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As Adele plays in the background, the steady pulse is calming but exciting. Brad Pearce says the tempo and beat of the music that he’s listening to will actually affect his work. The more measured and rhythmic the song, “the slightly better the piece may turn out,” Pearce admits.
“Hello from the Other Side” echoes through the speakers. He’s certainly made it to the other side - from a boy with a broken foot to a successful glass blower. He’s made it. But not without the power of practice, perseverance, and pure passion.
Not many can proclaim that breaking a foot led them to their lifelong fixation. But in Pearce’s case, that’s exactly what happened.
It was Pearce’s senior year in high school at W.B. Ray, here in Corpus. He was 18, on the football team. This injury forced him off the team. And to graduate, Pearce now needed an additional course credit. So he took an art class.
Art now on the brain, watching the evening news with his parents, an iconic Texas painter, glassmaker, and renaissance man from Rockport was being featured. Pearce made a leap-of-faith phone call and contacted the news station the following morning. He obtained the glass blower’s name. This immediate idol of Pearce's, Steve Russell, took in the young enthusiast, and actually brought him to his studio that very afternoon. It was there with Russell that Pearce learned this craft. It changed his life’s path and purpose.
This was in 2002. After a brief time of working with Russell, it was time for Pearce to graduate. Instead of the traditional decision to attend a four year university, he chose to deviate and moved to Taos, New Mexico, where he began a more hands-on approach to his craft at Taos Glass Arts under Native American glass artist Tony Jojola. After two years there, Pearce was accepted to the prestigious Cleveland Institute of Art in Cleveland, Ohio. "I went there with intentions of getting my BFA in Art and getting back to Texas. However, Cleveland would prove to be an invaluable step in my journey. It not only allowed me to continue working, learning, and exploring glass, but it also opened my eyes to multiple disciplines. Cleveland will always be a special place to me on so many levels," Pearce recalls. In the spring of 2009, Pearce had a Bachelor of Fine Art in glass with a minor in ceramics.
After leaving Cleveland, his journey and continued education led him all over the country. From The Pilchuck School of Glass in Stanwood, Washington, to the Penland School of Craft in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, and to the Haystack Mountain School of Craft in Deer Isle, Maine. "I have worked for some of the best glass artists in the country, notably Devin Burgess at Borealis Studios. Now, after over a decade of traveling the country chasing the material that has given my life purpose, my journey has come full circle," Pearce reveals.
After 15 years of working alongside others and learning every aspect of the trade, Pearce decided it was time to return home – to bring his craft to Corpus Christi.
Since that life-changing art class in high school, not only did Pearce know he wanted to be an artist, but he had always had his eye on one particular building to showcase his creations, cattycorner to the now American Bank Center. In 2014, after years of dead-end attempts at reaching the owner, he finally had him on the phone! An attorney from Austin, this seller’s father had owned the building and had his shop there. Although complicated, yes, they were willing to sell!
A completely run down and trashed space, vacant for many years, the bones were solid. This cinderblock rock-stable building, built in 1968, has seen the likes of 3 hurricans. Pearce put his blood, sweat, tears, and money into transforming it into his perfect glass-blowing space. He even built the furnace himself. This not only saved him a bit of money, but, if and when something breaks down, he’ll know exactly how to fix it. The studio, officially named the Texas Project Glass Studio (TXP Glass), is Pearce’s second home.
After all the construction, "I find that my inspiration is once again coming from the endless possibilities. Now the future is what is most inspiring. What it holds in store for me, the objects that will be made, the discoveries that will achieved, the inevitable failures that come when you test the limits of your comfort zone, and the tremendous growth that occurs when you really put yourself out there and those take risks," Pearce says.
Visit him in his studio! He is there blowing daily between 9am – 6 pm, and he encourages the public to pop in and watch him work – to see the process. “Once people see what goes into the pieces, they seem to have no problem with the price of them.” He says that sharing his knowledge of glass with the community is what he's also inspired by. That possibly the youth of Corpus Christi might walk through his doors and discover that immediate spark of interest, much like Steve Russell did for him all those years back.
