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Defining an East Texas Spirit: James R. Pace

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Inside the Artist’s Studio:

James R. Pace

Defining an East Texas Spirit

By Derrick White

“An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

There are so many creative and talented artists in East Texas. I’m excited to see this genre of talent grow within our community; in terms of venues, pop-up shows, support and opportunities. There are many moving parts to our expanding East Texas visual arts scene including the Tyler Museum of Art, Downtown’s Gallery Main Street, Tyler Junior College, the University of Texas at Tyler, as well as local encouraging businesses like Strada Café, El Guapo Records, True Vine Brewing Company, and many more. However, there is one East Texan who is not just an artist but rather the bedrock institution of artistic voice coming from Tyler. I first encountered the work of James Robert Pace around 1991 while I was attending the University of North Texas. His painting, “Lunatic Celebration,” was exhibited in a group show in the fine arts gallery. It stopped me dead in my tracks. It was amazing. The work visually achieved everything I aspired to be as an artist. I wrote a report about the painting and I did multiple renditions of the composition in my sketchbook.

In later years, I curated an exhibition including the work of James Pace at the Art Corridor Gallery at Tarrant County Community College – Arlington. Today, I am privileged to call James Pace a colleague and a trusted friend. Pace’s work has evolved, experimented and changed over the years but it never fails to bring me to an ‘aha moment.’ His work immediately makes me realize, that the piece it is exactly how art should be; formed, composed, and constructed. James Pace’s influence on area artists would be hard to underestimate. Another artist friend and colleague, Paul Jones, worked with James Pace at UT Tyler while getting his undergraduate degree. The influence Pace carried through to Jones’ work was evident in his paintings long after the partnership ended.

Take Jones for example: when you see James’ work, it is precisely what you want your own art to look like. James Pace has shaped and invigorated many devotees.

James Pace is a Distinguished Professor of Visual Art at The University of Texas at Tyler where he has taught since 1985. He holds an MFA degree from Arizona State University and a BFA from the University of Oklahoma. Pace was appointed to the Oge’ Professorship in Visual Art, the White Fellowship for Excellence in Teaching, and received the Chancellor’s Council Teaching Award. He has exhibited his work nationally and internationally since 1976 and has received numerous awards for his paintings, drawings, prints, and mixed media work. He maintains an active studio practice in the forest of East Texas, where he lives with his artist wife, Philana Oliphant, poet daughter Aza Rene’ Pace, and an ever changing number of rescued dogs.

“Like most people who practice art making, I’ve done so for as long as I can remember. I’m sure most people find some kind of early support through family and friends, and thereby experience some type of self-actualization. I did, still do,” states the artist. Adding, “I grew up around university professors: historians, biologists, musicians, writers, and I was fortunate to have had intimate access to their lives. I witnessed their discipline, their fascination with their subject and it was inseparable from their daily lives. They chased curiosity. Seeing the lifestyle they practiced, I had an early sense I would combine my interest in art with a university life. It was all I ever considered doing.”

James Pace attended the University of Oklahoma School of Art, which during his matriculation he found to be a forward thinking, supremely funky, very diverse place. James remembers, “These people were freaks about making. It’s all we did, it’s all we talked about, and it’s all we spent what little money we had on.” Pursuing his MFA at Arizona State. Pace recalls loving the desert. “A friend and I spent many, many hours and days exploring the entire state. The environment had an indelible affect on both my work and my outlook. I came to believe in the importance of finding concepts through experience, getting lost, and with the help of others, finding my way back. The worst things can make the best things possible. This still happens to me today,” affirms the artist.

“Trained in printmaking, painting, and drawing, I always thought those were my media interests. But, one day, while working on a large canvas on the floor of my studio, I inadvertently dropped a piece of paper on the painting. The experience brought a flood of memory of long forgotten understanding. I knew mixed media was my way of finding a full voice of aesthetic consideration,” states Pace.
He concludes, “For the past 30 years it has been my greatest gift to work with Philana Oliphant. Her grace has been a wonder for me. You can see it in how she works, and in the results of those efforts. She is prolific, she is connected to the biggest ideas of connectedness, but mostly she has been a kind and loving partner. We have raised a daughter, who has taken the baton and continued to run faster than I could ever conceive. A recent MFA in poetry, now a Ph.D. candidate in creative writing, Aza to this very day has taught me more than I can express.”

