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Inside the Artist’s Studio: The Texas Biennial

Miles and Miles of Texas

By Derrick White

Over the summer, in the span of seven weeks, curator Leslie Moody Castro visited 25 Texas cities, 200 artist’s studios, and traveled 11,033 miles! The Texas Biennial is an exhibition of contemporary art celebrating the many cultures and identities influencing and impacting our daily lives across our state. Of the 1,217 applicants, 33 artists were chosen to exhibit in Austin September 30th–November 11th. One artist is from Tyler: Philana Oliphant Pace, an excellent choice.

Philana is a respected and sincere art professor at Tyler Junior College. She embodies a quiet, incredibly patient, forgiving, and knowledgeable approach to instruction. Her artwork, from large-scale sculpture installations to handcrafted drawings and cut-outs are all completed with precision and persistence.

Philana Oliphant Pace mentions in her artist’s statement, “My drawings are remnants of a behavioral form allowing my mind to achieve a meditative state. The results rely on a physiological statement, which is the first principle of communication. The forms are pieces of an infinite puzzle. They are repetitive, connective, and possess a sense of time. Searching for grace, the union of drawing and sculpture manifests what I will pass on while releasing what I will not.” Her artwork exemplifies craftsmanship, passion, and diligent patience.

After a period of evaluation and restructuring, the Texas Biennial is returning in its sixth edition with an ambitious program celebrating the heterogeneous voices across Texas. In 2017, efforts are being made to shift the focus onto communities and learn from them through the curatorial process. This year the Texas Biennial welcomed Leslie Moody Castro as an independent curator and artistic director. Castro has a history of making artistic voices and the communities they work within central to her practice. “I am an independent curator and I split my time between living in Mexico City and Austin, Texas. I earned my Master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin in Museum Education and Museum Studies and my Bachelor’s degree from DePaul University in Chicago,” Castro said.

Castro blogged each part of her trek across the state. East Texas has so much to offer with its visual arts scene as well as other thriving ventures and communities. It is an honor for us to be included in the conversation about Texas contemporary art. I had the pleasure of hosting Leslie Moody Castro on her visit to our city, and I was proud and excited about the introduction I was able to make. “East Texas, you are beautiful, and I am proud of the artwork being made in this area.” The following are some edited excerpts from Castor’s Texas Biennial Road Trip Blog:

“I had never been to Tyler, and I was eager for what I was about to learn. Tyler Junior College is a partner organization with the Biennial. I had heard Tyler has a burgeoning arts community centered around the junior college and the university. We went to Tyler Junior College. The campus is absolutely stunning, and even though it was summer, the energy on the campus was palpable. The art facilities are better than in some bigger universities I have visited in the past. I learned everyone teaching at the school is a practicing, professional artist and is also expected to show their work. Professors are not just expected to teach medium and technique, but offer insight to professional practices.”

“Later that evening we pulled up to the beautiful home of James and Philana Oliphant Pace. There were so much love and respect among everyone in the room, and I felt lucky to be there. They had prepared a small spread of bites, handed me a beer, and we all walked outside to their shared studio to talk about their work. I walked over to Philana’s area of the studio, and we began talking about the foundations of drawing. Her work is meticulous, but the concentration and focus of her mark making are completely embedded in the sound the mark is making as she places it on the paper. Philana’s marks operate in two time frames, the present, and the immediate past. She listens to the sound of the mark and the sound offers direction for the next mark. It’s a micro-moment of noise she has the sensitivity to hear, and after speaking with both Philana and James about their practices, it was clear how they had become such important mentors in the arts community.”

“It was while visiting Philana and James that I really realized I was on a road trip with the entire state of Texas. We talked about the general need for connectivity between places in the state, and how I hoped the road trip could provide some of that. As we all said our goodbyes I walked away feeling like I truly had a community in Tyler, and the Biennial could do a job bigger than just an exhibition. At that moment I also realized the amount of support the project was truly receiving. We began as total strangers in a place I had never been to, and I walked away with the support of a new community.”

