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Derek Frazier: Inside the Artist’s Studio


Inside the Artist’s Studio:

Pay attention to that man behind the curtain.

Derek Frazier

By Derrick White

“I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’” – Kurt Vonnegut. 

There are a lot of things to be happy about here in East Texas, especially in the visual arts. I want to introduce you to Derek Frazier to again highlight a member of the gem of a museum, the Tyler Museum of Art. If it isn’t nice, I don’t know what is. Derek is the museum’s behind-the-scenes preparator (an art handler working with lighting, art objects, and all aspects of installations and de-installations). Frazier earned his Bachelor of Science degree in biology and ecology from the University of Texas at Arlington, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in art and a Masters of Arts degree in English literature from the University of Texas at Tyler. He also has graduate hours taking sculpture, art, ichthyology (fish science), limnology (lake science), and civil engineering. Derek Frazier is truly a contemporary Renaissance man of numerous talents, with a wealth of knowledge and a loyalty to accuracy. 

He states, “I’ve always reveled in our species’ creativity, whether it’s in science, the humanities, or just an old man sitting on a backwoods porch whittling. I’ve been to 40 American states, 6 Canadian provinces, and Europe twice; everywhere I go, I seek out the places not listed in books and the people who live there. Everyone has a story and a perspective on the world, and museums are just about the only place most of us can experience times and places far removed from our own.” He continues, “Good art, both visual and literary, brings me a wider understanding of cultures unfamiliar to me, helps to define the culture in which I live, and strengthens my compassion for people who may be marginalized or deemed inconsequential by our society at large.” 

As an art student Derek was interested primarily in sculpture and mixed media, drawn to their physicality. “My favorite techniques for making things involve cutting, chopping, burning, and staining paper with coffee and wine. When I started my Master’s degree I began writing. I’ve written a few novels and have had short stories, flash fiction, and poetry published in literary journals half a dozen times or so. Right now I focus my creativity on presenting visually striking and informative exhibitions. I want people to be drawn into the galleries with intriguing lighting and precisely installed work,” Frazier says. And draw people into the galleries he does, successfully. The installations and the lighting of the exhibitions at the Tyler Museum of Art are outstanding, meticulous, and equivalent to world class museums. 

Derek explains, “Before installation begins, I spend an hour or so in the empty gallery, brainstorming about the best way to make the art shine. One of the most important elements in a good exhibition is the lighting. I always go through the same steps: first I come up with a general idea, and then we start placing fixtures to see if it’s going to work. In the corner of the gallery I always have what I call my thinking chair, and at this point I spend a lot of time sitting there and working out problems or coming up with new ways to illuminate (both literally and figuratively) the work. Then we go around at least three times more and tweak the lights. The final step is to fine tune everything. The process takes three to five days, and I often start over more than once.” 

Derek adds, “I’ve hung more than 1100 frames for the museum, so I really enjoy installing work involving something beyond measuring and setting them on hooks. The Candyce Garret exhibition featured large stone sculptures in the gallery and around the Tyler Junior College campus which was fun, and so was lighting the Legos and Dale Chihuly (glass) exhibitions. Our installation crew and I (our registrar, Leah Scott, and our interns) do the 100 things in the gallery no one will notice. An example is from the recent Leticia Huckaby show: we hung an exceptionally large piece on the wall and it was perfectly, precisely centered. That was exciting and satisfying, even though no one besides us ever noticed.” It is this invisible craft that makes a positive impact on the audience’s experience of viewing artwork. 

Derek states, “I think social media and the Internet blur the lines between local, regional, national, and world cultures, which I am sorry to see. There are some Texas artists who still draw inspiration from the world immediately around them, but large galleries and even larger museums are affecting more and more of our artists. I respect Texas artists like James Surls (modernist, organic sculptor), William Montgomery (central Texas painter and printmaker), and Chance Dunlap (TJC art professor and sculptor) who seem to be less inspired by New York galleries than most. As far as new media and trends go, I expect to see more recognition of graffiti and photography. A selfie with a filter doesn’t qualify as fine art, but a hundred selfies combined into one work might.” Some of the artists Derek Frazier finds inspiring are Louise Bourgeois (large-scale sculptures and installations), Richard Long (sculptor and land artist), Pip ‘n’ Pop (psychedelic candy mountains), Titian (Renaissance artist of the Venetian school), Nancy Graves (sculptor, painter, printmaker, and filmmaker), Donald Judd (minimalist sculptor), and Paula McDermott (TJC art professor and organic sculptor).  

In discussing the growing art scene of East Texas Derek responds, “Tyler is slowly beginning to support the arts, which is a good thing for everyone in our community. I am especially impressed with a local group of artists called East Texas Creatives, who seem to be driving this trend. I wouldn’t call it a renaissance of art yet, but these artists and those who support them definitely are carrying the arts forward in a positive and meaningful way. Right now there are a few individuals and businesses doing the lion’s share of supporting local art, which is to be expected at this point in the process of assimilating art into the community. We are at a potential turning point: support can grow or it can fade, and only the community and groundbreakers can determine the future of visual art in Tyler.” So it goes.


