Arts & Culture

Bill Paxton’s family art collection finds a home in Reno

Around the Star-Telegram, we’re so used to associating the late actor Bill Paxton with his native Fort Worth — and with Hollywood — that it can be a little surprising when a close tie with another city comes up.

But via a Google alert, we learned recently about an art exhibit in Reno, Nev., honoring Paxton and his parents, John and Mary Lou Paxton.

The exhibit, featuring selected artworks from the “John and Mary Lou Paxton Collection,” had been planned at the Nevada Museum of Art before Paxton died Feb. 25 of a stroke 11 days after heart surgery. The exhibit opened the next day.

“It was sad timing,” Amanda Horn, the museum’s director of communications, said during a brief phone call, adding that the Paxtons were all friends of the museum (coincidentally, Horn is from Texas and has lived in Fort Worth and other North Texas cities). The actor was scheduled to make an appearance at the museum this spring. The exhibit runs through June 4.

According to a press release, Paxton and his parents began their association with the museum in 2003. In 2006, John and Mary Lou promised a bequest of their collection to the museum.

John Paxton died in 2011; Mary Lou Paxton died June 26, 2016, according to an obituary in the Star-Telegram archives. An official announcement of the bequest was planned for later this year, with Bill Paxton present at a “special celebration,” after the exhibition closed.

According to the release, John Paxton’s fascination with art began in the 1940s, when American Regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton moved in next door to the elder Paxton’s Missouri home. John posed for Benton’s 1942 painting “Shipping Out,” which was included in the “American Epics: Thomas Hart Benton and Hollywood” exhibit last year at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth.

The full name of the Reno exhibit is the “John and Mary Lou Paxton Collection: A Gift for the Nevada Museum of Art.” According to the release, the exhibit “showcases a life-long collecting passion, spanning a variety of international as well as regional artists.”

The collection features works by American artists Nathan Oliveira, David Ligare and Wolf Kahn, as well as “Bauhaus-inspired” works by Herbert Bayer and the minimal abstractions of American painter Frederick Hammersley. But American Southwest art by Fritz Scholder, Jaune Quick-to-See-Smith and Randy White are also included.

“The works … are more than paintings to me; they are my memories of growing up in my parents’ home,” Paxton said in September 2016.

According to Mary Lou Paxton’s obituary, John and Mary Lou moved to Solana Beach, Calif., in 1980, and eventually settled in Rancho Santa Fe, near San Diego. John Paxton pursued acting and had bit parts in “Traveller” and “A Simple Plan,” both of which starred Bill Paxton, and “Frailty,” which was directed by their son. John Paxton also appeared in all three Tobey Maguire-starring “Spider-Man” movies.

The Paxtons would occasionally return to Fort Worth, where John Paxton had been an executive with Kansas City-based Paxton Lumber Co. and Paxton Beautiful Woods. He was also, according to a 2006 column by the Star-Telegram’s Bud Kennedy, a movie buff, which rubbed off on Bill, who told Kennedy that he “grew up in a city of movie palaces.”

In many Star-Telegram stories through the years, however, Bill Paxton rarely spoke of his parents’ art collection, possibly because the questions skewed more toward stories about Paxton’s interest in acting and movies, and about his growing up next to Shady Oaks Country Club.

But he added in Kennedy’s column, “I grew up in a city that supports the arts. This city has the museums. You have the third largest cultural center in the country. This city supports music, and theater and film.”