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Inside the Artist’s Studio: Why I am an Art Professor, A Personal Thank You O Captain!


Chris Stewart BirdBy Derrick White

“You must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, ‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.’ Don’t be resigned to that. Break out!” – said by the character John Keating from the film “Dead Poets Society”

Chris Stewart 3It is sentimentalized in books and movies all the time, the impact another person, especially a teacher, can have on one’s life. I am sure if we all paused for a moment to think, there would be a short list of human beings, other than family members, who have helped shape the people we are today, hopefully for the better. “A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could,” is a quote from Zig Ziglar. This applies directly to my daily life, and the reassurance and freedom I have been given to do my job my way and with the confidence of knowing someone believes in me and supports my decisions even when he doesn’t agree with them. I am able to do my job well for one simple reason; I have the full encouragement of my boss.

In 1998, after the birth of our daughter, I knew I had to do something to better provide for my family and so I quit my full-time warehouse job and began working at the Arlington Museum of Art, Tarrant County College, and teaching night art classes at Eastfield Community College in Mesquite, all concurrently. Two years later I applied for a position at Tyler Junior College and although I interviewed, I did not receive the job. Fortunately, due to continued growth in the TJC art department another full-time position opened up the following year (the imbedded lesson here – persevere). I applied again and was hired by an inspiring professor, artist, person, and the most proactive and effective leader I have ever known; frankly, the world’s best boss.

Chris Stewart 1Art department chairperson Christopher Stewart is leaving Tyler Junior College after over 21 years of dedication and service to the East Texas arts community and managing a department of working professional artists and professors he has formed into a family. Chris is advancing to an opportunity awaiting him in West Texas. I have worked alongside Chris for 15 years feeling like a collaborator in building something great. Something we both believe is important. One of my colleagues still celebrates what his family calls ‘Saint Christopher Day’ – the anniversary of receiving the call from Chris Stewart telling him he had been hired to join us at TJC. Chris Stewart’s leaving is a huge artistic, educational, and creative loss for East Texas. Ouch! There needs to be a way to know you are in the good ol’ days before they are actually gone. Somehow, we will endure.

Chris Stewart 4One of the great things about having Chris Stewart as your boss is he can be intimidating. Even after all this time, he will call me into his office and I immediately think I am in trouble, only to find he wants to share an interesting film trailer or website he feels I might find useful. He is a very tall, brooding, red-headed man capable of riding 50 miles on a bicycle and crushing argumentative students with merely a quick Eastwood-style stare. As another colleague puts it, “Chris Stewart’s patronus (powerful magical guardian) is himself.” He is the precise guy you want in your corner, on your side, protecting your interests, and backing you up, which he does justly, honorably, and faithfully. I am an art professor because Chris Stewart believes I should be one. He gave me a chance when I needed it and allowed me to find my own teaching voice. He permits his faculty to do their job, expects them to do it right, discover their style, and exercises their strengths. Over the last two decades Chris has built the most vibrant and dynamic department on the campus of Tyler Junior College and one of the best art programs in the state of Texas.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with him. He is very intelligent and knowledgeable, but can also comfortably discuss current events, films or have casual conversation with faculty and students. His door is literally always open for advising, student arbitration, or a good joke. Chris has an inspiring and outstanding work ethic. Chris is an impressive professor and motivator with a love for art, teaching, and learning. Chris Stewart’s strength is his ability to lead by example. He has very high expectations for himself, our school, our students, and the arts in our region. He has served our community well, and I consider him a great supervisor and an even greater friend. He has guided me through both professional and personal life issues and has been a source of amazing support and understanding for my family.