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His home may as well be called the Moltz Museum. His thinly-planked, medium-toned wood floors come from the old downtown Driscoll Hotel in Corpus Christi. But it’s what sits on these floors that is most intriguing. Sterling James Moltz lives among some of the most eclectic pieces of art, artifacts, and antiques one may see in a lifetime. Many of these pieces were made by Moltz himself.
Creating mainly free-form sculptures from granite, bronze, clay, metal and wood, Moltz also fancies himself a blacksmith, painter, ceramic, and jeweler. A jack of trades in the art community, many hats fit him just right.
And he needs these hats, as oftentimes, he works outside at his own home, or teaches classes in public courtyards or similar spaces. As he works on a wood carving in his backyard, he chisels away softly with a razor-sharp focus similar to what you’d expect to find on an operating table. Breathtaking beams of light cast shade and introspection from the pergola above the workshop in his driveway.
Moltz started painting detailed landscapes in oils in junior high school. As a runner, he followed in the same footsteps as his mentor, his art and track coach Mr. Scholden. He has taught art and coached the track team for years. Over the years, he has learned how to combine his professional life as an art teacher and track coach with personal and environmental aims, he says.
“It takes hard work and discipline to grow as an artist, it is demanding, and you need to meet the challenges headon.”
Moltz is a multi-tasker by nature and admits to jumping around from piece to piece. He’ll rarely sit down and work on one piece from start to finish. “Kent Ullberg [recognized as one of the world's foremost wildlife sculptors] once told me that it is hard for artists to finish their work, because they are ready to start on a new idea,” he says.
A real hobby of Moltz’s is collecting things. One of his best sculptures came from a piece of granite that was being thrown away after a remodel. He loves antiques, things from this earth – he’s always collecting experiences and images to make a sculpture, a painting on a ceramic vase.
Songs and poems are also good inspiration for Moltz’ work. “I’ve always worked in a realist vein, experimenting with a variety of materials as I refine and redefine my artistic ideas. My willingness to change my palette, subject matter and media has allowed me to expand beyond my earlier work,” he explains. Currently, he’s using old instruments to repurpose them into lamps.
“I relearned there’s never been a more exciting time to be an artist. I believe the artist is a more necessary, integral part of culture now than at perhaps any time since the renaissance.” No better time than the present.
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As a budding art student, Joe Peña had a painting. He was so proud of it, so excited to show it to his professor, the late Bruno Andrade of Corpus Christi, so sure it was the piece to end all pieces. It was a Picasso. With the blackest of paint and the largest of brushes, Andrade smothered the canvas black. It was ruined. In front of all of his peers.
“You have one week to re-do this,” his professor told him. Tears running down Peña’s face, embarrassed and simply horrified that his masterpiece had been so brutally destroyed, he went to work. Four days later, he had a painting that was exceedingly better than the first.
Peña teaches art at Texas A&M – Corpus Christi. “You have to be willing to destroy your work before knowing what you can really do with it,” he explains. Although he takes a slightly softer approach in teaching this lesson, he says he teaches his students that criticism is what will make them better. Back in Peña’s studio space, a pair of boxing gloves hang on the wall. He’ll bring them out during group critiques as a reminder to have thick skin. “I weep for the horse that gave his hair for that brush,” he’s teased a student. The world of art can be tough, so you have to be tougher.
“I’m a painter in the most basic sense. Specifically oil paint, but I also work in any other painting media I can get my hands on including acrylic, ink, watercolor, etc. as well as any other medium I can work with including printmaking and photography,” he says. One thing they emphasize at the Art Department at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi, is that a practitioner of the fine arts shouldn’t just settle on one media, but learn and explore everything they can. “I always tell my students that if there is ever a class being offered in underwater basket weaving, I’ll be the first to sign up.”