“Being on the road, and traveling is not glamorous, most of the time it’s isolating and lonely, but my time in Tyler was warm, inviting, and friendly. It was during a conversation with Philana I realized this road trip existed in three time zones: the past, immediate present, and future. I was present in the moment of one place, planning for the next place, and writing about the place I had just been in, and the observation was just another moment I realized the empathy that existed in their community of artists, and I was even more grateful to be invited in. As I hopped in the car to head to Huntsville I realized visits like Tyler were exactly the reason this road trip was both necessary and wonderful.”

After the close of the Austin exhibition, partner organizations, including TJC, will advocate for Texas contemporary art in a variety of ways such as hosting selected works of the Biennial exhibition, hosting artists’ talks, demonstrations, and panel discussions with Biennial and local artists.

Relive the whole road trip by reading Castro’s blog at texasbiennial.org/roadtrip.html.

For more info go to texasbiennial.org.

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Gallery Main Street hosts First Digital Exhibit

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Gallery Main Street will host their first digital exhibit from May 1 to July 7. While facilities continue to be closed or with limited hours due to COVID-19, pictures and virtual tours of this exhibit will be available at www.DowntownTyler.org. Art will also be available for purchase online.

The spring exhibit is an open theme to allow local artists an opportunity to spotlight their different mediums, methods, visions and experiences.

“Art never stops,” said Main Street Director Amber Varona. “Now more than ever it is important to create innovative opportunities for artists to display and sell their art.”

This will be the first juried exhibit in the new gallery space inside the Plaza Tower. The space provides the artwork to be visible beyond the hours of the Main Street office and by patrons visiting the new first floor retail bays. The gallery serves as a valued centerpiece to the beautifully furnished atrium that serves as an inviting gathering spot.

For more information, visit www.DowntownTylerArts.com or call (903) 593-6905.

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Online UT Tyler MFA and BFA Art Exhibits Now Available

The University of Texas at Tyler has announced online art exhibitions featuring the work of students who graduated this spring with Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts degrees.

Traditionally held on campus, the exhibitions were modified for online viewing as a safeguard in response to the coronavirus. The work of four MFA and eight BFA graduates can be viewed at uttyler.edu/meadowsgallery/events.

“While we are heavy-hearted about the inability to celebrate our student achievements face to face, we recognize the importance of taking precautionary measures during this time,’’ said Merry Wright, professor and chair of the Department of Art and Art History. “We are pleased to announce our online exhibitions, and we are incredibly proud of the students featured. They have remained steadfast in their commitment to creating and have approached the unfolding events with the highest caliber of professionalism.’’

MFA Exhibitions

Artists featured in the MFA exhibitions include:

Jessica Sanders of Tyler makes delicate-looking ceramic sculpture. Her exhibition is titled “Attach | Manipulate | Respond.” “This body of work deals with form, space, and visual accessibility,’’ Sanders said. “The pieces are made up of small, individual ceramic pieces that are attached together with wire, making flexible ceramic sheets.”

John Miranda’s exhibition, “Pan Dulce in the Sauce,“ features sculpture and paintings inspired by his hometown of Del Rio. “My work is a visceral response to a lived reality, an abstraction of space and memory,’’ he said.” Inanimate entities become communities within space as I try to find a balance between cultural history and personal experiences.”

Laminda Miller of Gladewater makes animal sculptures of epoxy clay and mixed media. Her exhibition, “Intentions,’’ features deceptively whimsical works that are allegorical representations of the social, psychological and literal constructs of identity.

Nora Schreiber of Tyler explores a curiosity of the world around her in her exhibition titled “ALL IT CAN BE IS WHAT IT WAS NAMED.” She asks her audience to step into a visual exploration of the mundane in their daily lives, with a theatrical twist.

BFA Exhibition

Artists highlighted in the BFA exhibition, titled “Nascent,’’ include

Lidia Alvidrez of Dallas – Avridrez’s work as a ceramic artist is influenced by her life experiences and dealing with a mental disorder.