Chris Stewart  4There has never been a problem Chris hasn’t been able to resolve. He is supportive of department decisions, willing to lend advice, and make fair, prudent judgments when necessary. Chris Stewart has been instrumental in building an energetic and profitable program at Tyler Junior College. The growth of our department has steadily increased, even when overall college enrollment has fluctuated. Our reputation on campus and in the local and state community is strong and respected. If we are credited with getting things done right, Chris Stewart is the reason why; he’s an inspiration for living YOUR best life. The movie “Dead Poets Society” makes references to a Walt Whitman poem, especially when the teacher tells his students that they may call him “O Captain! My Captain!” if they feel daring enough to do so. At the dramatic end of the film, the students show their support to the parting instructor by reciting the phrase while standing on their desks. I’m standing atop my desk right now. Chris, you will be missed. You have made an important impact on many, especially me. Thank you.

Chris Stewart received a BFA degree from Texas Tech University and his MFA degree from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. He has accepted the position of Department Chair for the Department of Visual and Performing Arts at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas.

To see more of Chris’ art visit www.christopher-stewart.com.


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Art

Robert Langham III: Inside the Artist’s Studio

Inside the Artist’s Studio:

Four Corners, Robert Langham III

By Derrick White

The Anasazi were Ancestral Puebloans, an ancient Native American culture existing about two thousand years ago in what is now the Four Corners region of the United States (southwestern corner of Colorado, southeastern Utah, northeastern Arizona, and northwestern New Mexico). They are thought to be the ancestors of later tribes like the Hopi. Religiously, they were polytheistic and had faith in many gods relating to nature (i.e. a rain god, a sun god, as well as good old mother earth). The Anasazi held many of their religious rituals and political meetings in dark or dimly lit underground rooms called kivas. There was a kachina belief. The central theme being an existence of life in all the objects of the universe and everything having a spirit or lifeblood, and that mankind must cooperate with these forces or fail to survive. This is not unlike the ancient Greek belief of daemon creative spirit guides. The Romans later changed the name to genius in the context of someone artistic, who was not thought to be a really intelligent person but rather had found favor with a disembodied essence who would assist with delivering ideas and the execution of the work.

“I’m beset by ideas, swarmed by ideas, hived, hounded. They pop into my head. They arrive on a piece of trash blown down the street or seep from the edge of a shadow. They pursue me in dreams and arrive during conversations, meals, baths, silence, sex, at 72 mph on the highway, they appear. They lurk in trees, closets, boxes, corners, elevators, concrete, dirt, space and in the pocket-lint of my jeans. Seductive or repellent. Arrowing, cascading, collapsing like lost children and salesmen. They fall from the sky, spurt from a shower head in places public and private. They keep no schedule, crowding in without appointment or announcement, elbowing, jostling through the press, caring neither for consciousness nor condition. Oblivious to budget or schedule, 10,000 angelic demons, seeking me, seeking me always,” states local artist Robert Langham III.

Robert comes across as a shrewd and relaxed guy. I can easily imagine him in New Mexico having a deep philosophical conversation or maybe just hanging out and having a beer with Terry Allen (an outlaw, autonomous artist working in a diverse range of media including music, sculpture, painting, and video and who, it is worth mentioning, has a song titled Four Corners). Robert Langham is a fine art and commercial photographer and some of his works are mystic, while others are ghostly and reminiscent of cyanotypes, a photographic process generating a cyan-blue image. His subject matter seems to twirl and move in an unworldly, spiritual way: the blue being there to calm the viewer down, to help quiet the mind while the eyes look and the intellect wonders. Some works involve multiples: pieces of items both organic and man-made, stacked, melting, bundled, bound, attached, or whirled in a tornadic force. Other photographs have animals presented not in their natural habitats but instead in an encounter with mankind. 

Robert achieves these shuffling still-life photographs not with a computer but by using long-established traditional film, camera, and darkroom techniques. He uses big roll film and sheet film in large cameras. He composes visual dances with multiple exposures and controlled trickeries. Robert Langham shows viewers how ability, artistry, and patience are essential to composing filmic captivations. When one views his images, it is easy to believe they too have some sort of kachina – a sense of life in these inanimate objects happening to shift and cavort with an unseen life-force and reminding us of all the connections in our world and objects; or the manipulation of nature, which were at one time human concepts and thoughts, asking how are we to collaborate and persist together.