The enormous industrial studio space (provided by the University) has been splattered with color, the concrete floors look like children have played paintball there, and a piece of tape sticks to the bottom of your shoe as you walk through. Glitter catches your eye from one distant piece on the wall. Creativity flows from every crack in the floor to every quote written on the drywall, to every sketch penciled on the partitions. This is where lessons are held, critiquing sessions take place, students and professor alike can exchange ideas, and then there are sectioned off areas so that each grad student has his/her own private work shop.
Peña’s studio space is equipped with brushes of every sort, pictures of his family, pictures of meat, the skeletal system, a birdhouse, baseball hat…one side is an entire wall of books of his favorite artists. All of these items are just part of what inspire his work. Cling wrap, mesh, rags, a screw driver…his space is anything bit tidy. It’s splendid. But the main inspirations for his work are his family, culture, and religion.
“My mom used to draw these faces of women on the blank areas of note pads, and I was blown away with what she could do. I wanted to make those. So I copied and copied, but I still couldn’t get them exactly as well as she did. My dad used to draw these funny cats as well, and I would copy those, too,” Peña recalls of his beginnings.
He attended Del Mar College for Art, then off to what was then Corpus Christi State University for a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree. Shortly thereafter, he moved to New York City to work in a contemporary art gallery and there he received classical painting instruction as well as experimental techniques.
Despite Peña’s modest demeanor, you may not realize his work is showcased all over the country, and sold all over the world thanks to social media. “My first exhibit had me begging for a show at a coffee shop in down town Corpus Christi many years ago. I know I’ll sound old by saying this but it’s a lot easier nowadays to get your work seen with a web presence.”
“I still can’t get my mom’s faces down, or my dad’s cats. When I do, that’ll be my mark of success,” he snickers.
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LISA BAER FREDERICK
Lisa Baer Frederick wanders around her gallery, Estella Stair Gallery. She looks at the pieces displayed around the space, chats a bit, and although clearly in her zone, her very own familiar space, somehow she seems adrift.
But not all who wander are lost – with the swift lift of a paintbrush, Frederick is found.
The brush speaks to its handle, which sends a message to her hand, her wrist, her elbow, flawless movements on the canvas seem as though this “conversation” is making its way to her subconscious. However, unbelievably enough, as she begins, Frederick has no clue what she’s painting.
“My goal is to paint an emotional response using elements of design. Some people may describe my work as whimsically abstract,” Frederick notes. She works in layers and on various substrates. She sometimes hears people ask why she would want to do what someone else is doing? But, she, her work, and her story are far from standard.
Frederick spent her summers in Rockport, visiting her aunt, artist and gallery owner, Estelle Stair, an original founder of the Rockport Art Association. She’d watch her, listen to her, learn from her. At age 10, she started taking painting classes with Simon Michael, a founding father of the Art Colony in Rockport. Surrounded by the latest and greatest in the Rockport art community, Frederick had the best mentors a budding artist could possibly ask for.
She continued her studies at Sam Houston State University. Mixed media is what she’s really honed in on. “It is a very popular medium of expression today. I think it’s a way to sort through the layers of our life. The world is not a quiet place, so it’s a way for me to sort through the noise and make sense of it,” Frederick says of her art form. She may take a puzzle piece from her office and incorporate it into a painting she’s working on. Spontaneous and serendipitous improvisations alongside occasional destruction and redesign, it’s all a part of the process.
Inspiration for her craft is derived from nature and introspection, Frederick says.
She carries on her late aunt’s legacy, as she continues to be an active participant and driving force in the Rockport art community. The exposed brick walls of the gallery are reflective of her free-style soul. Her work is original, contemporary, colorful, far from what’s typically found in most Rockport artists’ styles.
