Philana Oliphant Pace: The Phenomenal Power of Peace: Inside the Artist’s Studio

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By Derrick White

WARNING: Reading This Article May Cause Stress Relief!

Before reading this article, please do me a favor…stop, and relax. Breathe with focus. Get comfortable in a quiet place. Pay attention to breathing deeply, the movement of air going in and out of your lungs, slow and even. Be mindful of your relaxation. Continue for a couple of minutes. Remember to ease your mind and body so your inhalation inflates and as you breathe out slowly, let yourself sigh…out loud. Once you’ve taken these steps, you may continue. Thank you.

Life is full of encouraging wonderment, miniscule details, exquisiteness and living florae and faunae observable every day, everywhere and especially in our beautiful and natural East Texas region. It is the observation of these entities artist Philana Oliphant Pace investigates and lovingly and masterfully brings to our attention. There are people in life who make everything better; dependable, compassionate people facing challenges head on, who make you a better person just by knowing them. There are people who still find the best in individuals and who haven’t quit helping others or giving of themselves. They are optimistic, pleasant and peaceful. Author Jack Kerouac wrote about creative individuals stating “…they change things. They invent. They imagine. They HEAL. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.” They …are Philana Oliphant Pace.

Simply put, Philana is remarkable. She is a respected and sincere art professor at Tyler Junior College. She embodies a quiet, incredibly patient, forgiving and knowledgeable approach to instruction. Sharing her expertise allows students to create amazing results. The phenomenal power of her peaceful teaching makes her one of the most exceptional people I’ve ever known. Her artwork, from large-scale sculpture installations to hand crafted thank you notes, are all completed with precision and persistence. There are many talented and gifted artists in our regional arts scene, Philana Oliphant Pace is one I respect and admire for her artwork, her kindness, and her noticeable peace of mind. The website Wikipedia asserts: “Inner peace is a colloquialism that refers to a state of being mentally or spiritually at peace, with enough knowledge and understanding to keep oneself strong in the face of discord or stress. Being at peace is considered by many to be healthy and the opposite of being stressed or anxious.” This ideal concept is often connected with surfers, hermits or meditating monks, alone in some far off place like a beach, cave or monastery. Truthfully, serenity can be attained and savored in a normal life with a family and a job. I believe art can be an important instrument in achieving harmony for both artists and viewers.

Philana Oliphant Pace mentions in her artist’s statement, “My drawings are remnants of a behavioral form that allows 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.”

Pace’s formal education is from the University of Texas, Austin, with undergraduate studies in printmaking, sculpture and drawing and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from UT Tyler (Magna Cum Laude). Philana works in a wide array of techniques and materials including: printmaking, sculpture and drawing and cutting on a variety of cotton rag and synthetic papers, steel, aluminum, wood, using ink, fabric dye, graphite, litho crayon, charcoal, porcelain, and nylon fabric. Her artwork exemplifies craftsmanship, passion and diligent patience.

Philana was inspired by art as a child, encouraged her whole life by family especially her grandparents. “My grandmother put it in my mind at a very young age that I could go to art school one day. My high school art teacher, Mrs. Delores McCullough, was a tremendous inspiration as well,” she says. One of the most important things art brings to her life is the human connection. “The amount of people I have come to meet and know over the years. So many great people! Also, my family, we are all artists [all three members of the Pace’s pack are outstanding visual artists]. It is so wonderful we, as a family, have this in common,” Philana states. “It’s a wonderful life!”

Philana’s favorite artists include her great-grandmother Lucille Schweitzer, a watercolorist. Growing up Philana admired paintings in her grandparent’s home. She imitated and tried to paint the way her great-grandmother did. Those paintings and an amazing work ethic greatly influenced Philana’s artwork. The captivating visual form of Philana Oliphant Pace’s artwork moves and flows. It is rhythmic, poetic and alive, encapsulating music.

Philana Oliphant Pace’s artwork is currently on view for you to experience, contemplate and peaceably consider in a couples group exhibition entitled “Flow Into The Mystic: Marriage and the Contemporary Artist” through February 1st, at the Tyler Museum of Art, 1300 South Mahon Ave., Tyler. TMA is free and open Tuesday – Saturday 10am-5pm, and Sunday 1-5pm. For more information visit online at

Considering the current couples exhibition, Philana said “James and I have exhibited together over the years and it is always interesting to me to see our work displayed together. The works in this exhibition share a response to strengths and weaknesses in being human. That was not planned. Sometimes in our studio we don’t realize the connectivity between our works. We are fortunate we share an art studio. We learn a lot from each other and our daughter. It is important to see the artwork outside of the studio. I learn from that. I look at the other artists’ work in the show to glean insight about how couples influence each other. It is interesting. I appreciate being invited by the museum to participate in this show. I hope people will take time to see art made by artists from our region. We, as artists, have a lot to offer the culture of East Texas and the TMA is a beautiful space.”

If you are foolish enough to decide not to take this opportunity to view the magnificent work by this powerful artist, please do me another favor. Breathe in, and hold it. Hold it. Keep holding it…

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