Langham earned a degree in photography and art from Sam Houston State University. He has taught at both TJC and Sam Houston. What started Robert down the path of becoming an artist was that, in his words, “I was seduced and then betrayed by an older woman,” but art has brought purpose and understanding to his life. He explains, “It is the search for truth, isn’t it? Art becomes the refining of one’s self, the piercing of veils, and the shedding of layers. Art is the way you walk in the world. You soak yourself in your subject matter and then an idea appears, a new idea. Maybe it is a new stupid idea, but it is new. You somehow failure it into the world and all of a sudden, like snapping your fingers, something new exists. It is a miracle. When you look around yourself in the world almost everything you see is not most importantly a physical thing, it was someone’s idea first. I am a little tender and adoring of new human ideas and the sheer adventure and exhilaration of the process. It’s fun.” He adds, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly, at first. If you can’t embrace, anticipate, celebrate, and enjoy failure you are going to have a rough time with art.”

Robert Langham III gets inspirations from his daily life and all he encounters. He likes the early work of Man Ray (American visual artist and photographer contributing to both the Dada and Surrealist movements of the early 20th century). Robert advises, “I look at other media besides photography. Never look too much at your own media. If they are good, they drag you off to their lair and eat you. If they are bad, it is a waste of time. Look at something else.” He continues, “My best advice is to find your subject matter and look at it. I look at paintings but mostly enjoy ones not made from photographs. I like paintings from the artists’ imaginations.” Robert visited the recent Claude Monet exhibition at the Kimball Museum of Art in Fort Worth twice and says he got photographic ideas from the show. He states he is crazy about the Anasazi and also likes Inuit and Pompeian art.

I like this idea of the Anasazi of all things and people being connected, and the reverence they had for nature, objects, and our earth. Robert’s photographs of pirouetting feathers remind me of their philosophy and I wish we could all cooperate more with all things, all people, and good old mother earth… and perhaps survive. But sometimes I worry the four corners reference actually comes from Revelation 7:1, “I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree …four angels given the power to harm the land.” 

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Carina Alvarado: Inside the Artist’s Studio

Dream Until Your Dreams Come True:

Carina Alvarado

By Derrick White 

“The most important things art has brought to my life are the abilities to express, communicate, and connect. I am not great with words, especially expressing meaning without getting jumbled. Art is the language in which I feel the most comfortable communicating. I have found a way to express myself freely in a visual way and explain what is in my heart and soul,” explains local artist Carina Alvarado. Her artwork is vibrant and uses graphic and bursting compositions of surreal imagery to captivate one’s imagination. Carina uses a variety of media. “I really enjoy working with acrylics, but I recently tried watercolor and gouache and I have fallen in love with these materials. I enjoy the way they work together. The process of understanding these collaborations really interests me. I tend to use a little of everything in my pieces,” she states.

“When I decided to quit my full-time job and focus on art, it was terrifying. Taking the decision and explaining it to the people around me – to me, felt like the first challenge as an artist. The frustration of feeling like you have to convince people it is what drives you as a person right after you convinced yourself to take the leap towards passion. There is so much behind the scenes in the amount of work, motivation, money – just the whole process of becoming an artist. I understand being an artist is an art form in and of itself, a journey. You can attend classes, you can watch videos, you can ask for advice, but you yourself have to create something. You don’t apply to be an artist. The application is progressing and developing in personally growing in this unpredictable life, in your studio hours, experimenting with media and ideas, putting yourself and what you create out there. This application can go any which way; it can be short or long, but you never really get told you are an artist in this process. You, as the artist, have to keep creating. You have to stay motivated. You have to keep exhibiting your art,” encourages Carina.

Alvarado took painting, drawing, figure drawing, art history, and ceramic classes at TJC.

