Few people capture the inherent beauty of the South Plains as well as this year’s Lubbock Arts Festival’s featured artist, Ashton Thornhill. His photographs, which highlight old agro-industrial buildings, open fields, highway overpasses, and other mundane fixtures in the West Texas landscape, force us to stop and appreciate how eloquently these things harmonize with nature. Thornhill’s attention to detail brings out the most minute characteristics of his subjects and allows us to stare endlessly at his pieces exploring them. His ongoing study of our area, which he calls the Llano Estacado Project, is a wonderful exploration of the elements that define the South Plains of Texas: the endless horizon, the giant and mysterious sky, the oft-foreboding wind, the dirt, and the manmade elements that persist in this environment.
Originally from Shreveport, Louisiana, Thornhill eventually found himself at Texas Tech University listlessly studying finance. Somewhere along the way, however, he discovered photography and started spending countless hours in a darkroom. He was too far along to change his major and reluctantly completed his original degree. But when he received an offer to remain at Texas Tech as a teaching assistant for some photography classes while pursuing a graduate degree in mass communications, Thornhill jumped at the opportunity. It was during this period that he met Hershel Womack (www.hershelwomack.com), a professor of photography and kindred spirit who also happened to be from Shreveport. Thornhill credits Womack’s mentorship as one of his most important influences and their friendship continues to this day.
Thornhill briefly moved to Dallas after finishing his post-graduate degree to work as a photojournalist but was soon called back to Lubbock when he was offered a professorship teaching photography at his alma mater. Thornhill loved teaching, was eventually tenured, and spent the next couple of decades at Texas Tech. Innumerable students have benefited from Thornhill’s guidance and many have gone on to enjoy successful careers in photography and photojournalism.
In 2006, Thornhill retired from Texas Tech and began practicing his craft in earnest. As was the case for most photographers in this era, Thornhill had to contend with the dramatic impact of the digital revolution. Although solidly grounded as a black-and-white, silver-gelatin photographer, eventually he recognized the negative environmental impact of the old ways and embraced the potential of the digital format.
There is little evidence that Thornhill struggled with the new technology as his most recent works exhibit a mastery of the form not often realized. This should not come as a surprise because Thornhill is always evolving and developing his craft. He has had workshops with Kate Breakey, Annie Liebovitz, Ansel Adams, Cole Weston, W. Eugene Smith, Gene Richards, and Keith Carter, among others. Recently, Thornhill has been experimenting with a new technique that involves drawing directly upon photographs. The results are stunning and vibrant, as he delicately transforms black and white photographs into colorful, impressionistic, and sometimes surreal works of art.
Attendees of this year’s Lubbock Arts Festival will walk away from Thornhill’s exhibit with a new appreciation for this remarkable land we call home, even if only temporarily, and for the subtle beauty of our surroundings that many of us take for granted. Thornhill’s artwork will be on view and for sale at the Lubbock Arts Festival, July 24-25, 2021. He will also be on-site to answer questions and visit about his work. Hours are 11AM-6PM on Saturday, and Noon-5PM on Sunday. Admission is $5 for adults; children 12 and under are FREE. For more information: lubbockartsfestival.org
Guest Blogger Jamison Driskill holds a Bachelor of Arts in theatre and dance from the University of Texas, a Master of Business Administration from Texas State University, and he is currently pursuing and Master of Fine Arts in arts administration in the School of Theatre and Dance at Texas Tech University (TTU). He was recently honored with the Award for Excellence in the Institute of Theatre Journalism and Advocacy at The Kennedy Center Region Six American College Theatre Festival, and he is a regular contributor to subTEXT, the TTU School of Theatre and Dance’s monthly newsletter. Jamison is also a professional actor, director, and teacher for stage, television, and film. Most notably, Jamison costarred in season three, episode two of NBC’s Friday Night Lights as a struggling freshman quarterback. Stage acting credits include Prince Edward, the Black Prince of Wales, in the American professional premiere of Shakespeare’s (debatably) Edward III at The Bank Street Theatre in New York City’s Greenwich Village; Timothy in TOSOS II’s production of Doric Wilson’s Street Theatre about the Stonewall Riots in 1969; and Florizel in The Winter’s Tale at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga Canyon, California. He directed a production of Aimee Gonzalez’s Larius Likler at the Hyde Park Theater in Austin, Texas, for the annual Frontera Fest in 2007 which was Recognized as “Best of the Fest.” Jamison also worked for several years as a private acting coach in Los Angeles specializing in audition preparation, helping actors land television roles/, commercials, and feature films. He has studied acting at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and spent a wonderful year working on scenes from Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot with the late Joseph Chaikin in his ongoing workshop in New York City.