Michael Brundidge: Inside the Artist’s Studio

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Some People Call Me the Space Cowboy

By Derrick White

“You are free to do what you want! So go out and get it,” exclaims local artist Michael Brundidge. Michael is a cheerful, energetic, friendly, and laid back personality you are more than likely to encounter during your next visit to True Vine Brewing Company, where he works. His artwork may also be seen there, perhaps being displayed in a one-night, pop-up art exhibition or permanently installed in spots around the brewery. Michael’s art is primarily collages. This is something I personally value because about half of my own artwork is in the medium of collage and I appreciate it when I see it and when I see it done well.

The word collage comes from a French word meaning “to glue” and it is a prevalent and accessible visual art technique, where the composition is created from grouping different colors, forms, and images and creating a new, and sometimes very different, whole. Collages may include drawings and sketches, magazine and newspaper clippings, ribbon, paint, handmade papers, text lettering or phrases, photographs, prints, and other found objects selected and attached to paper, canvas, wood panels, or other supports. The ancestry of the process of collage dates back hundreds of years. 

Brundidge explains, “My main focus in style lately is mixed media collage artwork. Outer space has been the most prevalent theme and inspiration in my current series “Space Is The Place.” I like to mingle Pop Art, Surrealism, and a splash of Neo-Dadaism (an absurdist combination of daily life and art using playfulness, iconoclasm, and appropriation).” He goes on to add, “I use plywood as my canvases (or supports) and acrylic paint for the backgrounds. I love how the acrylic soaks into the plywood. I think the textures really visually pop creating a combination matte and glossy finish to my backgrounds. I use clippings and cutouts of various images found in old magazines from the 1940’s, 1950’s, and 1960’s. I really enjoy the textures and color palettes used in those decades. I juxtapose images of people, places, and things I find interesting onto my painted backgrounds. I like to call it manual Photoshop. The images most often reoccurring throughout my pieces are large ominous hands, planets, women, and astronauts.” After Michael creates his collages he then finishes them by creating a custom frame for each individual piece using weathered or repurposed wood, which adds to the charm and content of the work.

Other than elementary school art classes, Michael Brundidge does not have any formal training in visual art. He is a self-taught artist, sometimes referred to as an outsider or folk artist for the unique qualities of style and practice. When making art to make art, there is no critique deadline and no teacher to please. This is one of the open-ended concepts I love about creating art: the fact you can just decide to do it. If you feel inspired to start making, sharing, and selling art, you can put a sign in your yard today and become just as much of an artist as anyone else. No degree or certification, training, or experience required. This does not mean you will automatically have any success, be any good, or make anything interesting, but you might. You get to express yourself and your unique human experience to the rest of us however you feel compelled to do so. This concept applies to everyone, of any age, of any skill set, and by any means. You cannot do this with most other occupations. You cannot decide to randomly put a sign in your yard and start practicing dentistry, for example. Or as Michael Brundidge puts it, “You are free to do what you want! So go out and get it.”

What inspired Michael down the path of pursuing art was, as he states, “Honestly, it was loneliness and alienation. I know it sounds dismal and depressing but I was truly hard-pressed to do something. I did not feel as though I had much of an identity. Making art brought back vitality, confidence, and purpose in my life.” Adding, “It has developed my trait of persistence. Art has given me the will to continue on despite ridicule, hang-ups, and depravity.” What Michael finds frustrating about being an artist is, in his words, “Exclusivity and competition. I disagree and do not participate in any art based competitions. Art is extremely subjective. Critics and the upper crust held in high regard can make or break an artist. Anyone can make art. I dare and laud them to do so. I truly believe art is a party and everyone is invited.  Make art to make art. Elitism is too common in the art world. The idea that money talks and has unquestionable influence in the art world is a fallacy. Every artist matters and all content must be considered.” So everyone could, and I believe should make art. The process is emotionally healing and therapeutic. It doesn’t matter if you are interested in playing the game of the big money buying and selling art world, which is an economy just like every other commodity-driven economy in the world. Make art by you for you, and let the rest fall where it may whether you are a joker, a lover, or a sinner.

Speaking of jokers, Michael finds inspiration in the works of artist Ray Johnson, who was primarily a collage and correspondence artist. He was described as New York’s most famous unknown artist. Michael exclaims, “He was relentless and continuously persistent in his artwork. He was a recluse staying vigilant and persistent in his process. His media ebbed and flowed at his inclination. Johnson was a prankster in expectation. His content was his own and he did not sway his ideology and process. He even determined and called the shots when it came time for him to leave this world.” On January 13, 1995, Ray Johnson dove off a bridge and then backstroked out to sea in an apparent suicide or perhaps final performance art piece. Strange aspects of Johnson’s death involved the number 13 (date; his age, 67 (6+7=13); his motel room number 247 (2+4+7=13) … and the number of letters in “Me Space Cowboy”). Learn more about Johnson in the documentary film “How to Draw a Bunny.” Learn more about Brundidge by going to True Vine and having a beer.


