Clarence Robert Tower–known to most as Bob–is a native Californian, long-time Santa Clara resident, community volunteer, retired civil engineer, author, illustrator and–perhaps his best-loved title-artist. Friends honored the veritable Renaissance man at a private dessert reception showcasing select pieces of his artwork at the Triton Museum of Art, Santa Clara on April 21.
“Having a one-man show was on his bucket list,” said Council Member Debi Davis, who organized the reception for her 86-year-old friend.
The reception highlight was Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor’s presentation to Tower of a proclamation, honoring him for his contributions to the community, from engineering projects and service on the city’s Cultural Advisory Commission to artistic renderings of historic city events.
“This has been mind blowing, awesome,” said Tower. “I want to thank Debi for pulling this together. It’s a big thing for me.”
Culled from more than 450 pieces of artwork stashed away in Tower’s basement and attic, eight large paintings were displayed on easels in the museum rotunda.
“These were the best examples of what I thought was my quality work and would show good,” said Tower, a self-taught artist. Six of the pieces are realistic, still-life paintings he calls “watercolor Americana,” some reflecting his fishing days. One watercolor is titled “Yesterday’s Groceries” and another “Today’s Groceries.”
Two are pen and ink drawings, one a courtyard scene with a lion from the British Museum and the other of a flower lady. Tower explained that he dried the pens out to lighten the tones.
“I’ve known Bob for a long time and seen his artwork before. I look at his art and relate to it,” said Rick Mauck, one of about 100 guests. “I like pen and ink. That shows the true talent of an artist if he can do it.”
Tower’s career as an artist dates from 1968. He and his late wife, Nadine, attended an art competition at Santa Clara’s Central Library that piqued his interest.
“Art has brought a lot of people into my life. You’re looking at my life through art,” said Tower.
The Triton Museum was the perfect venue for Tower’s reception. In the early 1970s, he and Nadine had helped establish an art fair in Santa Clara that lasted five years, and fair proceeds were used as seed money to build the museum. The original art fair was the pilot for the now annual Art and Wine Festival in Central Park.
Author as well as artist, Tower’s fifth and most recent book, “Legendary Locals of Santa Clara,” was co-written with Ken Lichtenstein.
“It is the story of the city and its leaders. I saw the book as a chance to tell the story of a great city that provided me a rich life,” said Tower.
Costco in Santa Clara is hosting a book signing with the two authors and friends on June 11, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.