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Lulu & The Black Sheep: Sometimes Simpler Is Better


By Johnny Griffith

The world we live in is becoming more complex by the day it seems. With technology advancing at breakneck speed, the things that surround us are more capable of automating every aspect of our lives and are, by necessity in most cases, seldom simple. Yet, when it comes to music, even in a landscape dominated by electronic effects, some of the best music being made is a throwback to a much simpler style. These stripped down styles are remnants of what you might have heard 70 or 80 years ago. One of the more talented, and certainly more interesting, of the musical projects in this area is “Lulu and The Black Sheep.”

The Black Sheep is fronted by local artist, Lauren Nichols, who takes the stage name Lulu VanTuckett, Lulu’s husband, Allen Wayne Nichols, and upright bassist Dave Stopani. Lulu was born in Longview, graduating from the Trinity School of Texas with a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree with a focus on communication design and illustration. After college, she undertook a tattoo apprenticeship and has been tattooing in East Texas for 8 years now. A veteran of previous musical projects, The Black Sheep was a return to music after a brief hiatus; the return has been a successful one with old and new fans alike flocking to Lulu’s unique and raw delivery of musical message.

We recently tracked Lulu and The Black Sheep down on the road during a trip to Nashville and were able to get some more info on the talented songstress:

Johnny: You’ve got a lot of irons in the fire these days with work, music, touring, family…what’s a day in the life of Lulu like?

Lulu: My days consist of tattooing, design work, playing shows, and spending time with my husband Allen and our one-eyed chiweenie Rooster Clem Eastwood The First.

Johnny: When did you individually first get into music?

Lulu: I’ve loved music since I was a kid. Growing up my family listened to the Beatles, but I remember as a young teen the first two CD’s I owned were Acid Bath and Beethoven. My taste in music is still pretty diverse. I’ve always loved to sing. When I was young, I’d run around the yard in a tutu and sing about the things I saw around me like I was in some kind of cartoon musical. When I got to college, I taught myself how to play basic guitar to accompany my singing. Not much has changed since then.

Johnny: You’re not new to the music scene in this area, how were the “Black Sheep” born?

Lulu: I wanted something a little more simple with “The Black Sheep” and right now it’s perfect. “The Black Sheep” can be singular or plural, so it can be just my husband Allen accompanying me, or David “Dog House” Stopani on upright bass, or anyone else for that matter. It’s really great for traveling when you can interchange pieces.

Johnny: You’ve got a unique sound that could be described as one part bluegrass, one part outlaw country, one part folk music. In your own words, what are you trying to construct with your sound?

Lulu: Our sound is an organic representation of the music that moves me. My inspiration comes from a wide variety of genres and I simply try to channel the feelings they invoke in me. A lot of the songs I perform are old honky-tonk songs from the 30’s and 40’s. I try to portray what it is that moves me in the song and tell the stories as if they were my own.

Johnny: Are there any unique challenges that come along with playing with your significant other in the same band?

Lulu: Oh yeah, not very often, but occasionally personal emotions find their way on stage with us or in practice. We’re very fortunate that we make such a great team. It’s taken a lot of learning how to reflect and understand our own individual nature to keep from taking things so personally with one another.

Johnny: Who are some of your influences musically?

Lulu: I like 30’s-50’s blues; Ray Charles, Bo Diddley, Fats Domino. I just recently visited Memphis Minnie’s burial site in Walls, Mississippi on one of our tours. It was a very enriching experience. Jake LaBotz is a modern inspiration. I was moved by his music long before meeting him and then he gave me great advice on working with my imperfections and insecurities as a musician. He is a great guy and fantastic musician. Then I have my honky-tonk heroes. Hank III was my introduction to country music I actually liked, which opened me up to Hank Sr and eventually Hank Jr, Waylon Jennings, and Merle Haggard. I also like the old train songs of Jimmie Rodgers and I went through a Cab Calloway phase for a couple of years. Like I said earlier, I have a pretty diverse tastes in music.

Johnny: What has been your best musical memory to this point?

Lulu: This past summer we went to Muddy Roots in Cookeville, Tennessee. We didn’t perform on stage but we camped with several Texas musicians we’d played shows with in the past. We got to meet other musicians and like-minded people from all over the United States as well as other continents. It was definitely a life changing experience for me.

Johnny: How was 2017 for LuLu and The Black Sheep?

Lulu: 2017 has almost been a rebirth for Lulu and The Black Sheep. I took about a 6 month break from music in general to focus on some health issues. In dealing with these issues my mindset has drastically changed and I’ve become more spiritual and enlightened to my place in this universe and what really matters in life. I think before it was as if there was a veil draped over my eyes and I was being held back by my insecurities. Now that it’s been lifted, I feel like I’m able to express myself better and I feel more comfortable getting out and sharing what I have to offer.

