Holistic Wellness in Austin, TX

Seeing the Dappled Light, and Discovering: A Conversation with Prentiss Douthit


Painting should call out to the viewer…

And the surprised viewer should go to it,

as if entering into a conversation.

–Roger de Piles, Cours de peinture par principes, 1676


About a year ago, Prentiss Douthit was wrapping up a personal journey that took place, at least physically, along the Camino de Santiago in north-western Spain, through the streets of Barcelona in the east, and winding through Granada and Sevilla in the south.  As such, it was his journey and that of many others; the Camino, of course, is a pilgrims’ route in Spain that has served humble seekers from the medieval period on forward.  Barcelona is Spain’s industrial capitol and Grenada is the home of poet Federico García Lorca.  Sevilla is resonant of citrus and Arabic history.  Such wanderings, thus, took him through the soul of Spain and his heart was full at journey’s end.

Prentiss was in the ancestral home of my heart, Madrid, and about to return to Austin, when election results and American news made their presence felt on his cell phone.

We met for a glass of wine shortly thereafter and shared our misgivings.  We also spoke about art and literature and hope, too.  Myself, a former Spanish professor turned Chinese medicine practitioner, one whose specialty area in the first career was national trauma and how it filters through art and literature?  I was less than optimistic.  We agreed to continue our conversations over the forthcoming months but as I completed my studies in Chinese medicine and Prentiss was quite occupied by his work on behalf of the Hill Country Ride for AIDS, time passed.  It was with great joy that I heard of his forthcoming (now just recent art show), and I insisted that we sit down for an interview beforehand.



Prentiss is a visual artist, one whose work intends to initiate a conversation.  Most of all, he is drawn towards an unflinching look at his own shadows and an unwavering determination to turn them into light.  There’s a reason why so many people love and are inspired by Prentiss.  He is so genuinely warm and bright and interested in others.  He loves to look and listen and repackage what he’s heard so that the person with whom he is speaking feels heard and cherished and celebrated.  When I met his mother at the opening of his gallery show at Lewis Carnegie in East Austin, I said to her, “Oh, Prentiss can charm apples out of trees,” and she smiled at me and said in her sweet, Alabama-accented voice, “Yes, indeed he can.”  Prentiss has a darling mother, and she is rightfully and very proud of her highly-accomplished son.

The paintings themselves are beautiful.  When we discussed what his inspirations are, and what–as an artist–drives him, Prentiss explained that he sees the visual stories as a platform for the written story that may or may not see the light of day.  Prentiss sees pictures as words come to life.




Prentiss genuinely loves to synthesize narrative, and to place his focus in a moment of shadow and light in such a way that the heart of the matter shines.  There is, in many of the works, a poignant quality, and a sense of loneliness in the figures therein; loneliness, or–maybe–surprise.  Are they waiting, or are they going to get up and get moving now?  And if they are walking, towards what end do they go?  Who, if you ponder it, is the star of the piece?  The individual?  Or the light and shadow?

Your response, dear viewer, depends on your perspective, and whether or not you see the light first, or if you are attracted by the piquant bite of the undercurrent instead.  If it’s not something potential (potentially sharp or potentially sweet, again, depending) then the story might just be one of sass and flair in and of itself.  The iconic dress walking towards a wedding dress, for instance, is but one case.  Where do you look first?  At the bride and all her potential, or at the gorgeous and bright dress, The Dress, walking away from you as she strides towards the light?  Who is the real star in this vignette?

Why, then, does it matter?




Prentiss sent me a draft of his personal story, one that he will share at will and on his own timeline.  In it, he spoke of travel and what he carries.  Of burdens, he says, “I pack light and carry everything in one backpack. The sense of freedom is greater when both hands are free.”

That being so, in consequence, we view a man in plain clothing and a cowboy hat sitting on the steps in front of an old church with hands delineated and face obscured.  Look at his hands.  Look, please, and see.  What have those hands carried, and what–in covering his face–do they conceal?  There’s not much going on in this painting if you look quickly, but it invites you to a conversation nonetheless.



Light and shadow, what is there and what is not…this is one of my favorites, actually.  My genre specialty was short fiction and photographic witness; this one, to me, calls for a second and a third and a fourth look, and the hands, in and of themselves, speak volumes.

Not carrying much does not mean not speaking volumes.  No, not in the slightest.

The iconic woman of the dress (I need to just call it for what it is, The Dress) is not the only evocative woman in the Prentiss Douthit catalog in any case.  Another strong female, and this with a hand held up in protest, is the one I named “Oh, Please.”  In it, a dark wall is ahead and, clearly, something annoying as hell is behind.  Or is it?  Maybe she’s saying goodbye to a friend and waving while she’s checking her keys.  As a woman, though, I see this one as “Oh, please” and as “Not today, Satan.  Not today.”  I love the strong forward force of her body and the open hand directed towards the viewer.

What do you think?




Prentiss came to Austin via his home state of Alabama.  He has always been creative, painting his grandparents’ portraits and making a line of gorgeous cards, for instance, or motivating and bringing together thousands of people for his work in social justice and healthcare via the Hill Country Ride.  He is a charming soul, and a happy one.  Still, the soul that can look is a soul that has known self-questioning and ache.  Moving towards the light, exploring shadow and light, making one and the other front and center and then allowing the very same to recede…this is the art of conversational narrative, a narrative given and a narrative nourished via imagery.  We, as viewers, are intended to come forward, maybe a bit surprised, and certainly in the frame of mind to converse.