Katherine Emmel of Overton – Emmel’s work is focused primarily in painting and reflects

 

several dystopian and emotional narratives found within everyday society.

Willow Lanchester of Tyler – Lanchester works primarily in clay and metal sculpture. Her art pieces are focused permutations of form that explore themes of concealed information.

Maggie Pierce of Tyler – Pierce uses photo-based printmaking techniques to create highly altered versions of desert landscape. Her work examines the landscape and our relationship to it as something that is mediated by various technologies.

Payton Poole of Tyler – Poole works with multimedia, three-dimensional sculptures, both interactive and wearable, that open conversations about mental illness and the stigma against it.

Grace Richardson of Troup – Richardson uses screen-printing methods to create non- objective forms that render familiarity through their interactions and emphasis on color. A vocabulary of shape and color is established through these arrangements, creating a relationship and language between form and viewer.

Justin Witherspoon of Kilgore – Witherspoon is a printmaker who works in both relief and mono-type. His current body of work is focused on contrasting hard lines and stark objects with nebulous color, inviting exploration.

Teresa Young of Marshall – Young is a sculptor whose works incorporate disposed items such as shipping material and objects from nature. The items signify abandonment and reincarnation.

For more information about the exhibitions, contact Michelle Taff, UT Tyler gallery and media coordinator, at 903-566-7237 or mtaff@uttyler.edu.

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Historic Tyler Celebrates with 26th Annual Photo Contest

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May is a time when thousands of individuals around the country join in a nationwide celebration of National Preservation Month, sponsored annually by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This May, Preservation Month is going virtual.  Even though many historical places are physically closed right now, we hope to excite current preservation supporters and introduce new audiences to the preservation work that makes our community special by opening a window to a world of adventure online.

The National Trust created Preservation Week in 1973 to spotlight grassroots preservation efforts in America.  Since then, it has grown into an annual celebration observed by small towns and big cities across the United States. Due to its popularity, the National Trust extended the event to the entire month of May, which was then declared Preservation Month to provide more opportunities to celebrate the diverse and unique heritage of our country’s cities and states. The hope is to introduce more Americans to the growing preservation movement.

Here at Historic Tyler, we will celebrate Preservation Month by virtually highlighting preservation efforts made here in our own beautiful Rose City, and by hosting our annual Photo Contest.  Historic Tyler’s Photo Contest has been a Preservation Month staple for over twenty-five years, and this year’s theme is Beyond Your Basic Brick. We have picked historic properties throughout the Azalea and Charnwood historic districts that feature interesting bricks, brick patterns or brick details.

To enter the photo contest, identify each photograph by its address or name and submit answers to Historic Tyler, Inc., P.O. Box 6774, Tyler, TX, 75711, send an email to historic@suddenlinkmail.com or private message us on social media.  Entries must be submitted no later than end-of-day, Monday, June 21, 2020.  The entry with the highest number of correct answers will be awarded a family membership in Historic Tyler, Inc. and $50 cash.  In the event of ties, a drawing will be held to determine the winner.

To enter the photo contest, identify each photograph by its current name or address and submit answers to: Historic Tyler, Inc., P.O. Box 6774, Tyler, TX, 75711, Send an email to historic@suddenlinkmail.com, or Private message us on social media.

Entries must be submitted no later than end of day, Monday, June 21, 2020. The entry with the highest number of  correct answers will be awarded a family membership in Historic Tyler, Inc. and $50 cash. In the event of ties, a drawing will be held to determine the winner.

Historic Tyler, a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization, was founded in 1977 with a mission “to promote the preservation and protection of historic structures and sites through advocacy, education, involvement, and private and public investment.”  It is a membership-based organization with many preservation accomplishments to its credit.  Executive Director Mrs. Washmon invites you to visit their website:  www.historictyler.org for more information on the organization, which is located in the Charnwood District at 110 E. Charnwood Street.

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