She hopes that blooming artists don’t get discouraged and give up - that an artist isn’t necessarily born with innate talent. A desire to create is all one needs to nurture and develop a personality for self expression. If one continues to work, a personal style will emerge.
“We are all unique. What does your uniqueness look like?”
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June Ainsworth is an artist. It’s as simple as that for her.
But, it wasn’t always that simple. For Ainsworth, it started with oil, and ended with oil.
Ainsworth grew up in Dallas and recalls taking art courses and working with other student artists at the Dallas Art Museum in high school with some of the most prominent Texan artists of the time. However, she eventually headed off to the University of Oklahoma where she received a degree in science, with an emphasis in petroleum geology. This was unusual for women, and brought her to work for an oil company in Kansas.
She came back to Texas after several years in the oil industry, but couldn’t put oils to rest. The she revisited an old passion – oil painting.
“Most of my paintings are traditional representation; but I am comfortable with abstract. Often, I break a subject into a modern or abstract painting,” Ainsworth says.
She began painting again at the Beeville Coastal Bend Junior College in 1995. She moved to Rockport and continued to take classes there. “I was fortunate to meet other artist and paint plein air with them. I became a part of Wind Way Gallery.” The Wind Way Gallery is where she still holds her collection today.
“As a member of Wind Way Gallery, I have an opportunity to show and sell my work. A painting starts in the artist’s brain. It is an emotional response to a scene or moment. An artist’s aim is to put this on canvas. It should not be a detailed copy of details.”
Painting, creating, and thinking dominate Ainsworth’s life. Each day brings new ideas accompanied by new challenges. Ainsworth expresses, “I am inspired by painting plein air. These paintings begin as abstract shapes and can be taken in many different directions. The artist’s goal is to have a viewer of the finished work feel an excitement and emotional response.”
A true lesson that Ainsworth has learned by being an artist is that she sees painting as a problem of sorts, just waiting to be solved. There are rules to be followed, such as composition, color and values.
“I think an artist instinctively know when all these are right. But as important as rules are, they can be pushed to the limits – they can be broken.”
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Rachel Durrent http://racheldurrent.com
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Rachel Durrent http://racheldurrent.com
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A picture says a thousand words, and to professional photographer, Sally Mitchell, a few of those words include “grace,” “beauty,” and “fascination.”
Back in graduate school, Mitchell found herself taking a course in school library/media at Southern Illinois University, which included a class in photography. When digital photography became popular, she attended workshops in that and computer editing and graphics. Her responsibilities as a high school library/media specialist included helping students develop multi-media presentations, as well as designing graphics for library programs and displays.
But it wasn’t until she retired and moved to Rockport that photography became a near obsession. She was particularly inspired by the behaviors of the herons and other shore birds. “I began photographing birds almost daily. At the same time, I began studying watercolor at the Rockport Center for the Arts and at Wind Way Gallery,” she recalls. Anita Diebel, owner of Wind Way Gallery, invited Mitchell to showcase her photographs at the gallery in 2008. That’s been Mitchell’s primary venue ever since.
“I find inspiration in all forms of natural beauty that surround us. Photography has helped make me more aware of all the fleeting images of beauty, natural and man-made, that cross our paths in an average day,” says Mitchell. However, her main inspiration has continued to be birds. The more time she’s spent over the years observing and photographing them, the more she’s enthralled by their beauty and their varied behaviors and abilities. She says their lives are amazingly complex.
“I’ve learned a great deal about birds and their behaviors. Mostly I’ve learned about the incredible generosity of artists, photographers, and birders in sharing their knowledge,” beams Mitchell. She explains how constantly inspired she is by the work of her peers and their creativity and talent.
“The best advice I have for aspiring artists is to seek out others artists whose work you admire and ask questions,” Mitchell says. Here in south Texas, we are blessed with wonderful Art Centers in Rockport, Corpus Christi, Port Aransas, and other communities, where new artists can take classes, meet other artists, and begin displaying their work.
Birds of a feather flock together.