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Inside the Artist’s Studio: Michelle Flanagan

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By Derrick White

It’s a small world, and the art world is even smaller. Be kind to those you meet; you will meet them again. Although it can sometime feel like everyone everywhere is crafting, blogging, painting rocks, or creating some kind of art, the truth is most people do not. If you are a creative person, congratulations, but understand as you stand in line in a big box store or get stuck in traffic most of the humans surrounding you do not regularly participate in creative, artistic activities. If you do not consider yourself artistic, the best thing you can do to change is to begin. Give it a try. Create something for yourself and for the therapeutic benefits and enrichments it adds to dealing with life. There’s no competition with anyone but yourself. Just attempt, improve, and grow. Today is good day to start. Right now is even better. “A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms,” is a quote from the book “Zen Shin Talks” by Sensi Ogui.

While attending the University of North Texas, Denton in the 1990’s, I befriended a talented artist named Michelle Flanagan. The University of North Texas has an excellent visual arts program and makes a profound impact on the Texas contemporary art scene.Their graduates are often engaged in all aspects of the art world. Connections occur so often I am constantly reminded it is a small world, a smaller art world. In fact, half of the full-time faculty members in the art department at Tyler Junior College are UNT alums. So, when my art journey brought me to East Texas it was not surprising to come back in contact with Michelle Flanagan, a Tyler native.

Artist Michelle Flanagan was born in Tyler in 1971. Her primary discipline and field of research in art is drawing, but she also explores painting. She works predominantly in the media of graphite, charcoal, oil pastels, and acrylic paint. Michelle completed an Associate in Arts degree in Art at Tyler Junior College in 1991, a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Studio Art (magna cum laude) at The University of Texas at Tyler in 1994, and worked towards a Master of Fine Arts degree in Studio Art at the University of North Texas, August 1994–May 1997. She had a solo show for her MFA exhibit in Denton, Texas, at the Cora Stafford Gallery, UNT College of Visual Arts and Design. Flanagan lives and works in Whitehouse, Texas.

Michelle’s artwork is visually captivating, sensitive, and composed of multiple layers of almost ephemeral mark making. Her subjects are deeply personal, sometime autobiographical, but intensely universal providing powerful connections to the shared human experience.

“I typically use and combine graphite, charcoal, oil pastels, oil bars, and acrylic paint. I like the immediacy and control of working on paper. It’s easily accessible, which complements my spontaneous, expressive approach to art,” she said. “I have enjoyed working on stretched canvas as well but through my career as an artist, it’s been less available. Stretched canvas also has give to it, unlike paper, which has a flat surface and is more rigid,” states the artist.

She adds, “My work is figurative, typically portraits or torsos. Style is determined by the nature of the work. I’ve made graphite and charcoal portrait drawings using a realistic style. It is quite gratifying to see how far I can push techniques to have the end result represent the subject realistically. The work I do for myself is more expressive. One of the best descriptions of my autobiographical self-portraits came from my UNT professor in graduate school, cathartic. I look forward to the unexpected and spontaneous. I have such an enthusiasm for watching a work evolve. Through the interplay and control of variables surprise is inevitable.”

“I believe artists are just those who do not grow out of the childhood joy of creative exploration,” Michelle said. I have drawn for as long as I can remember. I was educated in the basics of art, and my skills and habits improved. I became very comfortable in the execution of representational, realistic images. I was given positive reinforcement throughout my childhood and teenage years. Positive feedback and encouragement from my mother, family, friends, and teachers enhanced my self-esteem and made me want to create more.”

Michelle has great respect and admiration for the ancestors of art. She will often visualize while creating Michelangelo or Titian (masters of the Italian Renaissance), Willem de Kooning (Abstract Expressionist), the group of Expressionists (artists concerned with manifesting feelings over observation).

“It is an amazing gift to reflect back on the legacy of art history and good company from which to draw motivation. I feel humbled, honored, and proud,” Michelle said. Her favorite artist is Pablo Picasso (Cubism and more).

The business of art comes with its own challenges beyond the trials of the creative process. “I created a website back in the early years of the internet,” Michelle explained. “A part of me believed collectors would immediately find me, flitter upon my doorstep, purchase everything I created, and offer to be my patrons for life. I still don’t know how people make it, whatever that means, especially in the digital age. And, marketing through social networking seems like a full time job. I never sought a business degree.” Michelle added, “Understanding through experience what “starving artist” means is rough.”

Being an artist does not mean one must make their living as an artist. You do not have to compete with anyone. Just bloom. Michelle stated, “Having to accept I had to get a real job was difficult. I entered the workforce around 2004 and had a full time job as an administrative assistant until 2015. My art productivity practically ceased through those years. The past few years have been some of my toughest in life, but things are changing for the better. I’ve created some new drawings and look forward to what awaits me in the future.”

I am looking forward to it too. Bloom.

