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    Description

    Kelly Fearing (American, 1918-2011)
    Back Lot Rehearsal, 1941
    Oil on panel
    16 x 20 inches (40.6 x 50.8 cm)
    Signed lower right: Kelly Fearing

    PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF KELLY FEARING

    When looking back at the life of William Kelly Fearing (1918-2011) some familiar sayings apply. One of them is: He marched to a different drummer. His earliest aspirations pointed him toward a life in fine art, but also to a career in gymnastics, dancing, and professional ballet. Another is: He did it his way. Fearing taught art at the University of Texas at Austin for forty years, retiring in 1987. Afterwards, his career as a painter and printmaker continued uninterrupted almost up until the time of his death. A third saying, courtesy of George Bernard Shaw, may describe Fearing's outlook the best: Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not. In a voluminous oeuvre of drawings, paintings, and prints, Kelly Fearing allowed us into his private realm-a place that straddled a physical world we recognize and a harmonious, unseen dimension that we hope and suspect is there.

    One adjective placed on Fearing's work is the word 'mystical.' A marvelous retrospective, organized in 2002 by the University of Texas at Austin Creative Research Laboratory, was titled "The Mystical World of Kelly Fearing." For him, mysticism, the conviction that ultimate spiritual reality is attainable and knowable, was serious business. He took a leave of absence from his duties in Austin in the 1970s to spend a period of reflection with Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh at the Bhagwan's ashram in Poona, India. For a time, Fearing continued to wear the orange robes of discipleship. When mystics and seekers of the truth first surfaced in his paintings in the late 1940s, they were placed there out of kinship with the artist.

    Fearing embraced the central theme that would dominate his art for the rest of his life; how could he express wonder and admiration for the physical world and, at the same time, question his place in it? Using painterly figures clothed in robes or wearing nothing at all, Fearing confronted the conundrum of vulnerability. He frequently invoked the imagery and symbolism of sea and sky, earth and rock, and the cycle of life, but these symbols represented a natural order that was permanent and independent of human presence. These things would exist whether Fearing's figures were in them or not. Human existence must somehow draw into balance with all other forces of nature, and finding the balance point became Fearing's challenge to his peers and to us.

    As a teacher and author, Kelly Fearing influenced countless young people who looked to art as their career choice. As an artist, he enjoyed statewide respect and the enduring support of collectors. For those of us who came to know him late in his life, Kelly Fearing's depth of experience, approachability, and willingness to share of himself made his art, and that of his generation, real and indispensable components of Texas culture. It is impossible to look upon one of Kelly Fearing's exquisitely painted owls, or fishes, or four-legged creatures and not wish that we had known him sooner.

    The ambiguous imagery of Back Lot Rehearsal (1941) springs from Kelly Fearing's early preoccupation with tumbling and gymnastics. Naturally athletic, Fearing was a life long proponent of physical fitness and healthy eating. After graduating from high school in Fairview, Arkansas, Fearing picked Northeast Center Junior College in Monroe, Louisiana, to begin his higher education. During enrollment, he inquired about the availability of gymnastics classes and whether or not he could major in the sport. Not surprisingly, he learned that no classes of this kind were offered. By his second year, Fearing had transferred to Louisiana Polytechnic Institute in Ruston, where he majored in fine art. Back Lot Rehearsal was painted in 1941, his senior year. While at Louisiana Polytechnic Institute, Fearing also briefly considered becoming a professional dancer after attending inspiring performances of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. In 1946, he produced The Lifters, another autobiographical work that depicted two young men working with barbells and free weights in a makeshift, basement gymnasium.

    Scott Grant Barker
    Fort Worth, Texas
    October 2012


    Condition Report*: Panel is laid down on stretched canvas; minor craquelure - possibly inherent to artist's techniques and minor surface grime. Framed Dimensions 19.75 X 23.75 Inches
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2017
    18th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 966

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