Prentiss had the most wonderful gallery opening on November 4th.  Because I am in the midst of board exams I could only stay for a short time.  It was a delicious forty-five minutes of freedom, though, and a chance to drink some Campari, to feel myself as Italian again, and to see how people truly do love Prentiss and his art.  When we spoke for this interview in his home, he told me how he wants to write, how being a writer informs his consciousness, and he spoke at length about his sincere wish to see and to collect and to retell stories.  Watching him at his opening, I saw this quality on full display.  When he has his next gallery show, I hope that I can stay from start to finish but this one left me feeling inspired and invigorated in my own role of traditional Chinese medical practitioner and aspirant.  Our lives are artworks, each and every one, if we so choose to see it thus.

Prentiss certainly looks at others and sees such a perspective.  His recent show, for its part, brought this notion to life.




Not all of his subjects are facing away and there is more to see than evocative hands and dresses with such flair that they are characters in their own right.  Color and shadow and light, facing you, the viewer, invite memory and conjecture.  Who are these sassy young people and what are they laughing about?  Their postures ask us to remember and to look forward, too.  Summer will be with us again and swimming and potential and group shots with loved ones will be part of that season.  Brightness and color  and hope, here, are–I think–the predominant themes.

What do you see?




The paintings that depict pure sass (above, and The Dress) are the public Prentiss, I think.    He told me about his love for travel, and how travel reminds him of the greater world beyond what he sees each day.  “I travel to make sure I’m not building walls around my life and to remind myself how expansive it can be” he wrote to me in a private communication.  But the interplay of dark and light, and that determination to move towards the light is what speaks of Prentiss.  He is, like a true pilgrim of the Camino de Santiago, moving towards something transcendent and worthy.  This he does by moving with peace in every step and an open heart.  This he does by looking and listening and retelling stories with an extra shine brought about by genuine interest and attention.  Light and dark, this and not; each frame invites you, dear viewer, to participate in a vibrant conversation.

This recent gallery show consisted of seventeen works and an accompanying narrative painted on the venue wall:




And that, I think, is the story set to words.  Alone in a Madrid hotel room with a shock on his cell phone screen, a life and a history that brought him there, Prentiss–like many–had his moment of darkness.  But in this moment of bleak despair, there was an opportunity to choose.  Dark or light.  Grief or determination.  Silence or the voice of an artist.  Alienation or connection.  Stasis, or one foot in front of the other, with peace in every step.  Resignation, maybe permanent, or the will to keep moving.

Prentiss chose.  We all do.  As artists and scholars and healers, scientists and architects, students and teachers, merchants, lawyers, dreamers and activists, just to name a few, we tell our tales and we choose.  We choose.  As friends, family, and community, we all have stories.  We are in conversation.  There is the light and the dark.  Prentiss captures it in his work, this theme.  Moving forward.  Into the light.  One step at a time, and with an abiding sense of hope.




This first gallery show just ended and most of the paintings are sold to people who will cherish them.  However, Prentiss insists that he will continue to paint and to share his creative energy with those around him.  His writing will emerge on its own steam; anyone who follows Prentiss on Facebook knows that he offers his heart to his readers.  My neighbor across the hall from me knows Prentiss from the hugs he gives out to every finisher at the end of the Hill Country Ride.  Different friends know varying aspects of this wonderful artist.  Me?  I want another, more in-depth, interview.  My dry and snappy (I am an austere madrileña as well as a morbid Sicilian, what can I tell you?) very favorite of all his works is the one of the man sweeping in the alley that I chose as the header photo.  To me, the colors of the text and the visual of the man, broom in hand, light and dark, speaks volumes.  What is his story?  Why is he sweeping there, alone, in between dark and light?  What is his story?  What, dear reader, is yours?  Look at this painting.  Look.  Don’t you agree that it warrants further conversation?

I will keep you posted of further gallery showings, of course.  I hope that there will be another one soon.  Into the light, indeed.  Into the light, and with hope in our hearts.  A conversation, and one that never ceases to inspire.  Never, not ever.  Discovering hope, hope that is dancing at the ends of your toes and warming the bottoms of your bare feet.

A beautiful feeling, don’t you agree?


Would you like to keep up with current and future works by Prentiss Douthitt?  Stay posted for further developments by bookmarking his web site, here.







Have you ever though to try traditional Chinese bodywork? At present, I offer tui na (similar to massage) and other ancient Chinese therapies, including cupping, gua sha, moxa, and more.  If you are looking for a holistic wellness consultant and coach, my services can entail short or longer term programs.  You are your own best investment, and when you take charge of your wellbeing you invest in yourself now and for the benefit of your future.

Two Hearts Wellness is a local holistic health and wellness outfit with a passion for all things nourishing, including but not limited to: joyful living, great food, art, and literature, and–of course–traditional Chinese medicine.  If you want to learn more about me, click here and do feel free to follow my blog and/or my Instagram, connect with me on Facebook, or contact me here to set up an appointment for personal training or health coaching services.  If you are interested in Asian bodywork therapy, click here to book an appointment online.

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