“I believe, as artists, we are conduits to the zeitgeist. And frankly, this is our charge. If the culture permits us to do this, we should open up and let it out. Otherwise, we fail culture and ourselves,” declares James. Dedicated to the visual art spirit of East Texas and to seeing it prosper and grow as well as garner the statewide and national attention it deserves, he states, “Over the past several months, Philana and I have doubled the size of our shared studio. We are so very fortunate to have such a place to work. We realize we want to use this new studio for more than just ourselves. We hope this place may become a place for our community of artists and thinkers to congregate. We hope to facilitate a more cohesive, yet diverse arts community. This isn’t about our success, but helping in whatever ways we can, the next generation of artists.”

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Art

Tyler Museum of Art: “Texas Birds” and “Floating Life: Mississippi River”

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. For more info call the museum at (903)595-1001, tylermuseum.org, or email info@tylermuseum.org.

The Tyler Museum of Art ushers in the summer season with a visual celebration of the avian species that fly the skies over the Lone Star State in the new exhibition “Texas Birds: Works by Frank X. Tolbert 2.” The show continues through August 4th in the TMA’s Bell Gallery. Admission is free.

Organized by the TMA and curated by Caleb Bell, “Texas Birds” spotlights works from Tolbert’s ongoing Texas Bird Project – including a recently finished piece that never has been seen by the public. Started in 2014, this body of work includes drawings, paintings, and prints that highlight a wide variety of the bird species that inhabit the state. The series largely was inspired by early childhood experiences with the Lone Star State’s vast array of flora and fauna on trips the artist took with his father, Frank X. Tolbert Sr., as the elder Tolbert was writing his column “Tolbert’s Texas” for the “Dallas Morning News.” Work on the Texas Bird Project began when the artist was commissioned by Austin’s Flatbed Press & Gallery to create eight bird etchings. After the initial exhibition at Flatbed, Tolbert said he decided to continue the project indefinitely.

“Texas Birds” marks the first time works from the Texas Bird Project have been organized into a major museum exhibition. Tolbert’s work has been widely exhibited and is featured in numerous public collections, including the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Dallas Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. He and his wife, artist Ann Stautberg, live and work in Houston.

Support for “Texas Birds” is provided by Collectors’ Circle-Gold Sponsors June and Steve Hillis, and Myrtis D. Smith.

TMA Plots New Course with “Floating Life: Mississippi River Drawings by Liz Ward,” Through August 25th

The Tyler Museum of Art explores the mystique of the South as seen through the eyes of a Texas talent with its next major exhibition, “Floating Life: Mississippi River Drawings by Liz Ward.” The show continues through August 25th in the TMA’s North Gallery.

Organized by the TMA and curated by Caleb Bell, “Floating Life” is the first large-scale museum exhibition of Mississippi River works by Ward, a San Antonio artist and professor of art and art history at Trinity University, whose work largely is informed by natural history and the environmental crisis.

The exhibition spotlights pieces from two recent bodies of work: “Ghosts of the Old Mississippi” and “Veritas Caput.” The works from “Ghosts of the Old Mississippi” are based on geological maps of the river’s ancient courses and inspired by the artist’s childhood memories from South Louisiana, where her great-grandfather spent a career as a riverboat captain. 

Pieces from “Veritas Caput” focus on the search for the source of the river by various explorers.

Ward’s work has been widely exhibited and is featured in numerous public collections, including the Tyler Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Support for “Floating Life” is provided by Collectors’ Circle-Gold Sponsors Betty and Dick Summers.

Summer Lecture Series Programs

TMA’s 2019 Summer Lecture Series will be held in the Museum’s Education Gallery. A small reception will follow each lecture. Admission is free, but seating is limited. To RSVP, call (903)595-1001.

  • “Divide and Conquer: An Overview of the Mississippi River’s Role in the Civil War” by Dr. James Newsom, Senior Lecturer in Political Science and History, The University of Texas at Tyler will be held at 2:30pm, Sunday, June 23rd
  • “I Knew Mark Twain” by Dr. Jim Richey, Professor and Department Chair of English, Tyler Junior College at 2:30pm on Sunday, July 21st

Special Events

Special events in connection with current exhibitions include a free First Friday tour June 7th, July 5th and August 2nd.

The first Friday of each month, 11am-12:30pm, the TMA offers a full day of free admission plus guided tours of its spotlight exhibitions.

Family Days will be from 2-4pm Saturday, June 8th, July 13th and August 10th.