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For the Love of Art: Art Events, Classes & Exhibits

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Discover your inner artist by taking a fun class ! These are for all ages and all experience levels!

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Lauren Pitre: Inside the Artists Studio


Painting the Town: Lauren Pitre

Derrick White

“I can say without a doubt art has brought me confidence. I always struggled with confidence growing up but it seems after each milestone I pass within my art career I gain more confidence, in particular with my murals,” affirms local artist Lauren Pitre. You may have experienced Lauren’s work even if you were not aware of it at the time. If you’ve been to the Longview Mall, downtown Mineola, The Discovery Science Place in Tyler, or the Lindale Candy Company, you probably noticed her dynamic and engaging murals. Lauren received her Associate’s degree in Art from Tyler Junior College and received a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art from the University of Texas at Tyler, focusing on painting. She prolifically creates beautiful and enchanting still lifes of antiquated objects but during her time at UT Tyler she gained experience in painting murals. Now murals and commissioned portraits are Lauren’s full-time job.

“The Importance of Community Murals” is an online article from the website stating, “From the 30,000-year-old animal murals in France’s Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave to Banksy’s Balloon Girl, murals have been part of our cultural landscape for thousands of years. Community murals are a mode of expression for artists in every graphic style imaginable: abstract, photorealistic, surrealist, expressionist and graffiti, to name just a few. Most recently, murals have become community centerpieces bringing people together to celebrate the heritage and history of their home. They create vibrant neighborhoods people want to visit and live. Murals attract new local businesses, help bring customers to pre-existing locations, and boost the economy of an area. Murals encourage people to slow down and admire your surroundings. Part of slow living involves appreciating our surroundings and their beauty. Murals create important conversations and expand thought. They also act as collective thought spaces. A great example of a dialogue-provoking mural project is American artist Wyland’s Whaling Walls. Over a 30 year period, Wyland painted 100 life-sized whale murals across the globe to help people appreciate our oceans through art.”

Lauren has an excellent painting skill set, creating works quite capable of attracting and holding the viewer’s attention while provoking conversation and thought in her murals as well as her fine art. “My vintage still lifes are mostly painted on wood panels with acrylic paint. I use wood panels so I can get more layers and am able to lightly sand between coats to get a smooth surface I like. Acrylic paint works best with the wood. It dries quick enough to get more layers of detail,” Lauren describes. She adds, “The style of my pieces is realistic with an exaggerated use of color as well as the background behind the objects. Typical objects I choose to depict are old cameras, clocks, books, and radios. As far as commissioned portraits and murals I tend to stick to realism as well, depending on what the subject matter is, along with the look and design of the surrounding area I will use a specific color palette directed towards a particular style.” 

Lauren grew up always drawing people and facial portraits. After she graduated high school she began working at a local Goodwill store. It is there her fascination with distinctive items began to take hold. Lauren explains, “I enjoyed seeing different objects from different decades, mostly old cameras and clocks. One of the Goodwill tasks specific to me was creating displays for end-caps, toppers, and windows and I usually ended up using the older items, to give them a new life. I decided to collect these vintage items and make still lifes of them and paint them. Another one of my jobs was to paint the outside of the windows for holidays and special sales, the more I did them the more elaborate they became. It was then I felt this was where my path as an artist was truly starting.”

Lauren took a mural painting class at UT Tyler with Professor Alexis Serio Hughes: “We planned out and painted one of the exterior walls of the Discovery Science Place in Tyler over the span of one semester. After that semester I was hooked. I spent a later semester working on a mural there at UT Tyler in the Biology building. I was able to come up with a design, color palette, and work schedule, as well as assigning tasks to the three of us working on the mural,” she states. 

After graduating, Lauren was able to start her first large commissioned mural downtown in her own hometown of Mineola. Soon after she completed the mural in Mineola, she was commissioned for multiple murals in towns around East Texas. “As an introverted person, I never really saw myself branching out and doing large projects like city murals, but art has given me the confidence to do things like that. Although art has given me the confidence to branch out and do large projects around our region, it brings problems along with it, like talking to people, in particular groups of people. I can say the path to get my degree in art helped me tremendously in preparing to speak in front of people but I have noticed, as an introvert, it takes a while to get over. However, after speaking in front of crowds a few times I have come to see it gets a little easier each time,” describes Lauren.

Lauren finds inspiration in the work of other artists like Christopher Stott (contemporary still life painter). She states, “He uses a lot of vintage objects in his work and highlights all the formal qualities of the objects I find most interesting, like contrasts in surface texture in vintage cameras and the shadows they produce. He adds non-vintage objects like wooden chairs and pencils in his pieces, which add another element of contrast.” Lauren concludes, “I also have a favorite muralist, Anat Ronen, who does a lot of work throughout the Texas area and surrounding states. She is a massive inspiration to my mural work; keeping up with her and her work pushes me to keep expanding my work throughout East Texas.” 

For more information and to see examples of her work on Instagram, check out: @artbylaurenpitre


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