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Inside the Artist’s Studio: Laminda Miller

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Inside the Artist’s Studio:

An Adventure to Owl Island,

The Fantastic Laminda Miller

By Derrick White

“I am a perfectionist and sometimes that has a tendency of getting in the way. I know what I want to convey with my work and how I want it to look, but there are times either the materials or the mechanics are uncooperative. Recently, I have learned sometimes it is better to go with the flow,” reveals local, East Texas sculptor Laminda Miller.

Beloved author Beatrix Potter (“Peter Rabbit”) wrote and illustrated “The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin” published in 1903. Potter’s celebrated story of a mischievous squirrel losing his tail is still popular. Squirrel Nutkin with his brother, Twinkleberry, and all their cousins travel to Owl Island to gather nuts until Old Brown, the petrifying owl warden of the island decides he has had enough. Potter’s amusing, animated stories and gorgeous pictures are childhood favorites. Potter created a series of anthropomorphic tales including Mrs. Tiggy-winkle, Benjamin Bunny, and Tom Kitten.

These types of beautifully illustrated, fantastic books had an influence on a young Laminda Miller, a talented and prolific artist. “My favorite artist is Beatrix Potter, a British children’s author. Growing up reading her books, I admired the art in her works and her books. My favorite was “Squirrel Nutkin.” Potter’s appreciation for nature is apparent by her attention to detail in her watercolor paintings of mycology subjects,” Laminda remembers. She continues, “I cannot recall any time I did not want to be an artist, as far as I can remember, I was determined to be an artist. As a young child, I would entertain myself by drawing, I was especially interested in the hand-drawn methods of 1930’s animation found in children’s films. My parents are artistic as well, so they have encouraged me in pursuing art, their support has been instrumental in my artistic pursuits.”

“The sculptures I make are animal forms found in nature. I use certain aspects of reality such as scale, anatomical features; however, the forms are gestural, so they are reminiscent of whimsical illustrations found in fairytales,” states the artist. Laminda Miller’s art pieces are showstoppers. It is hard to overstate how incredible these sculptures are. Perfectly postured and proportioned personified animal forms created from Styrofoam and epoxy clay with papier-mâché, are like storybook characters existing in our three-dimensional world and playing out narratives of mischief, trickery, and masked deceit. Her works are visually tactile, fantastical, and immediately create a Carrollesque storyline. Miller’s craft and attention to detail will keep one visually captivated for a long time. “I use Styrofoam and two-part epoxy clay. I use a heat knife to cut the Styrofoam into an approximate form. On the larger figures, I cut sections then fit them together for the next step. After a rough form is completed, I apply a two-part epoxy clay and sculpt the detailed features,” explains the artist. Recently, one of Laminda’s large-scale works, Once Bitten won both the People’s Choice award and Best of Show in Tyler’s Gallery Main Street exhibition ‘Alternate Perspectives’. The artist also exhibited work at the ‘Inconsistency’ art event hosted by the group East Texas Creatives, a local arts community promoting creative work and collaboration by visual artists, musicians, and poets. The event was held at the former True Vine Brewing Company location on Englewood. This group is trying to overcome some of the obstacles of trying to succeed as an artist by expanding networks and opportunities. “Unless artists have certain resources, it is difficult to get a foothold in the artistic community. Local art politics have improved a good deal. However, artists seemingly have to be politicians in order to promote their work, so I ask shouldn’t art speak for itself? As an artist who is not particularly political or business minded, I have found this aspect of being an artist rather frustrating,” describes Miller. She adds, “Art is a form of communication for me. Verbal communication has never been my strongest suit and has helped me in so many ways to communicate ideas, build friendships, show appreciation, and visualize what I want to say.”

A young Miller was mostly self-taught because her grade school did not offer established art classes. She also took private lessons from local artists. After graduating high school, Laminda attended Kilgore College, where she majored in art with a minor in education. She recalls, “It was there I learned formal components of art and how diverse art can be.” While attending Kilgore College, Miller worked primarily with two-dimensional media such as painting and mix media. “I had not developed an interest in sculpture yet, but one of my favorite assignments was a group assignment where the professor instructed us to create a society which included artifacts, lore, etc. I made a death mask and journal,” Laminda remembers. After Kilgore College, Laminda Miller enrolled at the University of Texas in Tyler. She states, “I did not have a discipline of art yet but with the encouragement of my professors, I developed an interest in sculpture and learned in-depth art history. My undergraduate work consisted of paper birds and small clay sculptures of other animal forms. After I graduated with my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, I had been accepted for an internship at a private college in Lufkin, so I enrolled in the graduate art program at Stephen F. Austin University. I learned how to make sculptures on a larger scale. When my internship ended I moved back to the Tyler area and was accepted into the University of Texas at Tyler’s graduate program. By using what I learned from S.F.A. I built from experience to make sculptures larger in scale in comparison to my past works.”

