Navasota Artists Getting National Attention

By: Shane McAuliffe Email
By: Shane McAuliffe Email

If you've been through downtown Navasota, chances are you've driven right by Tejas Antiques. Most of the time, you'll see Leon Collins and Dwayne Gardner sitting in front of the store, waving to friends, and enjoying a good conversation. But did you know that inside the store of old relics is a studio. The Color Of Life art gallery features paintings by Leon and his daughter Molly Bee. But these aren't just any paintings. In fact, they're being considered as some of the best in the country.

"Me and Molly, we ain't always had it this easy, we ain't always been in the limelight. We struggled, had a hard time, worked hard. We worked with furniture and Molly was so glad to get away from that." said Collins.

The limelight is brighter than ever for this father and his daughter. For years, Leon did what he had to do to get through life. Working day and night as a carpenter but now the paintings that he and his daughter creates are getting national attention.

"God blessed us really. He really blessed up a lot. We used to do just furniture all the time and it was so stressful. It's a lot harder than doing paintings. I like painting, it's easier and I enjoy doing it. It's just easy to have a job you like doing because most people have jobs they don't enjoy doing." said Bee.

Their paintings revolve around the black history of Grimes county as well as the Collins family. From Black Betty to Greasy Mouth, every character and every painting has a story behind it.

"We paint about the black history of Grimes County. Cotton picking, watermelon picking, it's all a part of black people's history. My heritage. Like Molly Bee says, her art is life. So we try to take real situations from life and transform them into art." said Collins.

But none of these incredible works would be here if it wasn't for a close friend of Leon's, Dwayne.

"If it hadn't been for Dwayne Gardner, me and Molly be wouldn't be doing this. He actually inspired Molly to start painting again. He's a big, big part of Molly Bee and Leon right now." said Collins.

"It's a fantastic thing to see this occur with Molly and Leon. He's worked hard all his life and he sure deserves a break and Molly is just starting off. And if you can make a living doing what you like, that's nice." said Gardner.

For Leon, it all about moving forward. He doesn't look back when it comes to his family's new found success. The fact of the matter is they're doing now, what they enjoy doing the most.

"Always look forward, don't look back. It's alright to sometimes look back but just don't stare." joked Collins.

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