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Walk into any of sixty post offices or federal buildings in the state of Texas and you may be greeted by a surprising sight: magnificent mural art on the lobby walls.
In the midst of the Great Depression, a program was born that would not only give work to artists but also create beauty and optimism for a people worn down by hardship and discouragement. This New Deal program commissioned artists to create post office murals—the people’s art—to celebrate the lives, history, hopes, and dreams of ordinary Americans. In Texas alone, artists painted ninety-seven artworks for sixty-nine post offices and federal buildings around the state. Painted by some of the best-known artists of the day, these murals sparkled with scenes of Texas history, folklore, heroes, common people, wildlife, and landscapes.
Murals were created from San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas to Big Spring, Baytown, and Hamilton. The artists included Tom Lea, Jerry Bywaters, Peter Hurd, Otis Dozier, Alexandre Hogue, and Xavier Gonzalez. The images showed people at work and featured industries specific to the region, often coupled with symbols of progress such as machinery and modern transportation. Murals depicted cowboys and stampedes, folk heroes from Sam Bass to Davy Crockett, revered Indian chief Quanah Parker, and community symbols such as Eastland’s lizard mascot, Ol’ Rip.
In this beautiful volume Philip Parisi has gathered 115 photographs of these stunning and historic works of art—36 in full color. He tells the story of how they came to be, how the communities influenced and accepted them, and what efforts have been made to restore and preserve them.
Enjoy this beautiful book in the comfort of your living room, or take it with you on the road as a guide to the people’s art in the Lone Star State.
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Philip Parisi, who now lives in Logan, Utah, and is a freelance writer and visiting assistant editor of the Western Historical Quarterly, began work on this manuscript while on the staff of the Texas Historical Commission. He directed a project that involved assembling a collection of slides of the extant murals and tracing the history of this WPA project.Review:
“The themes, images, and artists of the Texas Post Office murals now have a masterful reference work thanks to Philip Parisi. This great public art came out of the Great Depression. Some are lost; others, destroyed. But Parisi accounts for all of them and tells numerous fascinating stories about their creation.”--Clyde A. Milner II, Director, Heritage Studies Ph.D. Program, Arkansas State University (Clyde A. Milner II, Director, Heritage Studies Ph.D. Program, Arkansas State Uni)
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