Laminda’s interests outside of art include reading, theatre, puppetry, and historical European martial arts. She shares, “I enjoy fictional stories, especially the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. I also like to read about Medieval and Renaissance history, in fact, Renaissance art history is one of my favorite courses. My family and I do annual performances for the children’s reading club at our local library which includes illusion, comedy, puppets, and ventriloquism. For recreation, I take sword fighting classes weekly with East Texas Historical Fencing, a martial arts group.” On my next quest adventure to Owl Island or wherever else, I’m asking Laminda to tag along to defend the group and talk to the animals if necessary.

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Inside the Artist’s Studio: Nic Trent

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Inside the Artist’s Studio:

Art is What You Can Get Away With: Nic Trent

Derrick White

“Making art is a necessary therapeutic experience. As a graphic designer at Encore Multimedia, I spend all day solving problems of how businesses can reach their target demographics. Creating art is when I can express myself and satisfy my own aesthetic instead of someone else’s,” states local artist Nic Trent. Nic makes colorful and sharp pop art images, typically on wood panels. His work has the unique ability to trigger both a familiar nostalgia and a captivating freshness simultaneously. The works are bright and playful in their form yet slightly subversive in content. They are eye candy and brain food. Nic explains, “Art is a powerful language. No matter the medium, it portrays and also influences the culture and ideas of those who experience it, even if only subconsciously.”

Nic Trent recounts his journey to becoming an artist: “I was an awkward kid who constantly doodled and had no idea what I wanted to do with my future. I would draw on school papers, church bulletins, or whatever was in front of me. It was an older woman in church who encouraged me to pursue a career using my creativity. She saw me drawing during church service and suggested I check out a nearby technical school for an art related program called graphic design. It seemed like a decent way to make a living as an artist so I attended Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology for graphic design without really knowing what graphic design was. However, design school was an invaluable experience where I learned how to create aesthetically while expressing ideas.”

“Some of the best things I learned were from my peers. I befriended two graffiti writers from Tulsa, Darshan Phillips and Aaron Whisner, who made gallery art. They built their own surfaces out of wood because it is cheap and designed their compositions on computers. This is the same process I still use today.” He continues, “My first art show was when a friend hosted an event in his loft and told me I was going to be one of the artists. I had never made any art before, but he already put my name on the flyer, so I had to. The experience was terrifying but also exhilarating. Afterwards, I was officially addicted to art.”

Nic Trent explains, “I’m excited to see interactive and digital media have more of a presence in local galleries. The Longview Museum of Fine Arts currently has an exhibit by Liz Hickok where you can hold an iPad up to the art and watch the art being created right in front of you. I can’t wait to see more video screens made available by local galleries for artists to utilize.” Writer’s note: Intimate Immensity with Liz Hickok is on view until September 21st. With glowing colors and shifts in scale, Hickok’s work calls into question what is real and what is imagined. She uses ephemeral materials such as liquid crystal solutions and constructs colorful, glowing architectural sculptures changing over time, morphing into fantastical worlds. She documents her processes with photography and video to catch fleeting moments in the continuously evolving scenes. 

Nic Trent is also inspired and influenced by artists like Andy Warhol (pop art’s leading figure, painter, printmaker, director). Nic states, “Andy Warhol challenged the art world club. Warhol’s art paved the way for new voices of expression from Jean-Michel Basquiat (a graffiti/urban art sensation) and Keith Haring (pop art and graffiti artist) to Barbara Kruger (seditious conceptual artist) and innumerable other artists. Warhol also started as a graphic artist which, to me, makes it seem like the modern everyday man can achieve artistic success.” “Art is what you can get away with.” – Andy Warhol. 

Nic has been around the local art scene for some time. I encountered his work in pop-up shows a decade ago. There have been previous attempts to get the regional art scene up and running at full force, but there is something different happening now not found in the efforts of the past, a new sense of collaboration and commitment. “One of my favorite things about art is community. I love trading work with other artists and learning about their processes. This is the reason why local illustrator, Jasey Beddingfield, and I created ArtParty (artpartytx.com). ArtParty is a hand-made zine (self-published mini-magazine), featuring East Texas artists. We do our best to make the zine a nicely crafted collectible by creating a limited number of 60, choosing nice paper, and screen-printing the covers,” explains Trent. He adds, “ArtParty gives local artists an opportunity to get their work out in a different way. Our latest issue featured a 16-year-old’s work alongside a well-known tattoo artist with thousands of followers and I love that. My favorite thing about this project is it might bring someone’s work to a whole new audience.”  

