Voices Louder Than Words
By Derrick White
“At TJC a random stranger told me I should sign up for Derrick White’s painting class. I went home, and registered for the class. Afterwards, I don’t think there is anything that could have kept me from art,” states local Tyler artist Willow Lanchester.
One of the greatest rewards of my teaching career is the human interactions: getting to cross paths with talented, creative, and inspiring individuals. As the decades roll by for me as an art professor the amount of students I have had the pleasure of teaching now number in the thousands. Each passing year and semester contains its own unique groups of standouts. Artist Willow Lanchester is definitely one of these recent standouts for me as well as for the other art professors in our department at Tyler Junior College.
Willow has only been painting and making art for a little over three years. She started taking watercolor classes during her time as the East Texas Honey Princess. At that time Willow was a part of the East Texas Beekeepers Association’s (ETBA) Honey Queen Program, which is a professional public relations internship. As the East Texas Honey Princess, she did public speaking events to educate the public on honey bees and beekeeping. Willow recalls, “After I expressed some interest in drawing, my Queen Chair signed me up for watercolor classes, so I could develop my artwork to use as a tool for my presentations. While I served in the Honey Queen Program, I would teach the anatomy of the honey bee by drawing it during my presentations. Because of this my artwork began as, and will continue to be, a form of communication. My art is about making sure my voice is heard. It is also about making sure other people’s voices are heard.”
“It quickly began to feel like home,” Willow explained. “Tyler Junior College provided me with an incredibly unique and supportive environment, where I could explore my art and the message I wanted. I am so fortunate to have learned from such talented and supportive faculty. Faculty who are not only dedicated to developing a student’s technical skill, but also the attitudes and thought processes that go into a student’s work. Students are encouraged to go out and exhibit their work, and to participate in, and build community. It is because of this encouragement I was able to continue to develop my voice. One day I hope to do the same for others. I hope one day, I will be able to help develop someone else’s voice,” Willow said.
It was not long after, Willow began at Tyler Junior College, and she was swiftly sucked into the Art Department.
Willow is inexhaustible in studio art classes, an active member of the art club, and involved in its community service activities as well as being a competent and capable student across campus.
She is the founding member of a new student organization named STAR (Sex Trafficking Awareness and Relief). STAR is an organization based out of the Tyler Junior College Art Department, which is devoted to raising awareness about sex trafficking in the local region. STAR is also focused on raising funds for the survivors of sex trafficking. STAR works closely with Refuge of Light, a home for survivors of sex trafficking, to help raise awareness about this growing problem in East Texas. One of the goals of STAR is to bring this issue to the attention of people through the arts.
“We are holding art shows, auctions, and live music events, where all the proceeds go to support the Refuge of Light home,” Willow explained. “Sex Trafficking is a crisis that affects everyone, no matter their age, race, gender, ethnicity, values, religion, or social or economic background. Everyone is harmed by sex trafficking. The aim of STAR is to break down barriers, so we as a community, as a whole, can come together to put an end to this epidemic exploiting those without a voice,” states this young activist.
Willow exhibits her artwork and participates in juried art shows. She was one of three 2016-2017 TJC performance grant showcase artist students and received her associate’s degree in art this last spring.
“I have loved exploring new materials and figuring out how they work together,” Willow said. My work currently has been predominantly ink, charcoal, or acrylic. If one day I lost all of my art supplies, I would still make art out of garbage or anything I could find. A lot of my work comes from a compulsive need to create. I will use any materials available to me so my work has become very process oriented. My work is about getting lost in the process and letting go of everything preventing me from creating. It’s about letting go of everything quieting my voice,” states the artist.
Willow finds inspiration in the work of artists like Hung Liu (a Chinese-American artist who currently resides in California who bases most of her work on historical Chinese photographs). Willow says, “Liu’s work deals with the study of memory and the human condition. She examines how individuals and their lives can be so swiftly lost to the past. It’s the study of how quickly the individual can be lost to history, but at the same time she tells the viewer how that does not make the individual any less important. Her work is a study in empathy ensuring the viewer sees the subject of her work as an individual who had a life and thoughts of their own just like them.” Those with a voice louder than words.
Willow states, “Art has given me a voice and a platform from which I can use that voice in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Art and those who have taught me have given me the confidence that what I have to say means something, that my voice matters. Art has given me a foundation, a confidence, and security so I am no longer looking for help. Instead I can help someone else who needs it.”
You can find more information on STAR (Sex Trafficking Awareness and Relief) and how you can be involved with helping through Facebook.