Free admission, interactive art projects, light snacks, and a festive atmosphere for all ages are on the menu for the second Saturday of each month with the Tyler Museum of Art’s Family Day.

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Art

Bright Stars, Birds, & Beasts: Art on View This Summer

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By Derrick White

Well, the heat has arrived. I’m sure you and yours need free, fun activities which will be stimulating to the senses and inside air-conditioned buildings, so check out these venues around town showcasing wonderful visual art.

Gallery Main Street, located in Downtown Tyler at 110 W. Erwin St., kicked off the summer by displaying the Caldwell Arts Academy Exhibit. The exhibition (which closed May 21st) featured 46 artworks by 42 different artists from Caldwell Arts Academy ranging from first through sixth grade. This was a great opportunity for these young artists to have their creations exhibited at a professional level in a real contemporary art space. The pieces were strong and showcased these youthful bright Caldwell Stars.

Gallery Main Street has been celebrating serving our community for the last 10 years with the “110@110” Art Exhibition and Fundraising Art Sale. 110 (10” x 10”) art pieces created by a select group of local artists will be available for affordable purchase at the grand opening on June 8th at 6pm. This runs through July 7th.

While you are Downtown, stop by ArtFix Cultured Studios around the corner at 112 S. Broadway Ave., where among the full walls of a variety of works by 13 gallery artists (including local talents Nyle Reams, Darby Blaise, and Cassie Bartley) you will find weekly workshops, classes, and events, now including a new recording studio booth in an old bank vault.

The Tyler Museum of Art exhibits “Texas Birds: Works by Frank X. Tolbert II” through August 4th containing artwork by the well-known Texas contemporary artist created for his ongoing Texas Bird Project. The exhibition contains drawings, paintings, and prints highlighting a variety of Texas bird species. The artist shows a range of his works and thought processes, from small-scale to large-scale, with colorful blasts, textured surfaces, exaggerated forms, complex compositions, and expressive lines.

Also on view is “Floating Life: Mississippi River Drawings by Liz Ward” through August 25th. This solo show by the artist and art professor at Trinity University in San Antonio spotlights pieces from two bodies of work – “Ghosts of the Old Mississippi” and “Veritas Caput” based on geological maps, river courses and sources, and childhood memories. 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.

On view in the Meadows Gallery at the University of Texas at Tyler’s Cowan Center,located at 3900 University Blvd, Tyler, is the 2019 “Juried Student Exhibition.” The show is on display through August 9th and is free and open to the public Monday-Friday 9am-5pm.

This year’s juror is Kate Borcherding (Sam Houston State University art professor and mixed media artist focusing on psychological narratives with the human figure). Her selections are impressive and engaging. The professional skill level, appeal, and powerful content coming from these emerging Texas contemporary artists is remarkable and speaks volumes about our East Texas art scene. We have powerful artistic voices here.

Some of the excellent eye catchers included in the exhibition are Laminda Miller’s “New Life” (aluminum and epoxy clay), a small and powerful sculpture of a dead mouse hanging on the wall. The piece speaks to the fragility of life and the meekness of the small, and its form casts some incredible shadows.

Jessica Sanders’ “Fold, Cover, Fold” (porcelain, stoneware and wire) is a colorful, quilted tapestry of tiny, individual, geometric ceramic tiles sewn together with copper wire. The result is an intricate colorful blend of patterns where rigid, hard forms become billowy with fabric-like pleats.

Stephanie Nickel has an interesting triptych of old, rustic typewriters (ink and acrylic on paper) entitled “Shift from the ‘Story’ Series.” The images are faded and fleeting, and speak to the seasons of life and passage of time.

Brittany Taylor has a showstopper with her small painting “Stroller” (acrylic on panel). This one draws the viewer in close to examine the exquisite detail. It provides one with the sense of happening upon a hole in the wall of time and space and getting to peek through to another world, similar in appearance but eerily unlike our own.

