jones a show at the Art Center began two years ago but the pandemic put plans on pause. When the center finally opened back up, manager Nancy Brown contacted Jones to ask if he was still up for the event.
“I believe his work represents what we’re trying to do with Art League, which is to foster and encourage artists and art in some markets,” Brown said.
The San Marcos Art Center is a part of the San Marcos Art League and is an art hub for local artists, acting as a gallery space, studio, social venue and sales floor. Brown, who was not yet a member of the San Marcos Art League when the board first reached out to Jones, said she was impressed with the work he had done on the diversity mural downtown titled “Celebrate Diversity: Our Common Thread.”
Mittie Miller, a longtime friend of Jones and his family through their shared church, recommended Jones to the mural selection board that was comprised of the San Marcos Main Street Program and several other city organizations. Miller, who is a member of the Dunbar Heritage Association, said Jones was the first person who came to mind when they made a call for artists.
“Once we put out the search for artists in the San Marcos area – because we did want somebody from San Marcos – he responded on time, ready to create it,” Miller said.
Located at E Martin Luther King Drive and S LBJ Drive, the mural depicts a group of individuals holding hands and silhouettes of them performing different actions like riding a bike. The subjects, which range in age, race, ethnicity, disability, gender and culture, are all connected by the colorful “common thread” that runs through the painting. The mural was revealed in January and is the largest piece Jones has created, totaling 16 panels and 500 hours of work.
Although he was given some instruction and guidance from the mural committee, Jones was free to incorporate his own ideas and create something that illustrated San Marcos’ diverse community.
“I think is absolutely amazing. I knew his artwork, so when it came out of his creativity, he didn’t have to pull so much from the committee. It’s like we gave him a sentence and he took it and made a paragraph out of it,” Miller said.
The meaning behind Jones’ exhibit incorporates the message he hopes all of his artwork gets across. As a Black man, he said, those who make quick judgments of him will never know the depth of his knowledge or extent of his skills until they walk in his shoes.
“People that are very critical about other individuals can look at these paintings, look at me, look at these pieces and say … ‘hell, this guy’s an artist and he still had all these barriers and barricades that were against him, but yet he still has enough desire and enough emotion and enough encouraging from other folks that he can create beautiful art,'” Jones said.
“Walking in My Shoes” will open in the San Marcos Art Center on April 6 and will run through April 30. Visitors are invited to attend the opening reception on April 8 from 6-9 p.m. at the Art Center located at 117 N Guadalupe St. Suite 101 in downtown San Marcos.
For more information on the exhibit, visit sanmarcosartcenter.com. To keep up with Jones, visit his Instagram @robertrjonesart.

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  • Robert Jones stands next to a cover illustration he completed for a book titled “Claiming Sunday” by San Marcos author Jolene Maddox Snider. Released in 2018, the book told the story of a Texas slave community. 

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