The Tower Gallery

The Tower Gallery

Oh yes, no you cannot vote here – please go to your own place of voting.

Welcome to the Tower Gallery, a man-made haven created by us, Christy Leichty and Jim Phillips. Come visit, and you will see that we are creating and living our creative dreams for art, culture, and fun. The Tower Gallery was designed to provide expanded space for creativity and cultural and artistic activity, and, as a showcase for our art.

Although we are not a voting place, we do have over 100,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space within our cultural compound for many other activities. All of our buildings are built from repurposed and recycled materials – they are called The Tower Gallery, The Whirlybird Honky Tonk, Mig’s Bandstand and The Folk Art Barn. Jim’s Mandala Photography and Folk Art Prints are now being showcased in The Tower Gallery, but, you may also enjoy a performance in our honky tonk, or take an art class or vocal workshop, or join the Blown Away on The Bayou Blues & Harmonica Summit in the Fall, or take part in one of the many cultural events we host – The Tower Gallery and the rest of our cultural and artistic compound were made for fun-loving people!

Stay tuned for events!

Our calendar is packed with a variety of events from all sorts of activities – from music concerts to artisan workshops to music & dance camps, cooking and eating and more. Check out what’s coming up or contact us if you’re interested in joining us for an event! AND, of course, visit The Tower Gallery to see Jim’s artwork.

Jim’s Mandala Photography Artist Statement: “I use my photography to turn mundane or ordinary images into sacred images to be contemplated and meditated upon and to mark spiritual places.

I believe that the camera is more than a tool to capture a fixed moment in time; I believe the camera is also a tool for personal transformation. The act of photographing subjects, the act of processing the images and the act of looking at the images can each be a spiritual discipline; and, these acts, these disciplines, may help us to open ourselves up to spiritual experiences.

Visual Weight is the term I use to describe what makes my photography different from that of others. Visual weight is how all the elements of an image appear to the viewer. There are many factors that affect this, such as composition, lighting, and color. In my mandala photography line, shape, form, texture, color, size, and depth are repeated, amplified through mirroring. All the elements within the frame are arranged to achieve a symmetrical balance, that is, arranged to achieve equal visual weight across the whole image. Mathematically all the elements are quadrupled by mirroring. I believe it is this amplification of the elements, increasing the impact of the “visual weight”, that transforms the image from a mundane or ordinary image into a sacred mandala, attracting and drawing the viewer into a much more intense visual experience.

Visual Weight, the intensity of an image, is my photographic art’s unique expressive vehicle.

As far back as the early 1980’s, I discovered Mandala Photography on a driving trip through Mexico. I was photographing local kids climbing on the colorful pieces of carnival rides that carnival workers were stacking up during the breakdown before moving the carnival on to the next village, and, the kids were being a pain in the ass. It was fun to watch – the kids loved being naughty and love to be photographed. As I looked through the viewfinder to compose and focus, there was so much color and so many lines repeated as the parts were stacked – memories of some experiences on a trip to India regarding my fascination with Mandalas came to mind.

Universally, Mandalas are symbols of the cosmos or universe. The traditional mandalas I saw in India were often simply a square containing a circle, but there were many much more complex and creative designs. Whether simple or complex, the entire design was always symmetrical and balanced. I learned that some spiritual traditions use mandalas for meditation – or for marking a spiritual space. The word mandala itself simply means “circle” in Sanskrit. In my moment of looking at the colorful and plentiful Mexican carnival parts being stacked up systematically ready for loading on the trucks, the thought came to me to use these images to make a mathematically mirrored photographic collage, sort of in a circle with a center point. I recognized this idea as the process of creating a mandala.

When I got home I took my 35 mm film to be developed. I ask the technician to print 2 of each shot, then turn the negative over and print 2 of each shot reversed. I then glued the photos into a grid – one regular, one reversed – mirroring them in each quadrant, meeting at the center point. When doing it physically I had to pay attention to matching the mirrored edges as accurately as I could. I loved the results! Today I can do it all digitally – process the images, make accurate reverse images, and match the edges up to the pixel with ease and speed. It is very satisfying…

This technique has became one of my special artistic voices – I called it Mandala Photography. My Mandala Photography can be used in the spiritual tradition for contemplation and meditation – or for marking a spiritual space. Of course, the level of spirituality of the experience for my Mandala Photography is only within the power each viewer. Each viewer must choose to participate, to listen to my artistic voice, to discover and explore the Visual Weight of my Mandala Photography for themselves. I consider this a form of artistic and cultural improvisation. Yes, and…

I invite you to come, stop in front of my images, contemplate and meditate on the Visual Weight of the mandala image. See what happens. Yes, and…

You can purchase my Mandala Photography and use it for the discovery and exploration of your own spirituality – or to mark your personal space as a spiritual place for others to discover and explore their own spirituality.”

Folk Art

Folk art is defined as a classic decorative, musical, or practical art of different cultures or regions. Folk art is usually unique to the people of a specific location and used as an expression of society. 

Folk art is steeped in grassroots history and often distinguished from the academic, self-conscious, or cosmopolitan forms of artistic expression. Folk art is the artistic expression of the various traditions and cultures around the world in simple words.

Our Folk Art Construction & designs: First a comment about our Folk architecture, which is at the heart of The Tower Gallery, The Whirlybird Honky Tonk, The Folk Art Barn, and Mig’s Bandstand. Jim likes to call our style of construction design “Art-chitecture”. This is the living and play environment we have created for ourselves.

Local architecture can be defined as an architecture formed in the process of anonymous design, which later becomes traditional under the influence of various factors. And, whatever that means – that is us…

Jim’s Folk Art Prints Artist Statement: “I believe that Folk Art and Traditional Arts, not only provide us pathways of discovery to history and heritage, but have the unique ability to open us up to various experiences of cultural sharing with one another. I also want to believe that these art forms make way for more equitable representations of culture heritage in our communities, and importantly, encourage opportunity to embrace diversity.

Through my Folk Art Prints I am embracing and exploring diversity. First and foremost, The Tower Gallery and my Folk Art Prints simply brings people together physically. People also come to The Whirlybird Honky Tonk (which is like a folk art museum), and to our indoor and outdoor performance spaces. I believe our Compound and The Tower Gallery and my Folk Art Prints brings people together culturally. My intension is to tell a part of our creative community’s shared story, to inspire reflection, and to help form connections that transcend differences, by making simple folk art designs for simple enjoyment.

Generally, folk art is ART that: May be decorative or utilitarian. May be used every day or reserved for high ceremonies. Is handmade; it may include handmade elements, as well as new, synthetic, or recycled components.

My Folk Art Prints are handmade – though I hand make them digitally on my laptop. I paint them digitally, and duplicate them digitally using computer software. I send digital Folk Art files via the Internet to a printer far away, have them digitally printed (usually onto canvas), and mailed to enthusiasts around the world.

Along the way this has become my traditional art – new age, digital Folk Art…

I do like to stick to more traditional or cultural images, that is, expressions of the various traditions and cultures around the world; and, I like to keep my images light-hearted or humorous. “