By Monica Kaufman
Nestled along MacArthur Boulevard’s suburban neighborhoods, the Irving Arts Center is a hub of the arts for the Irving community, including the University of Dallas. At just over three miles away from campus, the Irving Arts Center provides a great opportunity for UD students to immerse themselves in a variety of art entertainment while still staying close by — a particularly great opportunity for days when there is not enough time to go into Dallas. The Arts Center is home to several cultural organizations, such as the Irving Arts Association, the Irving Chorale and the Irving Symphony Orchestra, providing a wide variety of entertainment events and art exhibitions to the local community. In addition, it is a Smithsonian Affiliate. According to the Arts Center’s website, that allows the Irving Arts Center to “borrow from the Smithsonian’s extensive collection of artifacts — incorporating objects from the 136-million object collection,” meaning that exciting and rare objects can be exhibited just up the road from UD.
One of the recent art exhibitions was “The Gallery of Artists: Diverse Artistic Expressions of Nature,” which ran from Aug. 16 through Sept. 14. In conjunction with the exhibition, the Irving Arts Center hosted a lecture series on Sept. 13 and 14 to celebrate the end of the show, with lectures given by the featured artists. The lectures and exhibition were free and available to the public, allowing the community to not only view the art, but also meet the artists.
The Gallery of Artists is a collaborative group of artists who focus on wildlife as their subject matter. From Sally Maxwell’s scratchboard drawing of an enigmatic swordfish to Robert Caldwell’s lifelike oil painting of elephants, artists exhibited an array of wildlife in both two-dimensional and three-dimensional mediums. Most of the work addressed the subject in a straightforward, naturalistic manner, emphasizing the actual appearance of the animals rather than abstracting or distorting their forms into something less realistic. During her artist lecture, Jan Martin McGuire summed up much of the art in the show when she described her own artistic desire for “the painting to look organic.” In fact, most of the artists who depicted exotic wild animals had actually visited various parts of Africa and seen their subjects in the flesh, which “gets into your psyche,” according to McGuire, allowing the artists to incorporate their firsthand experience of such creatures into their work.
Caldwell gave a lecture on his largest painting to date, entitled “Three Princes (African Elephant),” and the course it took from its conception to completion. He went to Tanzania in search of the subject matter for this particular painting. While he knew he wanted to paint elephants, he searched to find the particular scene in nature that displayed exactly what he was looking for. He was inspired by the Persian fairy tale “The Three Princes of Serendip,” a story of three princes who have to use deductive reasoning to describe a lame, blind-in-one-eye camel they had never physically seen in order to be spared by a foreign king. Caldwell wanted to find elephants to represent the three princes conversing with one another. According to his artist statement, Caldwell “like[s] the challenge of creating a well-balanced composition — it’s like solving a problem and trying to figure out how all the pieces fit together.” He managed to find the pieces he needed on his last day in Tanzania, a grouping of three elephants that he later composed into the finished painting.
During their lectures, the other artists discussed their creative processes from technique to subject, allowing the public to see the journey from mental envisioning to lifelike scene. The Gallery of Artists lecture series is just one of the many opportunities the Irving Arts Center provides for the community to get an inside look at the world of art around them and experience it as fully as possible, all while not straying too far from UD.