Key City artist bringing ‘My Abilene’ exhibit to Center for Contemporary Arts

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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – An Abilene artist is bringing his nostalgic exhibit to the Center for Contemporary Arts.

Our memories are what tie us to a place. Good or bad, they tell the story of who we are. Abilene artist Cliff Wilke set out just a few months ago to tell his story through his art.

“Not to say it’s all important, but it’s just the little things I remember, all part of how I came to be who I am,” says Wilke.

Cliff Wilke in his home studio

Wilke grew up in Abilene, graduated from Cooper High and spent some time at Cisco College. Though higher learning would call him away from his hometown, he and his wife Alyssa moved back just two years ago. Immediately Cliff noticed just how much had changed while he was away.

“You can be grumpy about it or you can kind of see it for what it is and, like, things are changing for the better here in Abilene. But also, just being able to sit back and think, like, ‘Man, I wish I had a Skinny’s Big Swig,” Wilke says.

Though by day he works as a behavioral coach at Wylie Jr. High East, his longing for an Abilene quickly passing by pushed him to begin work on his first professional exhibition titled “My Abilene.”

“It’s my Abilene, but hopefully everybody else can say, ‘Yeah, this is my Abilene, too,” says Wilke.

The series features iconography such as the disposable cups from the now closed Abilene burger joint Mr.G’s, and the orange and black sign that has sat in front of the North 1st Ponca Motel.

Wilke’s portrait of Lina from Sam’s Club

Aside from the Abilene imagery, a few faces made the cut as well, including Ms. Lina, a Sam’s Club worker that greeted Wilke as his family shopped, Harold of Harold’s BBQ, who would reportedly serenade his patrons as they dined, and Terry Berry, whose tall socks and short shorts have inspired some to request a road be named after him.

“I figured, if someone made such a positive impression on you why not honor them by doing a portrait?” says Wilke.

The exhibit will be unveiled at the Center for Contemporary Arts on June 9.

Mr. Wilke will be painting at the Circle Outfitters bar from 4 p.m. until close on Friday, May 14. The public is invited to come see him at work and even discuss their memories of growing up in Abilene.

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