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

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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Robert Langham III: Inside the Artist’s Studio

ben wheeler

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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On Exhibit at Tyler Museum of Art: “Passing Through” & Books”

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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.

“Passing Through” on Exhibit

“Passing Through: Works by Lloyd Brown, Pat Gabriel, and Sarah Williams” is organized by the Tyler Museum of Art. As the title suggests, the featured works explore scenes from the American landscape one might encounter while “passing through” a town or area. Despite the similar subjects, each individual artist has captured these overlooked spaces in their own unique way – elevating the mundane and making the ordinary extraordinary.

Support for “Passing Through” is provided by Collectors’ Circle Gold Sponsor Julietta Jarvis Foundation, Inc., with special thanks to Valley House Gallery, Artspace 111 and Foltz Fine Art, Talley Dunn Gallery, and Moody Gallery.

This will be on exhibit through December 1st.

“Books, Books & More Books: Works by MANUAL”

The Tyler Museum of Art is embarking on another historic collaboration with a fellow Smith County nonprofit while exploring the printed word as a work of art in its next major exhibition, “Books, Books & More Books: Works by MANUAL,” presented in collaboration with Literacy Council of Tyler. The exhibition runs through November 10th in the Museum’s Bell Gallery.

Organized by the TMA and curated by Caleb Bell, “Books, Books & More Books” spotlights a series of photographic works from the ongoing “Book Project by MANUAL,” the artistic collaboration of Suzanne Bloom and Ed Hill that began in 1974. The photographs from this series spotlight a wide variety of books in dynamic compositions, “visually exploring their importance in our lives,” Caleb Bell said.

Though created within the classic genre of still life, the artistic duo sees its work in the “Book Project” more as “staging discrete dramas on a very small stage,” they wrote. “What we may be doing in this extended project is just a different form of ‘romance’ with the book than is reading and researching.”

The idea of an exhibition celebrating the physical, bound book as a work of art in and of itself – and as a gateway to the imagination – attracted not only the TMA staff but the LCOT leadership as well, and seemed a natural fit for the occasion of two organizations that share complementary educational missions to collaborate for the first time.

“Many of our students, like others in Tyler, have never had the chance to interact with visual art in a museum setting, and to be able to introduce them to this world through the medium of books is a uniquely approachable and relatable opportunity,” said LCOT Executive Director Nancy Crawford. “I think this exhibition reveals the true nature of books as works of art, from the standpoint of the content inside, the cover art, and even the tactile experience of holding a book and turning its pages. We think the exhibition will show our students that reading is truly an artful experience that they can begin to enjoy and appreciate on so many new levels as they pursue their educations at Literacy Council of Tyler.”

Support for “Books, Books & More Books” is provided by Collectors’ Circle-Platinum Sponsor The Byars Foundation and Media Sponsor Tyler Today Magazine, with special thanks to Moody Gallery, Houston.

Special Days & Tours

Special events in connection with current exhibitions include a free First Friday tour. 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 the second Saturday of each month. 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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