Johnny: What’s in store for 2018?

Lulu: Lots of touring for 2018. I’m working on a tour out West for the Spring, then East to Florida in March, and New Mexico in May. I’d be really pleased if we at least have something in the works for Europe by the end of 2018.

You can find LuLu and The Black Sheep at:





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Summer Creative Camps at TMA

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This Month at Tyler Museum of Art:

Summer Creative Camps

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,, or email

“Sticks and Stones: Works by Helen Altman”

Tyler Museum of Art closes the exhibit of the most diverse and prolific contemporary Texas artists, “Sticks and Stones: Works by Helen Altman” on June 3rd. Admission is free.

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. 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 June 1st.

Creativity Camps

From late June to early August, close to 70 kids ages 7-13 and older dive into hands-on art experiences in a series of half-day and full-day camps. Each session is supervised by degreed artists and educators, and culminates with a small exhibition of campers’ work and a community reception.

Camps are held Monday-Friday (9am-4pm) for ages 6-12. Cost is $40 per day or $175 per week. To register online, fill out a form available at If registering online for single day(s), please note the day(s) in the comment section.

TMA World Tour 2018 – June 25th-29th

Expand the visual arts to include music and performance at this camp. In addition to visual art activities, young artists will make musical instruments, learn a song, and play a mini-concert at the end of the week.

Upside-down and Backward – July 9th-13th

Everything looks different from a fresh perspective. Drawing underwater, painting with spaghetti, there’s no telling what will happen when you change the way you make art. This camp is all about real creativity, and young artists will help brainstorm up new, exciting projects all week long.

Beachcombers’ Paradise – July 16th-20th

Love the seashore but hate sunburns and foot-scorching sand? Come explore marine environments through art. Biology, art, and fun merge into one great experience as you learn about the weird, wonderful world of sea life and environments, and express new knowledge through art.

5 Days Away from Rose City – July 23rd-27th

Some of the country’s greatest artists call the Lone Star State home. At this camp, you will explore the geographical regions of Texas and the artists who gain inspiration in them, ending up right here in East Texas.

Family Days

Free admission, interactive art projects, light snacks and a festive atmosphere for all ages are on the menu from 2-4pm the second Saturday of each month with the Tyler Museum of Art’s Family Day. This popular program focuses on fostering a deeper understanding of the Museum’s spotlight exhibitions – and, above all, having fun! To RSVP for groups of 10 or more, please call (903)595-1001 or e-mail

First Friday

The first Friday of each month, the TMA offers a full day of free admission plus guided tours of its spotlight exhibitions at 11am. From contemporary Texas art to Hudson River School to Andy Warhol, each tour is unique.

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Around East Texas

Inside the Artist’s Studio…

Inside the Artist’s Studio:

On View this Summer

Texas Contemporary Artists on View in East Texas

By Derrick White

It is June in Texas and it’s hot. If you are looking for a free, fun activity which will be stimulating to the senses and inside an air conditioned building, check out some of these venues around town showcasing some wonderful visual art. Gallery Main Street located in downtown Tyler, 110 W. Erwin ST, Tyler, TX 75702, is displaying local talent Jacqueline Chubirka in a one person exhibition of 27 paintings by the artist. Chubirka: A Study of People and their Things is on view until June 4, 2018, so hurry. The paintings are realistic and masterfully executed reminiscent of Wayne Thiebaud (American painter known for depicting common objects—pies, ice cream, pastries, and figures). Chubirka lives in Tyler and received her B.F.A. degree in painting from the Academy of Art University. “This group of paintings consists of portraits juxtaposed to everyday objects. Taking daily life as subject matter while commenting on the aesthetic of the working class,” says the artist in a printed statement. You will be impressed.

The Tyler Museum of Art is exhibiting Rewind: Selections from Private Collections through August 19th containing artwork borrowed from East Texas collectors. Coming up June 24th – September 9th is a solo show by renowned Texas contemporary Dallas artist, David Bates. The museum is located on the campus of TJC at 1300 S. Mahon Ave, Tyler, TX 75701 and is open Tuesday – Saturday: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and Sunday: 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. The museum will also host Creativity Camps this summer Monday – Friday 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. for children ages 6 – 12 ($40 per day / $175 per week). Camps kick off with TMA World Tour June 25th – 29th incorporating visual art with music and performance. Young artists will explore art, make a musical instrument, learn a song, and perform a mini-concert at the end of the week. Other camps continue through the month of July. Contact: 903-595-1001 for registration and information.

