Artist Spotlight: Lindy Cook Severns
Lindy Cook Severns is a fulltime artist who lives in West Texas, painting the landscapes she loves. The journey that brought her there reads like an adventure novel with plot points that are nothing short of remarkable.
She learned to pilot a plane in the 1970s, a time when not many women signed up for flight school. She co-piloted corporate jets for 17 years. She earned a fourth-degree Tae Kwan Do black belt. She sold her Lubbock home after close to three decades and wandered the southwestern U.S. in an RV with her husband. And she is an award-winning artist who has been drawing and painting since she was a toddler.
Her mother was also an artist, who taught her to draw before she could read. When she went to kindergarten, she was stunned to find out that the other kids didn’t do that, too.
“It was such a part of me and I couldn’t believe that it wasn’t a gift that everyone had,” she said.
She studied studio art at Texas Tech, but thinking she couldn’t make a living at it, ended up graduating with both an English and biology degree. After a divorce from her high school sweetheart, she began dating a pilot. Noting her fascination with flying, he encouraged her to become a pilot. She sold everything she had to pay for flight school. The relationship with that pilot didn’t last, but her passion for flying did.
She met her husband Jim, also a pilot, at the Lubbock airport. The two married in 1975. Just three months after the wedding, she hit unmarked wires and crashed a small plane, breaking her back in several places. That laid her up for close to two years, and that’s when she picked up painting again in earnest.
After she recovered, she started doing art shows, and a local gallery started showing her work. She continued to fly for the fun of it, until one day her husband asked her to be his co-pilot on a business trip. They ended up flying together as a crew for the next 17 years.
“We spent all that time flying together without getting a divorce, which is quite remarkable,” she said with a laugh.
The two also took up Tae Kwan Do, and she earned a fourth-degree black belt. The couple ran a martial arts school out of the local YMCA for years.
And, she continued to paint.
After 17 years of flying corporate jets, the two burned out together in 2004 and decided they’d had enough. What next for this intrepid couple? They sold their home of 30 years, bought an RV and travelled the southwestern United States. They loved their stays in Taos and Santa Fe, and especially Fort Davis. But they eventually tired of the nomadic lifestyle and decided to head back to Texas to establish a new home base.
The couple now lives on a friend’s ranch about 20 miles outside of Fort Davis. She connected with a local gallery, and the first year she was there, she was approached by the Museum of the Big Bend to take part in the prestigious annual “Trappings of Texas” exhibit. She took “Best of Show” that first year and has been a featured artist every year since.
“That was affirmation that I was doing the right thing in the right place.”
Now an artist in residence at the Old Spanish Trail Gallery outside Fort Davis, Severns is known for her sweeping landscapes and bold use of color. The Trans-Pecos landscapes and wildlife around her are what inspires her.
“Color takes people to a “wow” moment, like a sunset. But then I want you to go further into the painting. The more people want to know and explore and discover things, the more respectful they are of the land. I see an artist’s mission as education and wonder and awe and respect for the land.”
That aligns with the mission of the Borderlands Research Institute to conserve the last frontier of Texas and the Southwest.
“I love that the Borderlands Research Institute is educating people about the uniqueness and the spiritual value of this place. The more people are educated to understand it, the more they will fight to protect it.”
The Borderlands Research Institute is pleased to feature the work of artists like Lindy Cook Severns who are inspired by the landscapes and the wildlife of West Texas. An initiative called Big Bend Artists for Conservation aims to inspire conservation through art.
“I want people to respect the land and wildlife so that it will be there for their grandchildren. I try and pull people in through my artwork so they stop in their tracks and take three or four deep breaths and feel that connection to the land and be inspired to conserve it.”
“Whenever I paint pronghorns, I’m cognizant of their intimate connection with the vast grasslands of the borderlands. Finding them at rest and almost camouflaged in the rich gold and brown grasses that are the norm most of the year illustrated how much these fit their habitat. This small studio oil whispers of belonging. As for the prairie dog: he repeatedly stretched from his burrow to photo bomb my reference shots of the pronghorn, so I gave him a supporting role in a tale of coexistence. I use only my own photos for reference, so I value cooperative wildlife like these curious critters.”
© Lindy Cook Severns 2021
“Stand silently in the desert as a storm moves into the distant Chisos Mountains and feel your breaths slowly soften. Stand long enough, and one breath at a time you will fall into sync with infinity. I paint to share moments such as this, not only with people who love the land as I do, but also those who might otherwise never experience it. The desert isn’t desolate and barren: the desert is a place that can heal souls.”
“When the sun drenches the Chihuahuan Desert in the sparkling color of gemstones, the harsh, rugged landscape becomes a tapestry of rich velvet. This time of decking out in rubies is fleeting, a waltz with the sun that the ends all too soon. I call these “blink, and it’s gone moments,” and they’re among my favorite subjects to put into paint. I want the viewer to walk into this painting and feel that all is right with the world. And then, I invite them to linger and explore this wild landscape before night envelopes its color.”
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 natural resource program, cooperating state, federal, and non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders. Through research, education, and outreach, the Borderlands Research Institute is helping to conserve the last frontier of Texas and the Southwest.