Tracing a Legacy: Works by the McDonald Family at LHUCA, Lubbock

by Michelle Kraft May 15, 2023
Photo of the red river during a flash flood

Ann McDonald, “Flash Flood,” digital photograph on metal

Sixteen members of Lubbock’s McDonald family are represented in an art exhibition on view at Lubbock’s Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts (LHUCA), through May 28. With a familial history that parallels Lubbock’s own beginnings — matriarch Lola (Craig) McDonald’s folks first arrived in the area in 1906, before the city was incorporated — the McDonalds have had a far-reaching impact on the city of Lubbock, including its arts community. Members of the McDonald family were instrumental in the founding of the Lubbock Children’s Home, Abilene Christian University, and Lubbock Christian University (LCU). The McDonald Moody Auditorium on the LCU campus bears their name. With deep agricultural roots in the South Plains, the family’s philanthropy has also extended to the American Windmill Museum and the American Museum of Agriculture (now the Fibermax Center for Discovery). The LHUCA gallery in which the exhibition is displayed — the Martin McDonald Gallery — is also named for the family.

Two dimensional works hanging on a gallery wall

Installation view of Martin McDonald Gallery

Spanning four generations, the exhibit showcases a range of aesthetic styles (both period and personal), as well as of media. There is, for example, woodwork and metalwork by C.B. Martin, Craig McDonald and Bill Winner; photography by Ann McDonald and Caleb Davis; drawings and paintings in a variety of media by Deven Johnson, Jody Martin, Jan Martin Davis, and Laura McDonald Stewart; and torn paper constructions and digital collages by Kimberly McDonald Courtney and Susan Combest. A painting by materfamilias Lola McDonald is in the show, as well. 

Painting of picking cotton

Conny Martin, “Pullin’ Bolls,” oil on canvas

Perhaps the most well-known among the McDonald artists is Lola McDonald’s daughter, Conny (McDonald) Martin. A student of Texas artist Bess Hubbard, Martin demonstrates her mentor’s influence in paintings such as Pullin’ Bolls, depicting a farm worker harvesting cotton by hand. Bent to his labor, his body is volumetric and structural as an edifice, recalling Hubbard’s own etchings and lithographs of farmhouses, downtown Lubbock, and the pueblos and mountains of northern New Mexico. Martin’s strokes are painterly, her palette earthy, reminiscent of van Gogh’s early paintings; this South Plains field worker would be equally at home alongside that artist’s sturdy Dutch farmers.

Conny Martin later counted sculptor Glenna Goodacre among her own students, and she also played an active role in the establishment of the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts. Moreover, her painted series World of Genghis and Kublai Khan is on permanent display at the Texas Tech University International Cultural Center. Several of Martin’s works, including paintings and sculpture in a variety of media, are featured in this current exhibition.

Installation view of works hanging on a white wall in a gallery space

Installation view of the Martin McDonald Gallery

Image of a two dimensional geometric painting

Ian McDonald, “Royal Prosperity,” acrylic on canvas.

There are also several works by Conny Martin’s daughter, Jody Martin, a fine artist in her own right. The pastel drawing Wrapped in Dreams demonstrates the younger Martin’s finesse as a colorist, and her lively lines crackle with electricity. So, too, does Synesthesia, by Ian McDonald. By contrast, Ann McDonald’s photography, such as Flash Flood, possesses a spare and unflinching frankness characteristic of the West Texas landscape and also its people.  

Gestural painting of a child wrapped in a blanket

Jody Martin, “Wrapped in Dreams,” pastel on paper

The McDonald Family exhibit pays homage to the artistic legacy of a family, a heritage intertwined with the city of Lubbock’s own history. While the installation of the show is not itself chronological, the long, narrow gallery and the generational aspect of the exhibit suggest a timeline of sorts. Beginning with Lola Craig McDonald’s love of what she herself termed as “drawn work,” this tradition of art has extended to her daughter Conny, whose own artistic influence has rippled through her family, Texas, and beyond. Perhaps more than that, though, the show honors a family whose far-reaching impact continues to resonate throughout the Panhandle. As Conny Martin herself once pointed out, “Your reputation will last longer than your art.”


McDonald Family is on view at the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts through May 28, 2023. 


You may also like


jan martin davis May 16, 2023 - 14:13

This is a really wonderful article! Thank you very much for publishing it.

Karen McDonald Louis May 19, 2023 - 01:43

Very touched to read this!! So proud of my artistic family!

Ginny Reyes Moreno June 3, 2023 - 10:02

What a wonderful article! Such a beautiful tribute to this family’s legacy. Thank you for writing this!


Leave a Comment

Funding generously provided by: