One Family, Two Very Different Artists

Gary Panter, famous for designing the bizarre and far-out Pee-wee's Playhouse set, went home to Sulphur Springs for the holidays and showed his mind-bending art in a local gallery alongside his father's traditional oil paintings.
One Family, Two Very Different Artists
Photo by Pam Elliott

It was a perfect family moment for Gary Panter—the punk visionary, underground comics master and Pee-wee’s Playhouse set designer—and his father, Mel. The son’s culture-bending, Day-Glo artwork was displayed in a small-town gallery in Northeast Texas alongside his father’s oils of iconic Texana.

Gary, 61, flew in from New York for the holidays with eleven of his paintings for his first art exhibition in his sleepy hometown of 15,400, about eighty miles northeast of Dallas. Son and father toted their work to the downtown Connally Street Gallery, and their show’s December 26 opening night had the jarring yet oddly sweet feel of performance art.

Gary’s masonite boards featured semi-naked women, a head-chopping cyclops named Andy, and a doe-eyed goldfish. On his father’s canvases, cowboys galloped after stray dogies or dozed in bluebonnets, Indians rode in canyon shadow, and longhorn and buffalo stood as proud as stock-show champions.

Seeing my work next to his, it’s a wonderful thing,”

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