On view in the Meadows Gallery at the University of Texas at Tyler’s Cowan Center (located at 3900 University Blvd, Tyler, TX 75701) is the 2018 Juried Student Exhibition. The show is on display through August 10th and is free and open to the public Monday – Friday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. This year’s juror for the show is the distinguished Texas sculptor Sherry Owens who uses crepe myrtle branches to tell stories of Texas and environmental concerns. Owens works in Dallas and received a B.F.A. from Southern Methodist University. Her selections are impressive, engaging, and mostly reflective of the juror’s natural comprehension for organic forms. 42 pieces were chosen to be exhibited. The professional skill level, appeal, and powerful content coming from these emerging Texas contemporary artists is remarkable and speaks volumes about the momentum of the East Texas art scene. We have powerful artistic voices here. Brittany Lea Taylor has two small, powerful paintings in the show Memory #4 and Memory #1 (both oil on panel). The former is a striking, black and white, representational, almost photo-realistic image of an old, abandoned vehicle buried in weeds. The composition is fragmented and energized by a few (some green) diagonal, sharp lines. The latter is a black and white, photo-realistic rural scene with a slight contoured outline of an undeveloped figure like a missing character from a Harper Lee novel. Jessica Sanders also has two works shown. Roll, Stack, Overlap and Stuff, Pull, Lay. The pieces are made of porcelain and stoneware and sewn together using copper wire. These exquisite sculptures are painstakingly assembled small, handcrafted, fired and glazed, geometrically shaped tiles. Her creations are hung on the wall and seem graceful, soft, and natural. The individual pieces transcend their uniqueness and become a complete form. I was fascinated by Leon Campbell’s print titled Circle Quadrant Intaglio a commanding minimalist composition of four divisions of a square each containing a circle shape with a large, center circle overlapping all. The image unified by frantic and expressive lines, cross-hatching and etched into the plate. Jennie Riley exhibits a nice painting titled Them, a large-scale acrylic on canvas of strange puzzle shapes creating a surreal landscape of mammoth proportions with a colorful bundle of confusion in the bottom right of the picture plane. Kate Finch’s Inconsistencies in Self-Hatred is a stunning watercolor of biological, fluid, formal interactions. It is a pleasing and enjoyable compositional ride full of movement, lines, shapes, and colors through a strong, swirling current.

Two of the showstoppers for me are the sculptures of Laminda Miller Kitsune’s Deceit and I can be who I want to be. Perfectly postured and proportioned animal forms created from Styrofoam and epoxy clay with papier-mâché, one is a wild, contorted, shapeshifting fox attached to the wall, a human mask around his neck. It is textural, dynamic, playful, and contemplative. The other is a free-standing sculpture of a large hare seated on a small wooden stool resting and removing his rabbit mask. It is visually tactile, fantastical, and immediately creates a Carrollesque narrative. These two pieces held my visual attention for a long time. Corey Reeves watercolor and ink paintings Feast of 90 Minutes and Sinister, Sentient Sausage and Succulent, Savory Snacks stood out for their vibrant, outlandish and well executed configurations reminiscent of Zapp comics, Robert Crumb, and Robert Williams. There is something intriguing about a monstrous man and a giant hot dog about to gorge on mustard drenched mini-franks.

Other stunning works included: Joanna Kathryn Gifford’s Breath large-scale installation of a tangled woven cube structure casting a web of shadows below a digital projection of a mouth in repetition veiled by deterioration, Nicole Marie’s Automeris Io a large painting of floral and organic complexities forming a dense thicket of shapes battling and bumping each other, Lorianne Hubbard’s always superb charcoal and graphite drawings, Lisa Horlander’s translucent, stained, and layered three-dimensional collages, Tiffany Gilliam’s mixed media coiled, entangled, and bundled fragments, Jeri Lynn Hubbard’s delightful exploration into paper sculpture, and Erick Rodriguez’s Still Waters, a graphite on paper drawing so immensely intricate and containing thousands of small delicate, toned lines, it truly has to be viewed in person to be accurately appreciated. Other impressive exhibiting artists include: Hannah Branscum, Chelsea Bretherick, Audrey Caton, Sam Edwards, Rebecca Fernandez with Jacqueline Yost, Keri Lane Fidone, Abigail Harrison, Kyndall Luckey, Harrison March, John Miranda, Sylvia Morse, Chelsea Oliver, Lauren Pitre, Kayla Reesor, Jamin Shepherd, Lilah Shepherd, Brandon Witschi and Jacqueline Yost.


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14th Annual High School Art Exhibit at Tyler Art Museum


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,, or email

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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