Nic states, “I feel lucky to be included in one of the recent shows organized by the local art collective, etxcreatives. The quality of work in the exhibits they organize is extremely impressive. I had no idea this caliber of art existed here in East Texas and I can’t wait to see what they do in the future. They are raising the bar for the quality of work in our area.” 

Speaking of raising quality, Nic advises, “Presentation is everything. There are so many great local artists who could do a much better job of presenting their work. I hope the recent uptick in the local art community will challenge more artists to learn from each other and step up their game. The biggest faux pas I see is really incredible work on paper with a cheap frame or no frame at all. Investing time in building a frame or buying a gallery style frame will transcend the art to a new level.” 

Trent concludes, “There are plenty of opportunities for artists to get involved locally, but I’m not so sure about the supporters. For all the people reading this who drive to Dallas to buy art or even worse, shop at big box stores and behemoth hobby shops, please support your local artists. Just think about how much better a conversation piece an artwork by a local artist could be. It seems to be a rare individual who realizes the contribution they are making by supporting the local art community.” 

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UT Tyler Exhibition Features Artwork of James R. Pace Opening Sept. 14th

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Reception and gallery talk with retired art professor set for Sept. 14th

The University of Texas at Tyler has announced the opening of “Artifacts of Wayfinding (a Visual Play in Three Acts),’’ a solo exhibition featuring the newest work of retired UT Tyler professor James R. Pace, at the University’s Fine Arts Complex Gallery.

A reception and gallery talk with the artist is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14. The exhibition, presented by the Department of Art and Art History, continues through Thursday, Oct. 11.

A Distinguished Professor of Visual Art, Pace recently retired after teaching in the UT Tyler College of Arts and Sciences since 1985. He has exhibited nationally and internationally for more than 40 years and has received numerous awards for his paintings, drawings, prints and mixed media work.

Pace maintains an active practice in his East Texas art studio and continues to serve as a juror, lecturer and visiting artist at museums, galleries, art centers and universities across the U.S. and in Germany and Japan.

He holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Arizona State University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Oklahoma.

The Fine Arts Complex Gallery is open to the public 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call 903.566.7237 or email gallery coordinator Michelle Taff at mtaff@uttyler.edu.

A member of the prestigious UT System, The University of Texas at Tyler focuses on student success and innovative research in the more than 80 undergraduate and graduate degree programs offered. With more than 10,000 students, UT Tyler has facilities in Tyler, Longview, Palestine and Houston.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT BEVERLEY GOLDEN at bgolden@uttyler.edu | 903.330.0495

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Gallery Main Street’s Portraits of Inspiration Honors The Rose Festival

Portraits of Inspiration, an art exhibit in collaboration with the Texas Rose Festival  

Gallery Main Street has partnered with the 86th Annual Texas Rose Festival to create Portraits of Inspiration, an art exhibit inspired by the original costume design of Winn Morton. Since 1982, Mr. Morton has been designing the costumes and scenes of the Texas Rose Festival. Since its beginning in 1933, the Texas Rose Festival has represented the spirit that brings Tyler together as a community. Rich in heritage and tradition, the Festival offers enchanting ceremonial events- the Queen’s Coronation, Ribbon Cutting and Rose Preservation, the Queen’s Tea and the Rose Parade – all amidst the backdrop of brilliant roses as vibrant and colorful as the community they represent.

The Gallery, located at 110 W. Erwin St. will host an opening reception Saturday, Sept. 14 from 5 to 7 p.m. This free event will feature the opportunity to meet many of the artists, Mr. Winn Morton himself and the 2019 Rose Queen. Morton’s original sketches will be on display along with a couple of Rose Festival costumes. Patrons will also be among the first to see and purchase pieces from this new exhibit. The exhibit will run through Nov. 5.

The 86th Annual Texas Rose Festival is held from Oct. 17 through Oct. 20.

For more information on Gallery Main Street hours and rules for entering the exhibit jury process, please call (903) 593-6905.

To more info, visit downtowntylerarts.com, call (903)593-6905, email GalleryMainStreet@TylerTexas.com. Gallery Main Street is located at 110 W. Erwin St., Downtown Tyler.

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