News Archive

“The Specious Instant” – A Collaboration of Friends at Dishman

The work of three artists, friends and colleagues will come together in “The Specious Instant” at the Dishman Art Museum Jan. 10 through Feb.18 with the works of Steve Hodges, Justin Varner and Jakob Christmas. Members of the community are invited to the free opening reception Jan. 14 from 7 to 9 p.m.

“The show is a clear example of cross-pollination, of the mutations that wind their way circuitously through three separate and distinct bodies of work, each informed by the other,” Christmas said. “It is a chronicle of artists/friends/peers in dialogue and the sometimes conscious, but mostly unconscious, effects on the resulting creative output. We respect each other; we love each other; we compete and cheer-lead and criticize and challenge and support and steal blindly because we have established that there are no rules between us and that anything which makes for good art is valid.”

The special relationship between the three came when they were at Lamar University. Hodges, then an associate professor of art, was Christmas and Varner’s teacher and quickly became a mentor to both. They became friends and colleagues who respected each other’s works and critiqued and collaborated extensively. Hodges died Aug. 18.

In many ways, Christmas said, Hodges is still very much a contemporary whose ideas and opinions still carry weight and continue to inform decisions about the upcoming exhibit. “It's a difficult thing to try to discuss the nature of Steve in death and difficult to even define the tense of Steve, past or present,” Christmas said. “Steve Hodges was a person who lived in a house and drank pomegranate juice and petted his dogs, but he is also an artist whose work is still alive and current. His paintings continue to interact with our retinas and our brains. They continue to put new thoughts and feelings and colors into the world. And that's all happening now, right now.”

The exhibit will include Varner’s charcoal drawings and Christmas’ and Hodges’ oil paintings.

“We at the Dishman are very excited about this exhibition, which provides a glimpse into the creative process of artistic collaboration and demonstrates the profound impact that a true mentor can have on his or her students,” said Jessica Dandona, director of the Dishman Art Museum. “That is not in any way to imply that the artists' works are not original. You can see that they all three go off in quite different directions, yet there is an underlying spirit of exploration that ties their works together.”

Hodges’s paintings, which are steeped in psychology and philosophy and often include highly stylized figures rendered in intensely saturated colors, are in many private and public collections including the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Art Museum of Southeast Texas in Beaumont. A Port Arthur native, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Lamar University and a master’s of fine arts degree from the University of Arkansas. He joined the art faculty at Lamar in 1990 and retired during the 2005-2006 academic year.

Christmas’ paintings range from figurative to abstract and combine invented and found symbols as well as text in order to construct works that run the gamut from minimalism to Neo-Dadaist Conceptualism. “At their best, my paintings are both straight-forward and mysterious, obvious yet suffused with ambiguity,” Christmas, who lives in Boston, said. “They are sophisticated and elementary, precise and slightly dumb.”
Varner’s art is darker. “My black-and-white charcoal drawings digest my observations and translate an already bleak atmosphere into something more unimaginable,” said Varner, who lives in Port Arthur and is an adjunct instructor in Lamar’s Department of Art. “What I have documented intertwines with new discoveries and grotesquely rendered stereotypes to give birth to an even more ignorable society located in a town not too far removed.”

The Dishman Art Museum is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and is located at 1030 E. Lavaca, Beaumont, Texas. Parking is free. For more information, call 409. 880.8959 or visit