Preserving the Delicate Scenery of Texas Tallgrass


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Steve Beasley

Landscape painter Deborah Paris of Franklin County spent close to two years observing and painting intricate views of Daphne Prairie in the Mount Vernon area, a project that resulted in a fall exhibit of her work at Fort Worth’s Botanical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT). In February, “Daphne Prairie – The Nature of Things” goes on display once again, this time taking up residence closer to home with an extended showing at The Fire Station Museum in Mount Vernon. 

A remnant of the once-abundant tallgrass meadows of Texas’ diminished Blackland Prairie, Daphne Prairie hides in plain sight amid the rural area’s pastures, roads, and small towns — preserved by owner B.F. Hicks, whose family has cared for the land since the early 19th century. Estimates are that such tallgrass prairies once occupied 12 million acres but have dwindled to less than a tenth of that due to plowing, over-grazing and development.

As a conservation advocate, Paris says she was drawn to Daphne Prairie’s “tranquil splendor” when Hicks invited her to explore the natural setting. The result was a body of work that spans 20-plus paintings, with canvases that reveal — and revel in — cloudy, wintry days, swaths of native tallgrass and sunny views of the hidden gem’s colorful wildflowers. 

“I loved that the prairie was encircled by woods and that there were creeks and ponds around — things I always like to paint,” the artist explains. “I worked really hard to design these paintings to reflect my interest in the intimate corners of the prairie.” 

Earlier works by Paris are featured in three books, among them, Landscapes of New Mexico and Texas Traditions (Fresco Fine Art Publications) and Plein Air New Mexico (Jack Richeson Art Publications). 

In pursuit of her artistic endeavors, Paris keeps a gallery space on the square in Clarksville at 120 W. Main St. An opening reception for her exhibit at The Fire Station Museum is scheduled the evening of February 3. Regular hours at the museum, located at 201 S. Kaufman Street, are 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday. Permanent displays include a Don Meredith exhibit and a Nation’s Bird Egg Exhibit. For more information, call 903-537-7012.

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