Artist Spotlight: Mary Baxter
For more than three decades Mary Baxter has made a living as a successful artist, producing hundreds of works inspired by the desert landscapes of West Texas. She has always been interested in art, but after she graduated from college, she didn’t think it could be a viable career.
She grew up in San Antonio, with a love of horses and the ranching lifestyle. As a young woman she moved with her partner to a ranch south of Marfa, running cattle on a grass lease. That’s when her artistic spirit was re-awakened by the desert beauty around her.
“I just began to really see the landscape,” she said. “At first it struck me as harsh because it was so different than what I was used to, but it really grew on me. So, I began to do some paintings just for fun.”
A friend owned an art gallery in Alpine and offered to display her first paintings.
“I was really surprised that they sold pretty quickly. I did some more and she sold more and it kind of went from there.”
Her success allowed her to free herself of ranch duties and devote herself to painting fulltime. The landscape that was her muse remains her inspiration.
“It never ceases to inspire because it’s just constantly changing. I can take a walk every evening and it seems like every single day I find something new, a different plant or a different bug that I’ve never seen before.”
Baxter’s work has been showcased in galleries across Texas, including her former gallery and studio in Marathon.
“I can’t tell you how many lifelong Texans would come in and it might be their first trip to the Big Bend region, and they were always so surprised. They just had no idea. And it is always fun to hear their delight at discovering the beauty of this part of Texas.”
Baxter likes to work in the field and has spent a lot of time in a travel trailer as an invited guest on ranches across the Trans-Pecos.
“I don’t like to work from photographs, and prefer to really immerse myself in a place for several days or even longer so I can see it in a different light at different times of the day. The longer I stay in a place, the more it unfolds and reveals itself. And that’s always fun.”
She’s best known for her landscape work, but is also fascinated by the wildlife that calls Big Bend home. Recently, she was working on a piece near the Chinati Mountains that was commissioned for the upcoming 2023 Centennial of Texas State Parks and found herself distracted.
“I was painting a landscape looking off to the west and I was hard at it. And then I noticed this jack rabbit was not too far away. It was really hot, and he obviously didn’t want to move. I don’t think he had been bothered by a person before, and he just stayed there the whole time. I couldn’t help but paint him.”
She also finished up her piece on the Chinati Mountains, which will be part of an art exhibit celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Texas State Park System in 2023. Baxter is one of 30 artists chosen for the project, and the work will be featured in a book from Texas A&M Press and a traveling exhibit that will be displayed at museums across Texas.
As she continues to be inspired by the landscapes and ranches of West Texas, Baxter is grateful for the work the Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) is doing to protect what she loves.
“I’m a huge fan of what the Borderlands Research Institute is doing to learn more about the wildlife in West Texas. I really love what they are doing as the go-between between private property owners, ranchers and conservationists. Everyone who loves the Big Bend region benefits from their work.”
The Borderlands Research Institute is pleased to feature the work of artists who are inspired by the landscapes and the wildlife of West Texas. A new initiative called Big Bend Artists for Conservation aims to inspire conservation through art, and Baxter is pleased to join the group of featured artists.
“It was an honor to be asked and more importantly, I would do anything I could to help further their mission and get the word out about them. It just gives me a feeling of hope to be involved with so many people that love the land as much as we do. I’m just thrilled to be part of it.”
Learn more about Mary Baxter and her work at baxtergallery.com.
Listen to Episode #6 of the Borderlands Buzz podcast and hear Mary talk about how the Big Bend region inspires her to create beautiful works of art.
Since 2007, the Borderlands Research Institute has encouraged effective land stewardship of the Chihuahuan Desert. Housed at Sul Ross State University, the Borderlands Research Institute builds on a long-lasting partnership with private landowners, the university’s Range and Wildlife Program, and cooperating state, federal, and non-governmental organizations. Through research, education, and outreach, the Borderlands Research Institute is helping to conserve the last frontier of Texas and the Southwest.