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Inside the Artist’s Studio: The Texas Biennial

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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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June 21st-22nd: The 7th Annual Junebug Summer Fair

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Mark your calendars for  June 21st, 22nd and 23rd when the 7th annual Junebug Summer Fair kicks into high gear. The family-friendly festival, which is located in the tiny art enclave of Ben Wheeler, Texas, highlights the work of artists, musicians,  and artisans from the Lone Star state. The festival will be held Friday, June 21st (7-10pm, VIP ticket holders), Saturday June 22nd (10am-12 midnight), and Sunday, June 23rd (10am-3pm).

Headquartered on the three-acre park-like property surrounding the Forge (a local restaurant, bar, and music venue), the festival will give attendees an opportunity to witness the creative process through “live art” displays as well as the chance to actively join in the process. Here are just a few of the fun events planned for the day:

Long Table Dinner

Kicking off the Junebug Summer Fair Friday night, June 21st from 7-10pm, The Forge will be hosting an intimate Long Table Dinner in the Grist Mill, serving local ingredients paired with local wines. The menu will show where each ingredient came from. You will also get a VIP preview of the art show and live music.

Farmers Market

The Forge will be hosting a Farmers Market both days of the festival to promote local farms and cottage businesses. There will also be a space reserved for vendors who sell goods and services based on health and wellness including Thai Yoga massage, handmade lotions and soaps, and other wellness-based businesses. This will be held Saturday June 22nd (10am-4pm), and Sunday, June 23rd (10am-3pm).

Live Music

Live acoustic music will run both days throughout the grounds, with a larger concert set for Saturday evening with Porters Bluff headlining. Bands on the Grist Mill stage start at 7pm Friday and Saturday.

Live Hands-on Art Demos

Live art stations will be set up where artists will show how they perform their particular craft. Last year, there was a live community loom where adults and children alike had the opportunity to add to the large woven piece. There was also a pottery wheel with artisans helping teach how to throw pottery and make simple pieces. The festival will also have weaving stations along with artist demonstrations.

Health And Wellness

There will be an area for health and wellness with Thai Yoga massage, organic soaps, handmade clothes, and other wonderful products and services with wellness in mind.

You may simply want to wander around the beautifully manicured herb gardens and grounds of the Forge, or grab a cone of homemade ice cream or an adult beverage from the Forge’s bar and settle into one of the many park benches and tables to listen to local musicians as they play their original songs.

For more info go to theforgebenwheeler.com/2019-junebug/ or email junebugsummerfair@gmail.com.

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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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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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