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Inside the Artist’s Studio: The Texas Biennial

Miles and Miles of Texas

By Derrick White

Over the summer, in the span of seven weeks, curator Leslie Moody Castro visited 25 Texas cities, 200 artist’s studios, and traveled 11,033 miles! The Texas Biennial is an exhibition of contemporary art celebrating the many cultures and identities influencing and impacting our daily lives across our state. Of the 1,217 applicants, 33 artists were chosen to exhibit in Austin September 30th–November 11th. One artist is from Tyler: Philana Oliphant Pace, an excellent choice.

Philana is a respected and sincere art professor at Tyler Junior College. She embodies a quiet, incredibly patient, forgiving, and knowledgeable approach to instruction. Her artwork, from large-scale sculpture installations to handcrafted drawings and cut-outs are all completed with precision and persistence.

Philana Oliphant Pace mentions in her artist’s statement, “My drawings are remnants of a behavioral form allowing my mind to achieve a meditative state. The results rely on a physiological statement, which is the first principle of communication. The forms are pieces of an infinite puzzle. They are repetitive, connective, and possess a sense of time. Searching for grace, the union of drawing and sculpture manifests what I will pass on while releasing what I will not.” Her artwork exemplifies craftsmanship, passion, and diligent patience.

After a period of evaluation and restructuring, the Texas Biennial is returning in its sixth edition with an ambitious program celebrating the heterogeneous voices across Texas. In 2017, efforts are being made to shift the focus onto communities and learn from them through the curatorial process. This year the Texas Biennial welcomed Leslie Moody Castro as an independent curator and artistic director. Castro has a history of making artistic voices and the communities they work within central to her practice. “I am an independent curator and I split my time between living in Mexico City and Austin, Texas. I earned my Master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin in Museum Education and Museum Studies and my Bachelor’s degree from DePaul University in Chicago,” Castro said.

Castro blogged each part of her trek across the state. East Texas has so much to offer with its visual arts scene as well as other thriving ventures and communities. It is an honor for us to be included in the conversation about Texas contemporary art. I had the pleasure of hosting Leslie Moody Castro on her visit to our city, and I was proud and excited about the introduction I was able to make. “East Texas, you are beautiful, and I am proud of the artwork being made in this area.” The following are some edited excerpts from Castor’s Texas Biennial Road Trip Blog:

“I had never been to Tyler, and I was eager for what I was about to learn. Tyler Junior College is a partner organization with the Biennial. I had heard Tyler has a burgeoning arts community centered around the junior college and the university. We went to Tyler Junior College. The campus is absolutely stunning, and even though it was summer, the energy on the campus was palpable. The art facilities are better than in some bigger universities I have visited in the past. I learned everyone teaching at the school is a practicing, professional artist and is also expected to show their work. Professors are not just expected to teach medium and technique, but offer insight to professional practices.”

“Later that evening we pulled up to the beautiful home of James and Philana Oliphant Pace. There were so much love and respect among everyone in the room, and I felt lucky to be there. They had prepared a small spread of bites, handed me a beer, and we all walked outside to their shared studio to talk about their work. I walked over to Philana’s area of the studio, and we began talking about the foundations of drawing. Her work is meticulous, but the concentration and focus of her mark making are completely embedded in the sound the mark is making as she places it on the paper. Philana’s marks operate in two time frames, the present, and the immediate past. She listens to the sound of the mark and the sound offers direction for the next mark. It’s a micro-moment of noise she has the sensitivity to hear, and after speaking with both Philana and James about their practices, it was clear how they had become such important mentors in the arts community.”

“It was while visiting Philana and James that I really realized I was on a road trip with the entire state of Texas. We talked about the general need for connectivity between places in the state, and how I hoped the road trip could provide some of that. As we all said our goodbyes I walked away feeling like I truly had a community in Tyler, and the Biennial could do a job bigger than just an exhibition. At that moment I also realized the amount of support the project was truly receiving. We began as total strangers in a place I had never been to, and I walked away with the support of a new community.”

“Being on the road, and traveling is not glamorous, most of the time it’s isolating and lonely, but my time in Tyler was warm, inviting, and friendly. It was during a conversation with Philana I realized this road trip existed in three time zones: the past, immediate present, and future. I was present in the moment of one place, planning for the next place, and writing about the place I had just been in, and the observation was just another moment I realized the empathy that existed in their community of artists, and I was even more grateful to be invited in. As I hopped in the car to head to Huntsville I realized visits like Tyler were exactly the reason this road trip was both necessary and wonderful.”

After the close of the Austin exhibition, partner organizations, including TJC, will advocate for Texas contemporary art in a variety of ways such as hosting selected works of the Biennial exhibition, hosting artists’ talks, demonstrations, and panel discussions with Biennial and local artists.