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Art

Art in the Garden April 28th at the Rose Garden

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April 28th (11am-2pm) – 12th Annual Art in the Garden

The Tyler Parks and Recreation Department invites you to come paint or draw with us in the Tyler Rose Garden, 420 Rose Park Dr., Tyler.

Join local artists of all ages to paint. Bring your paints, any medium (paper or canvas) and an easel and create a masterpiece. Non-painters are welcome to view the garden and the artists at work.

A display of artwork will be shown in the exhibit area.

This is free to the public. Light refreshments will be served in the Rose Garden Center.

Art instructors are welcome to bring their students of any age.

For more info call (903)531-1214.

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Around East Texas

TJC Art Fest: This Week, Bell Tower Arts Journal” Launch Party, International Day

Tyler Junior College, the Tyler Museum of Art and others, are once again offering a spring arts festival packed with tons of events and performances. The TJC April Arts Festival will be collaborating with the Tyler Museum of Art the entire month of April.

The festival is a celebration of the dynamic arts programs at Tyler Junior College. These programs provide rich learning experiences. This event is a collaboration of The Bell Tower Arts Journal, International Day, the Tyler Museum of Art, and the Art, Music, Theater, Speech, Dance, and Visual Communications departments. Back again, the local CBS 19 will be supporting media underwriting.

The Annual Arts Festival germinated from the notion of Dr. Linda Gary (TJC Dean of Humanities, Communications and Fine Arts) a few years ago. Dr. Gary’s original thoughts of the festival bloomed from her idea of outstretching the outstanding activities that the multiple departments at the college conduct and coordinate. Why not share the greatness? There are some entertaining, cultural, enlightening events taking place at the upcoming festival. Find the ones you are interested in, check them all out, and reconnect to one of Tyler’s trademarks and come celebrate the arts.

2018 April Art Festival events include:

  • On view all of April – “Sticks and Stones: Works by Helen Altman” and the 14th Annual High School Art Exhibits will be at the Tyler Museum of Art all month. For more info, go to tylermuseum.org.
  • April 2nd-27th – A Visual Communications Exhibition will be displayed in the Pirtle Technology Building, Pirtle Phase 4.
  • Through April 25th – The Amazing Hancock Brothers will be on exhibit at the TJC Wise Auditorium Art Gallery.
  • Through April 27th – East Texas CARES Food Pantry is hosting a Food Drive, sponsored by The Art Club. Donations may be dropped off in the Jenkins Hall Art Department Lobby.

  • April 16th (2pm) – “The Bell Tower Arts Journal” Launch Party will be held in the TJC Jenkins Hall Art Department Lobby. The unveiling of the latest edition of “The Bell Tower Arts Journal” includes selected artwork, poetry and prose from students.
  • April 17th (9am-5pm) – TJC’s Annual International Day celebrates diversity and worldwide cultures with an amazing lineup of events and activities in the Apache Rooms of the Rogers Student Center.
  • April 17th (10am) – Distinguished Lecture Series: Hearing Each Other: Tolerance & Interfaith Dialogue will be held in the Wise Auditorium.
  • April 17th (7:30pm) – Wind Ensembles and Symphonic Band will be in concert in Wise Auditorium. Come enjoy an evening of great music performed by students in the TJC Percussion Ensembles and Symphonic Band. Free admission.
  • April 18th (12 noon) – Coffee House: Chamber Singers will perform at Tyler Museum of Art in the lobby.
  • April 18th (5:30pm) – Forensics (Speech and Debate) Team Showcase will be held in the Jean Browne Theatre.
  • April 20th (1pm) – Student Recital Series will be held in the TJC Jean Browne Theatre.
  • April 23rd (3pm) – The Student Film Festival be be held in the TJC Apache Rooms. a
  • April 23rd (3pm) – “Be An Anchor” will be held in the Newsroom, Potter 203.
  • April 24th (10am) – Rock the Garden games and activities will be held in the TJC Genecov Garden area.
  • April 24th (3pm) – Azerbaijani Music Concert & Workshop will be held in the TJC Apache Rooms.
  • April 24th (7:30pm) – Spring Choral Concert will be presented in the TJC Wise Auditorium.
  • April 25th (12 noon) – THUNDERDOME Art Competition will take place where there is only one winner – all the other entries will be destroyed by the annihilator. BYOT (Bring your own tears) to Jenkins Courtyard. Special guests will be the Amazing Hancock Brothers!
  • April 25th (2pm) – Amazing Hancock Brothers Printmaking demonstration will be held in the TJC Jenkins Hall Art Department Lobby.
  • April 25th (12 noon) – Coffee House: Faculty Recital will be performed in the Tyler Museum of Art Lobby. Concert and museum admission is free.
  • April 25th-28th (7:30pm) and April 28th (2pm) – “Hamlet” will be presented in the TJC Jean Browne Theatre.
  • April 25th (7:30pm) – TJC Jazz Ensembles will perform in the Wise Auditorium.
  • April 27th – The Performance Grant Student Showcase Art Exhibition will on display in the Wise Auditorium Art Gallery.