She recalls, “While attending TJC, I met inspiring art professors. I remember Paul Jones sketching out new characters and ideas. I remember Derrick White being hands-on, teaching us how to stretch canvases. He was always trying out new techniques and painting. I learned what I needed to understand about art in my classes, but I had such inspiring professors to facilitate my creativity and my motivation outside of class. TJC art professors are active, professional artists and they speak about the things you have to do to show your work. They being enthusiastically productive and helping students understand, realistically, about being a visual artist were enough for me to start my journey into visual art.” 

She adds, “In my studio art classes I found my fear of speaking in front of people was very minimal. Being surrounded by art and creative people provided me with so much confidence and provided a beautiful and personal way for me to connect to people. Art has made me push myself. I pressed myself to share the art I had been so private about by creating an Instagram and submitting my pieces to events. I stepped out of my comfort zone, meeting Addie Moore (a founder of “etx creatives”), attending events full of people I did not know. I submitted art to juried exhibitions and was accepted to some and rejected by others. I went on a podcast with “etx creatives” and spoke about my art, I was super terrified to speak and to be recorded but the excitement was much greater. Art has made me grow so much as a person, every day I learn something new about myself.” 

Carina finds inspiration in the work of artist Ashley Longshore. “She is a strong, creative, and powerful woman who does not hold back. I admire her fun, colorful, and powerful paintings. Her art represents her so well; she says ‘You are in my brain.’ I respect artists taking me to another place in their minds and worlds,” Carina explains. Alvarado also enjoys Salvador Dali, saying, “My admiration for his dreamlike, symbolic and surreal art made me feel connected to him. I hope one day I can perfect what I see and what I feel in an art form as well.”

“I suppose my style is colorful surrealism, a glance into my extremely vivid lucid dreams. I have always had a very imaginative mind, but every night ever since I can remember I experienced crystal clear dreams. My dreams are other worlds to me, I know it sounds strange. I always remember waking up and writing down all the strangeness I had seen, all the experiences and the things I would learn. Yes, I would learn. I quickly learned how to control my dreams. I have come to accept these strange dreams which have made them even more mesmerizing. This past year, I lost my grandfather and my youngest uncle. One thing which helped me tremendously with the loss of these two great men was something my mom told me had happened. A few weeks before my uncle had tragically passed, my grandpa had told the family to get everyone together and to prepare for a funeral which would have many people attending. He even spoke my uncle’s name and said it was for him, he had dreamed this. A few weeks later my uncle passed away suddenly. He was so loved by many people and many people attended the funeral. Afterward, my grandpa spoke about a little angelic boy visiting and signaling for him to be followed, a few weeks later my grandfather passed away. The day after the funeral there were bees everywhere but they did not sting us. Swarms just landed on plants, walls, and the ground. Later, I researched the symbolism of this event, bees are productive, they stay focused on whatever they are doing and do not get sidetracked. Around this time of the year, I was beginning my huge leap of faith into becoming a full-time artist. So, I decided to dive into my dreams and symbolism of the beautiful and tragic things happening around me.”

Contact at:

 Instagram: @carinaoteroalvarado

 Facebook: Carina.Alvarado

 Email: carinaoalvarado@gmail.com

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Call for Submittals for the “Hello Future!” Gallery Exhibit

stretford tyler tx

Artists are invited to submit their work for the jurying phase of Gallery Main Street’s “Hello Future!” fine art exhibit.

“Hello Future!” invites you to explore what greeting and embracing the future means to you. It may reflect your interpretation of the distant future or the very near future. What are your predictions or prophecies for the future and how will you approach or embrace them? As always, your art is your voice and we would love to hear what you have to say.

Artists should visit Client.SmarterEntry.com/COTT to enter their work by midnight on Sunday, Nov. 3.

The exhibit will run from Nov. 16 through Dec. 29, with an opening reception on Nov. 16 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This free event will feature the opportunity to meet many of the featured artists and join in the celebration.

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