The Lost Pines Art League in Bastrop presents an educational photography show about the exhibition “The Upshaws of County Line.” The photographs, taken by Richard Orton, an alumnus of the University of North Texas in Denton, is on display now through the end of October in Studio B at Lost Pines Art Center.
The exhibition follows one family from everyday events – such as a game of dominos – to important milestones – such as births and funerals. But what makes the Upshaws unique is where they lived — County Line, a freedom colony in East Texas formed in the 1870s by newly freed slaves on land that they owned.
The show is brought to the public by a partnership of the Lost Pines Art Center and through a grant provided by the city of Bastrop. Bastrop, near Austin, has earned the title of the most historic small town in Texas.
The exhibition, which covers 25 years, is based on Orton’s 2014 book of the same name published by UNT Press.
“I watched family members being born and grow up,” Orton stated in a press release. “I watched people die. I took photographs of funerals. It was a very rare gift that I was able to do what I did there.”
Orton was a music major at UNT, and he took up photography while living in Austin after college. During a visit to his parents’ home in Nacogdoches, he discovered the existence of freedom colonies and became curious about the impact that their relative autonomy had on their families.
He found the Upshaw family, which had 13 children, and told them he was interested in photographing them. The family agreed, and he began taking the documentary-style, black-and-white photographs the day after Thanksgiving in 1988.
In one photo, the patriarch Edward Monel Upshaw is being introduced to his great-granddaughter, Reya, less than a 1-year-old, who is crying. Other photos include the annual homecoming celebration that brings in family members from all over the country in August.
“What I hope that it does is convey some sense of what it was like to be raised in a community like that,” Orton stated. “The children were not subject to all the negative aspects of the Jim Crow reality of the day. By virtue of fact they owned their own land, they automatically had their own independence.”
Patricia Rendulic is the executive director for the Lost Pines Art Center. The predominantly volunteer- based organization is open every day with friendly knowledgeable docents to guide you. The Art Center contains several galleries, independent art studios, gift shops, and a wine/coffee shop. Children, adult to professional level art classes are widely available. To learn more about the Lost Pines Art Center visit the website at www.lostpinesartcenter.org.
The Lost Pines Art League (Lost Pines Art Center) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and runs the Lost Pines Art Center. Its membership includes a diverse set of artists and supporters of the fine arts.