At the Beatrice M. Haggerty Art Gallery last Friday, a quiet crowd listened to Joshua Parens, the dean of the Braniff Graduate School of Liberal Arts, commemorate the opening of “View from the Art Village: 50-Year Retrospective.”
“This 50th anniversary exhibit of the work of graduates of the Braniff Graduate School demonstrates for all to see how and why the art department is, and has been, so widely esteemed for so long,” Parens said.
The guests replied with the approval of many clapping hands, but some of those who stood among them did not view the event the same way.
Tony Veronese, a young artist and graduate student, has five weeks left in the University of Dallas’ 5-year program that joins a master of arts with a master of fine arts. When asked about the anniversary, Veronese spoke about the prodigious local influence of previous UD art students.
“Out of the many students who graduated in the first 25 years [of the UD graduate art program], a lot of them became artists who defined the Dallas-Fort Worth art scene,” Veronese said. “Those are big footsteps — I mean, big shoes — to fill.”
Veronese commented on his work, “Badland,” a painting that indulges in the confusion of perspective and representation common to abstract art.
“It’s weird and it’s not normal for me, and I would never have made it if I had not gone to the University of Dallas,” Veronese said.“As an undergraduate who wants to pursue a career in art, you want to render the crap out of [your work] because you want people to tell you it’s beautiful. But [in the UD graduate art program], you’re pushed to try new things.”
Veronese subtly gestured toward a man dressed like a cowboy. The cowboy had white hair swept back from his face, narrow, semi-rimless glasses, a black buttoned shirt with green wine vine designs on its collar and black pants.
“That’s Jim Roche,” Veronese said. “Make sure you talk to him. He’s a pretty big deal.”
Jim Roche, an artist who graduated from UD with a master of arts in 1968 and a master of fine arts in 1970, has built an impressive body of creative work that has even involved appearances in several films such as “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Beloved.”
He made “Repent Now” (Some Americans Feel Like This: Drawing 9516), a work that displays a sentence of stenciled, colored letters demanding a list of people change their ways.
“The reason this is up? That’s from a church in Texas,” Roche said. “I only added a few things on there. I only added the part about tattoos. So that was on the Assembly of God Church, Orange, Texas. That’s right where that came from.”
“In the M.F.A program when I was here, which contrasted with many other programs, I had to take courses that I didn’t think were even relevant,” Roche said. “[I had to take] Greek and Roman Tragedy, History of Film, topics in American History [and some] English courses. I’d never done all that.
“By doing that for my M.F.A., it expanded me in ways that I would have never been expanded [in] before, so I appreciate that from the University of Dallas, and also the … Braniff scholarship that they gave me with my stipend.”
As Roche frequently interrupted his speech to hug people such as Juergen Strunck, an internationally known printmaker, Jim Jard, a fellow car enthusiast, and Alexa Roche, his wife, the anniversary exhibit seemed less about the art program and the art pieces and more about the many people speaking with each other who appeared at this event to see their friends, admirers and heroes.
The exhibition will be open until Apr. 29. Two upcoming events related to the presentation will be Sunday, Apr. 2 at 1 p.m., when exhibition curator Nancy Cohen Israel will lead a guided tour of the gallery, and April 25 at 6 p.m., when Emeritus Professor of Art Lyle Novinksi will present a history of the Haggerty Art Village.