The exhibit also features strong porcelain works from Willow Lanchester; well-crafted and intimate relief and monoprint works from Maggie Pierce and Kelly Waller; a mixed media video installation (and perhaps the funniest title in the show) from Nora Schreiber, “Am I Turning Myself Into a House Plant;” quality, large-scale paintings by Lilah Shepherd, John Miranda, and Erick Rodriguez; a beautiful charcoal drawing by Lorianne Hubbard; and a bright and colorful organic form watercolor, monoprint, and collage piece by Katherine Finch. I enjoyed Jack Delaney’s (oil on canvas) painting “Paradise Suite, wherein a couple greet each other with a kiss inside an implied linear perspective interior, oblivious to both the fiery sky outside and the wildcats and other critters clustered around the home. The piece is technically proficient while maintaining a head-scratching woolly juxtaposition leaving one guessing. Leon Campbell has a solid piece in “Tetris Line Pattern, a linocut on marbled paper creating a disorienting optic effect of layers with geometric line work atop fluid, unforced, subtle colors.

Two of the works visually hitting me the hardest, with a “creepy in a good way” sense of wonder, are “A Bone to Pick” by Joshua Crockett and “Unwanted/Prized” by Katie Dawn Dukes. Crockett’s work is a meticulously sculpted tooth made from 2,399 toothpicks. The tooth is textured, weathered, and brown like it’s been pulled from an old, craggy smoker. Crockett committed to forming this piece the hard way, and all the nuances of surface really paid off.

And then there’s Katie Dukes’ equestrian-esque fetus beast distorted by the clear liquid inside its specimen jar (oven clay, aluminum, glass, and water). This work is beautifully crafted and hauntingly indistinct. It stands in both worlds, of being either some believable fantasy or a freakish reality. Regardless, it is a job well done.

The exhibition also showcases quality pieces from Lidia Alvidrez, Rachel Lynn Anthony, Megan Brewer, Brady Collings, Coy Lothrop, Mike Ohara, Mary Ann Post, Jamin Shepherd, and Jacque Yost.

I wish I had room to discuss them all, but I don’t so you will have to go see the art yourselves. Summer is a great to do and as usual, art is a part of East Texas.  So be sure to see as much as you can while you are out seeking any cool air conditioning.

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Art

Art of Peace: Call for Entries

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Entries now are being accepted for the Living Peace Visual Art Exhibit as part of the Art of Peace – Tyler celebration, a citywide commemoration of the United Nations International Day of Peace, September 21st.

“Art of Peace – Tyler is happy once again to partner with the Tyler Museum of Art to invite regional artists to offer their creative responses to the idea of peace and to our 2019 theme, ‘Living Peace,’” said Anne McCrady, co-founder and co-director of the peace event.

The visual art show will be presented as a juried exhibit from September 15th-22nd in the Education Classroom at the Tyler Museum of Art, 1300 S. Mahon Ave. on the Tyler Junior College main campus. The exhibit will be open to the public and admission is free.

The jury for selection will consist of members of the Art of Peace – Tyler committee and TMA representatives. The jury has the option to select up to two works per artist for inclusion in the show. Past exhibits have included the work of artists from Austin, Dallas, Lubbock, and the East Texas area.

“We are privileged that the Art of Peace – Tyler committee once again has asked us to be the host venue for this exhibition,” TMA Executive Director Chris Leahy said. “The work we have seen over the past four years of our partnership has grown increasingly more dynamic and accomplished, and we are proud to have the opportunity to participate in such a great community event.”

Entry deadline for the visual art show is July 31st. Works in all media are eligible, provided they can be juried by digital image. These include painting, drawing, printmaking, photography/digital media, sculpture, mixed media and fine craft (wood, metal, clay, fiber, glass). Artists should e-mail digital images, descriptions of work, CV and artist information to artofpeaceart@gmail.com or mail a CD with information packet to: Art of Peace – Tyler Exhibit Committee, Tyler Museum of Art, 1300 S. Mahon Ave, Tyler, TX 75701.

“Since jury selection uses images of the artwork, artists should send high-quality images that represent their pieces as accurately and professionally as possible,” Ms. McCrady said. Artists must submit images as JPEG files. Art of Peace – Tyler reserves the right to reproduce artwork images of accepted entries for promotion of the exhibition in the media.

The TMA does not allow art sales on the premises. However, given artist permission, guests will be provided with names of artists and selected contact information, McCrady said. Visitors who wish to purchase artwork may contact the artist directly regarding a sale after the close of the show.

Sunday, September 22nd, there will be an Artist Reception at 3pm with a program starting at 3:30pm.

For more information about Art of Peace – Tyler events, visit tylerpeace.com. For questions about the art exhibition, e-mail artofpeaceart@gmail.com or call Ms. McCrady at (903)658-5645.

The Art of Peace – Tyler will be held September 15th-22nd.

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