Relive the whole road trip by reading Castro’s blog at

For more info go to


On Exhibit at The University of Texas at Tyler Art Galleries


UT Tyler hosts several galleries with a variety of art on exhibit. For more info, call (903)566-7237 or email On exhibit this month:

There are several galleries. The Meadows Gallery is located within the R. Don Cowan Fine and Performing Arts Center on the campus of UT Tyler and features rotating exhibitions. The Meadows Gallery exhibition schedule includes nationally known guest artist exhibitions, the Annual International Exhibition, faculty curated exhibitions, MFA thesis exhibitions, and a student juried exhibition each summer.

The UC Gallery is located on the second floor of the University Center. This gallery is dedicated to exhibiting student work.

The Fine Arts Complex (FAC/ARC) Gallery is located in the new Fine Arts Complex. The FAC Gallery provides a place for invited artists, undergraduates, and graduate students to display their works. In conjunction with art history courses, students have curated exhibitions from the Tyler Museum of Art’s permanent collection, given talks on the work, and hosted opening receptions in the gallery.

Exhibits scheduled are:

  • Thru March 9th – 33rd Annual International Exhibition

  • March 22nd (6pm) – MFA Thesis Exhibition Reception: Daniel Jake Arnold (Meadows Gallery)

  • March 29th (6pm) – MA Thesis Exhibition Reception: Kirsti Smith (FAC Gallery)

  • April 7th – 4th Annual Art History Symposium (ARC 112)

  • April 10th (5:30pm) – MA Thesis Presentation by JoBeth Cox (ARC 112)

  • April 12th (6pm) – MFA Thesis Exhibition Reception: Brandon Witschi (Meadows Gallery)

  • April 19th (5:30pm) – BA Thesis Presentation by Cree Summerfield (ARC 112)

  • April 19th (6pm) – 1st BFA Thesis Exhibition Reception (FAC Gallery)

  • April 26th (6pm) – 2nd BFA Thesis Exhibition Reception (FAC Gallery)

  • May 3rd (6pm) Annual Juried Student Exhibition Reception and Juror Talk (Meadows Gallery)

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Call for Artist: “Unfettered” Exhibit April 7th


Call for Artist:

“Unfettered” Exhibit April 7th at Wagner Auto Group, Tyler

Attention artists: submission for the Art Show “Unfettered” to be held Saturday, April 7th (7-11pm), Wagner Auto Group, Tyler. This one night curated art show will have a scene like no other. “This will be an extremely exciting evening out to peruse original art, watch live art demos, and check out some extremely talented art vendors,” said Kerian Massey, curator of the show.

“We are looking for a variety of art with the theme of ‘Unfettered.’ To be unfettered is to come undone, to let go or to become free, without ties. Any artwork that carries this theme in any loose fashion will be considered.”

For more info contact Kerian Massey at or call (903)714-7414

All art will be juried in by a panel of judges. Notice of Acceptance will be given Monday, March 26th.

For those who want to be a part of the show but would like to sell more, there will be an area for select fine art for sale. All artwork is subject to review for quality and content. Absolutely no resale items with the exception of canvas prints and fine art prints.


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Art Events SPRING-ing Up For The Season


Events & Classes

Call for Artists & Vendors – April In Edom is April 21st-22nd and is an old fashioned folk, street fair for adults, kids and pets. There is free admission.  At April in Edom, you can find 125 plus vendors with handmade and folk crafts, demonstrations, vintage items, great foods, awesome kids’ zone with arts and activities, pet parades and  contests, 40 Performers on 3 Stages, and a Fire 5K Run. To apply, go to, email, or call (844)633-6689.

March 15th (6-8pm) – Watercolor Painting Class – M6’s first Watercolor Painting Class cost is $40 and includes all of your materials and a complimentary glass of M6 Wine. Reserve your seat at Feel free to bring snacks to enjoy while you paint. M6 Winery is located at 201 W. Main St., Bullard. This class is taught by Chelsea Presley.

March 24th (12 noon – 5pm) – Azalea Trails Art Show – Join during the Azalea Trails season as Smith County Historical Society hosts local artist John Randall York upstairs in the Payne Auditorium at SCHS building, 125 S. College Ave., Downtown Tyler. “We are so excited to see the wonderful showcase John will have available to the public. The Society is working with John to provide supplemental histories of his subjects and for the works he will have available for sale. Please join us for a viewing and history of multiple local landmarks.” If you would like more information please feel free to contact the Smith County Historical Society at

May 12th (4-10pm) – TJC Art Club 15 Year Reunion – Have you ever been in Art Club? Have you ever taken an art class at TJC? Has Chris Stewart ever intimidated you? Do think Paul Jones is weird? Do you want to see old friends or make new ones? Come hang out, reminisce, reconnect and have a beer at True Vine Brewing Company, 2453 Earl Campbell Parkway, Tyler. This will be a great for old and new friends alike.


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