Saturday, September 18, 2021

By Derrick White

A couple of years ago while participating in a group show at an art gallery in Dallas. I attended the opening reception and was visiting with some people, and I was bragging about the vibrant visual art scene developing and sustaining here in East Texas. More and more artists are staying and thriving in our area like never before. Our region offers more artists and opportunities now than it has in the last twenty years. The owner of the gallery suggested putting together an exhibition of a group of East Texas artists. Having had some curatorial experience from directing the gallery The Art Corridor at Tarrant County Community College Southeast campus in Arlington and as acting gallery director at Tyler Junior College for fourteen years, this exhibit seemed different, seemed special, felt personal, and it needed to impress and back up boastful comments. The greatest challenge was narrowing down the list. Jotting down names of qualified, talented artists here in our region there were quickly too many to choose from. This gallery has limited space and the list had to be culled down. This was difficult given the number of flourishing artists in East Texas. As the list began to shrink a thematic link started to naturally emerge. Artists with a strong dedication to their work, a perfectionist attitude, unique personalities, and an almost compulsive sense of execution. 

What materialized is an exhibition I am very proud of, featuring artists I believe in, and I think represent the spirit of the visual arts in East Texas. It is The Pine Curtain: Selected Artists of East Texas at Mighty Fine Arts curated by Derrick White through August 31, 2021. 

So, if you are up for a little road trip, the hip Bishop Arts District in South Dallas is an area known for the nightlife, fashionable, independent stores and galleries, and vibrant street art. There is a wide range of dining choices, relaxed bars, and theaters. A staple of Bishop Arts for over the last decade and a half is Mighty Fine Arts. It is an artist-run gallery located in a scenic and historic Oak Cliff neighborhood. Artist Steve Cruz started the gallery in 2004 with the intention of providing an alternative space for innovative and underrepresented artists. His gallery presents an eclectic array of shows with the guiding criteria of presenting work that is resonant, thoughtful, and highly accomplished. From mid-career to fresh and unknown artists, Mighty Fine Arts hopes to enlarge the perceptions of contemporary art in North Texas. The gallery is located at 409A N. Tyler ST. Gallery hours are 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays or by appointment: phone 214-942-5241 or email: steve@mfagallery.com.

“The Pine Curtain steps outside the Dallas/Austin/San Antonio/Houston art epicenters to discover what art lurks in the piney woods of East Texas. Derrick White has put together a worthy and diverse selection of young talents who are toiling out beyond the mainstream. Their practices range in sensibilities and intent but all share a commitment to craft and ability. Maybe it is the water out there, but a high level of art is being nourished out in the woods,” states Steve Cruz.

The featured artists include Leon Campbell. Leon makes thoughtful and complex geometric, maze-like, linework linoleum prints and groups of small-scale, ceramic representations of home. The works are meticulous in their implementation and contemplative in their content. The pieces are introspective, calm, and quiet, reflective of the artist’s personality. Megan Gray. Megan creates cool color, organic and geometric shaped pieces to evoke personal feelings and create language. She is continuously learning new ways to manipulate different materials. Her pieces are fun and playful and illustrate her exploration and inquisitive nature as well as her radiant and positive attitude. Lisa Horlander. Lisa is a hardworking mixed media artist whose installation works, and shaped paintings explore the natural ecosystems surviving within urban environments. She incorporates remnants of daily moments, like the paper from a teabag, into her work and experiments with a variety of materials. Lisa is diligent in pursuing efforts to get her work in front of an audience to share her passion with others. She states, “My focus and inspiration in my art is to mimic the excitement and beauty of the light, movement, and colors in nature.” Lisa is an originating leader of ETX Creatives, a community of creative professionals promoting our area by organizing opportunities to engage East Texas in the arts through education, collaboration, exhibition, and workshops. Willow Lanchester. Willow is a ceramic artist working with organic shapes and bulbous forms of various stages of simplicity and complexity. Willow states, “Art has given me a voice, and a platform from which I can use in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Art and those who have taught me have given me confidence in what I have to say means something.” Mak Mahloch. Mak is a multi-media artist working in printmaking, collage, and film. Their work explores form as well as the subject of family and the melancholy of childhood memories. Erick Rodriguez. Erick creates compulsive, complicated, and exquisite drawings in a variety of media of natural and animal forms. Jessica Sanders. Jessica makes small and large-scale ceramic tapestries by creating elaborate, tiny tiles, fired, and glazed, and then painstakingly sews the individual pieces together with copper wire. “My work consists of small ceramic pieces attached together to make a larger piece. The pieces are very flexible and often compared to fabric, this idea of taking something solid and hard and making it fluid is very intriguing to me,” affirms Sanders.

All the featured artists have studied visual art at both Tyler Junior College and The University of Texas at Tyler. Derrick White is a Texas contemporary artist and Professor/Department Chair, Art teaching painting and art appreciation at Tyler Junior College, Tyler Texas.

It is good to showcase our East Texas art scene in places beyond the borders of the pine curtain. We have good things going on here, talented people we can be proud of, and a beautiful landscape inspiring creativity.

“When you wake up, it’s a new morning. The sun is shining, it’s a new morning. You’re going, you’re going home.”