We’re launching a monthly series about the artists who contributed to the BioBridge Art Collection. This month’s featured artist is F.L. “Doc” Spellmon. Click on the video to see the entire BBG art collection.
A good artist can use his hands to create a painting. An extraordinary artist can transform that painting to an enchanting story that cannot be expressed by words.
Fronzell Lincoln “Doc” Spellmon was extraordinary, an artist with the ability to create remarkable stories and messages through the stroke of his paintbrush.
He discovered his love for art at a young age after seeing pictures from the Bible and other religious books owned by his father, who was a minister. Those fables and biblical stories had a great impact on his artwork later, as he is best known for his nativity scenes and folk art.
Before Spellmon was able to bring his passion to his art, he went through many physical and spiritual journeys growing up, including working as a middle school teacher and fighting for his country in the U.S Navy. He eventually retired to focus on art scenes in San Antonio and Austin, where he founded multiple art programs, including the Black Art Studio Art Gallery in San Antonio and the San Antonio Ethnic Society to aid young African Americans in the journey of fine art.
Spellmon created a voice in the visual arts for the African American community through his expressive paintings depicting the culture and heritage of Black Americans that he believed needed to be portrayed in American culture. His artwork included twists from African art that ranged from masks and tribal figures to revolutionary black figures in American history like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
He took the opportunity to paint settings from his rural childhood, displaying everyday activities that he understood many experienced – such as a family coming back to church – and portraying them in a new light. Spellmon had a desire for the audience to see the drastic changes in the new rural life compared to 100 years ago. He wanted to emphasize how African Americans had the freedom to work for themselves and make a living instead of being bound to slavery. His artwork expressed the belief and hope for a better future where men of all colors could live in peace and equality.
Spellmon used his platform to make many contributions to the San Antonio community, participating in charities and donating his works toward beneficial causes such as the Bexar County Hospital District in the Read Stremmel Gallery. His piece “Blacks in Space” is part of the BioBridge Global Art Collection and hangs between the elevator doors on the first floor of the Headquarters Building.
He always stayed true to his beliefs even as he gained popularity, not allowing the fame to change his motives, and he became an inspiration for many future artists in San Antonio.
–By Ayishah Habib, student intern, Johnson High School