Bixler on the power of art to impact, reflect real life

Billie Blair
Pratt Tribune
Pratt artist Dick Bixler presented a Lunch and Learn program March 5 at the Vernon Filley Art Museum and via a Zoom link, in which he featured his own metal artwork and samples of art currently part of the special Kansas-made exhibit at the museum.

The teacher in local, metal, artist Dick Bixler was evident during the recent “Art in Education” Lunch and Learn event at the Vernon Filley Art Museum. Educators and students from public and private schools, as well as homeschools were in the Zoom audience. Bixler also welcomed the Canyon View Amish Furniture Gallery in Deadwood, S.D.

Bixler introduced his audience to ways educators could encourage students to use art to reflect on life as a class project or individually. Throughout his talk on Friday, March 5, Bixler referred to “students” as anyone from grade school children to senior citizens.

Bixler said that he once taught metal art welding in school.

“Some of my best students were a little rough,” he said. “And they turned out so well.” 

He said many did not want to be in school, yet they were willing to do the work involved in welding art. Bixler required his students to write a research paper on an artist of their choice. His intent was to help them understand the drive behind an artist’s creative talents. He saw these students enjoyment from being in the creative process that they willingly learned the history, did the research and writing, and even did the math needed to successfully create art.

The audience on Friday was introduced to a variety of Kansas artists, whose works can be found in the museum’s gift shop. Bixler used examples to contemplate life relative to each piece. Tim Joseph’s bald eagle, “Soaring,” could lead to a discussion about eagles or the writing of a paper about them. Stan Reimer’s country landscape photograph could remind students of the devotion needed to both create art and to move forward in life, knowing that Reimer waited six hours to get the perfect picture. Bixler also mentioned Marie Hanson’s “Poppies,” Lori Jones sketch of her cowboy husband (“Horse Knot”), Lyn Fenwick’s book (“Prairie Bachelor”), and other works by Roger Williams, painter, and Robin Laws, sculptor.

Bixler then focused on several of his own pieces. “Think” is a square metal sculpture with several openings. Bixler suggested the lower opening could start a talk about young children crawling through life. A higher opening in the work could be a person walking through the door of life. The upper opening might bring up thoughts of a senior citizen’s view of life.

Next, Bixler introduced a horse outline on a mirror. He suggested viewers ponder the both the horse’s eye and the viewer’s own eyes. The mane, blowing in the wind, was an expression of movement. The horse’s head was held high, showing pride in the past and confidence in the future.

“The Sands of Life” was a metal sculpture resembling an x-shaped hour glass. Bixler said this piece might represent hands, holding the sands of time. The hands can move, scattering sand around, or they can sculpt the sand into something significant. Each grain of sand represents the self-worth, strength, stability, respect, honesty, and respect used to form a meaningful life.

Bixler turned to his “Standing Sunflower” sculpture and talked of how the sunflower always faces the sun, how darkness is always behind it, and how the head is always held high. These are ways people can choose to live life.

The final piece discussed was a metal hand holding a football. Asked by an audience member what this piece represented, Bixler said it represents ideas like the necessity of practice, who are the blockers, and who are ready to receive what we have to offer. It also represents forward movement, in general.

Bixler said that his workshop, Bixler’s Art Barn and Studio, closed last March due to the pandemic. He expects to reopen within the month just south of Pratt. An outdoor concert, highlighting western singer Barry Ward, is planned for May.

At the close of his Lunch and Learn presentation, Bixler reaffirmed his belief that people of all ages can be both creative and use art to reflect on life.

 “Art gives happiness to everyone, he said. “ Art can help anyone.”

Copies of Bixler’s book, “The Art of Self- Inspiration,” were given away in a drawing to Diane Landenburger, Kim Joseph and Warren and Karen Filley.

Bixler is currently one of 39 Kansas artists included in the current Ninnescah Art Exhibit showing at the Vernon Filley Art Museum, now through April 10, 2021. There is a closing reception scheduled to meet the artists on April 10 at 6 p.m. More information will be available on the museum’s website (vernonfilleyartmuseum.org).