July 20, 2024


Super Art is Almost

Peggy Shepherd’s photography keeps her focus on late son, Scott

"Woodpecker Symphony" is an archived digital pieced by Abilene resident Peggy Shepherd, one of two of her works in the CCAN show now up at The Center for Contemporary Arts.

For someone who only recently took up photography, much less has begun to master the camera, and only a second-year member of The Center for Contemporary Arts, Peggy Shepherd’s work stands out.

Enough that two pieces were chosen for this year’s national juried competition, or CCAN.

Peggy Shepherd's "Tribute to Georgia O" is an archival digital enhanced work in this year's CCAN show. The subject is a rose.

Her pieces are titled “Woodpecker Symphony,” a closeup of a line of holes in a tree of variegated colors that reminded her of a progression of musical notes, and “Tribute to Georgia O,” developed on high gloss metal of a rose for which she used an editing program for enhancement.

Her 2020 work was “The Seasons of a Lily Pond,” in which she studied the changing of seasons to fall in the floating pads. 

It’s abstract, she said, maybe an amoebic shape, but the viewer still knows he or she is looking at lily pads.

About Peggy, about Scott

Dr. Jack Ramsey with Peggy Steadman Shepherd, who was chairperson of the American Cancer Society volunteer program "Road to Recovery" that began in 1985. Steadman today is a social worker with Hendrick Hospice Care.

Shepherd is a social worker for Hendrick Hospice. That is her focus, but after hours, she said, she now focuses her camera.

“I am doing art all the time,” she said. “I am mainly showing my photography.”

Shepherd took up photography after the death of her 25-year-old son, Scott. That was four years ago last month.

“He loved photography,” she said. “He was an amazing young photographer and had beautiful, beautiful pictures.”

And to honor him, she kept it in the family.

She took to asking him, “Hey, Scott, show me some things to take pictures of.”

And she’d venture out to see what she could see.

“And I progressively just got better,” she said.  

Her focus

Peggy Shepherd.

She is in her fourth year of photographing water lilies, a project that began at the lily pond at Elmwood Memorial Cemetery, where Scott is buried.

“But I really have branched out,” she said. 

Shepherd mostly photographs in nature but in the abstract.

“Things that you can interpret in different ways,” Shepherd said. “I do take pictures of flowers and things like that but I love taking pictures of reflections, maybe just a piece of a tree that looks very abstract. So that’s how I approach taking my photography.”

And that’s her work that has been exhibited.

“That’s how I approach. I do that every Sunday,” she said.

She said she shies away from titling her work – except by necessity for shows, choosing to let the viewer interpret her work.

"A Time to Remember" is CCAN oil painting by Larry Hamilton of Wichita Falls.

In 2019, one of her works was accepted into the Texas Photographic Society’s state show.

“The big one,” she said. It was the year that Abilene-based photographer Bill Wright was the judge.

When that happened, “I got to thinking ‘Hey, maybe I ought to take it seriously,'” she said of a personal project to stay connected to her son that was turning into art.

In a way, it’s the fulfillment of a dream, too.

She had taken art with Russell Ellison at Mann Junior High and then Katie Presswood at Abilene High. And when she went to Hardin-Simmons, “I really wanted to be an art major. But I just didn’t want to teach art, but that’s about all you could do in the 70s, so I majored in social work.”

That has proven to be a rewarding career and one that, she said, has similarities to art.

"Ruthie's Journey" by Sheila Ferri of Middletown, N.Y., is a 3D sculpture.

“You use the same side of your brain,” she said. “You have to be a very creative thinker and think outside the box,” she said. 

“So when I’m looking for whatever catches my eye, I’m looking at how I can abstract it.”

She found that if she took the time to look closely at an object, such as the center of a flower, she found the art.

“Just looking at a smaller section of a tree,” she said. “There is so much there. I am not trying to look at the whole but getting down to smaller pieces and how I can translate that will strike an emotion with someone. I want people to journey when they look at my photography.”

"Vent" is a three-dimensional work of wood, aluminum beverage cans, brass plated nails and found objects by Patrick Luber of Grand Forks, North Dakota.

That works, too, with things that are man made, such as buildings.

“I am looking at the angles and how the light hits it. I am looking for the abstract in this reality,” she said. “I want people to come up with their own thoughts and how that photo makes them feel or makes them think.”

And while she plans her treks to find art, she also takes her camera when she travels for work.

“I am always looking for something,” she said. She’ll stop and take photos.

"A Hole in a Positive Light" by Daniel Atyim, of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, is oil paint on canvas over panel. It's part of the 2021 CCAN exhibition at The Center for Contemporary Arts.

“Snap a shot and go on,” Shepherd said. 

She currently is working on a project to enter in the state show, a series. She has her eye on an abandoned motel in Haskell.

“No one can remember the name,” she said. 

"H.B. No. 3859" by Elijah Ruhala, now an Abilene residents, was created using joint compound and house paint on dry wall.

Her images, she says, will show “how nature overcomes what man leaves behind,” she said. 

Through her photography, Scott is not left behind but still with her as she finds her subjects, takes her photos and then presents them.

“It has been very rewarding and been very healing,” she said. “And it is getting me back to my roots of what I love the most, and that’s art.”

Art has found a place in her life at this time in her life, she said.

She has an interest in painting, too.

Ccan Judges Art
Juror for the 2021 CCAN Liz Trosper also is exhibiting at The Center for Contemporary Arts. Her work "The Soft Machine" is inspired by the writing of William S. Burroughs.

“I’m having a good time of reconnecting with what nature has to show me,” she said.

There are 147 pieces in this year’s CCAN show, which features several Abilene-area based artists. A total of 350 pieces were submitted to junior Liz Trosper. The works represent 118 artists – 16 who are CCA members – and 24 states.

“It’s a fabulous exhibit,” Shepherd said, of those members who made the cut.

It can be viewed through Nov. 27.

Greg Jaklewicz is editor of the Abilene Reporter-News and general columnist. If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com

"Just Askin'" is by Santa Fe, New Mexico, artist Rita Bard, using mixed media.