Lonely Town, 1937 Oil on canvas, 24" x 34" © James D. Lea


I came to El Paso in 1936 and reestablished myself here with my friends. It was a strange year: Nancy died in April; my grandmother, who was living at our house, we called her Granny, died in June; and my mother died in December of that year. All three of the women in the family died that year. That's when I painted Lonely Town. I think the deaths in my family probably echoed in my subconscious mind in this painting. One summer evening I looked up one of the side streets off of Avenida Juarez, past the houses to the edge of Juarez. In those days there wasn't much, just the acequia madre and these little houses and then the Juàrez mountain. It was something that grabbed me.


Tom Lea speaking to Adair Margo, published in Tom Lea, An Oral History, El Paso, Texas: Texas Western Press, p. 51.