Most events are free to attend and everyone is welcome. There is something for everyone offered during this month-long festival. Find the events, exhibits and performances you are interested in and come enjoy. It really is the best ticket in town!

Tyler Junior College is located at 1400 E. Fifth St., Tyler. The Tyler Junior College Wise Auditorium Fine Arts Building and TJC’s Jean Browne Theatre in the Wise Cultural Arts Building are located near South Mahon Ave. across from the Tyler Museum of Art. More info can be found at tjc.edu/artsfestival or call (903)510-2200.

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Art

14th Annual High School Art Exhibit at Tyler Art Museum

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This Month at Tyler Museum of Art:

14th Annual High School Art Exhibition and “Sticks & Stones: Works by Helen Altman” on Exhibit

The Tyler Museum of Art (TMA) is located at 1300 S. Mahon Ave. on the Tyler Junior College main campus. Regular TMA hours are 10am-5pm Tuesday-Saturday, and 1-5pm Sunday. The Museum is closed Mondays and most major holidays. The Museum is supported by its members, Tyler Junior College, and the City of Tyler. For more info call the museum at (903)595-1001, tylermuseum.org, or email info@tylermuseum.org.

TMA’s 14th Annual High School Art Exhibition on Exhibit April 8th-May 6th

An unprecedented number of aspiring artists from local schools will have their first opportunity for a full museum exhibition with the Tyler Museum of Art’s “14th Annual High School Art Exhibition,” opening Sunday, April 8th and continuing through May 6th at the Museum. The museum is located Tyler Junior main Campus is located at 1300 S. Mahon Ave. Admission is free.

What began in 2005 as a small showcase for 23 students from four area high schools has blossomed into a major exhibition and community event. This year’s juried competition, tops the previous record of 2016, spotlighting for the first time the work of more than 100 students from a best-ever 14 high-school campuses in Tyler and nearby cities.

Five outstanding works as selected by the jurors will be presented with “Merit of Honor” awards during the Opening Reception and Awards Ceremony from 2:30-4pm, Sunday, April 8th at the Museum.

The community is invited to meet the participating artists, enjoy light refreshments – and cast their votes for the annual Viewers’ Choice Award to be presented at the exhibition’s conclusion. Ballots are available at the Visitor Services desk in the TMA lobby.

“Merit of Honor” winners will receive gift certificates from Dick Blick Art Materials. All participating artists will receive Certificates of Participation and one-year student memberships to the TMA. To RSVP for the April 8th opening reception, call (903)595-1001.

Participating schools in the “14th Annual High School Art Exhibition” include All-Saints Episcopal School, Bishop T.K. Gorman Regional Catholic School, Cumberland Academy, Grace Community School, John Tyler High School and Robert E. Lee High School, all of Tyler; The Brook Hill School, Brownsboro High School, Bullard High School, Chapel Hill High School, Elkhart High School, Frankston High School, Whitehouse High School and Winona High School.

Support for the exhibition is provided by Collectors’ Circle-Platinum Sponsor The Rogers Foundation; and Collectors’ Circle-Gold Sponsors Martha and Randy Key, McElfatrick Charitable Foundation and Myrtis D. Smith.

“Sticks and Stones: Works by Helen Altman”

Tyler Museum of Art celebrates the arrival of springtime with a quarter-century survey in the career of one of the most diverse and prolific contemporary Texas artists. “Sticks and Stones: Works by Helen Altman” continues through June 3rd in the museum’s Bell Gallery. Admission is free.

The exhibition, organized by the TMA and curated by Caleb Bell, features more than 40 pieces spanning a dynamic body of work by Altman, a Fort Worth-based artist noted for her ability to move between various series across an eclectic array of media.

“Sticks and Stones” focuses on her fascination with flora and fauna, which “have been a much-appreciated constant in my life,” the artist said. “They have been a constant source of joy and also a source of coping.”

Altman’s specific choices of media throughout her career – blankets, wire birds, egg editions, and torch drawings, to name just a few – also reflect a pronounced emphasis on exploring the unique in the everyday.

“Many of my works use commonplace materials and objects. I respond to ready-made objects that are often discards or flawed in some obvious way,” she said. “Alterations in these familiar things elevate them and draw parallels to our own human predicament.”

Altman received both her bachelor of fine arts and master of arts degrees from the University of Alabama, as well as her master of fine arts from the University of North Texas. Her work has been widely exhibited and is featured in numerous public collections, including the Art Museum of South East Texas, The Grace Museum, and Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego.

Support for “Sticks and Stones” is provided by Collectors’ Circle Platinum Sponsor The Byars Foundation.

Special events in connection with the exhibition include: Free First Friday tours at 11am April 6th, May 4th and June 1st; and Family Days from 2-4pm Saturday, April 14th and May 12th.

 

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