Wayland alumni bring talents tot he table for centennial homecoming exhibit

Release Date: February 18, 2009    

PLAINVIEW – It’s been no surprise to see great work coming from the art studios of Harral Arts Complex at Wayland Baptist University over the past years. And as students have artwork included in the senior exhibits before they graduate, art aficionados have been able to follow their work and their growth as a student artist.

But the latest show to grace the walls of the Abraham Art Gallery shows more of what has become of some of Wayland’s great art students of the past and some students whose artwork talents have bloomed more in recent years.

Titled “Full Circle,” the exhibit of alumni artwork includes various media from 19 different former students. Dr. Candace Keller, professor of art and curator of the Abraham Gallery, said the title for the show has two meanings. One is the literal circle that students have made from creating

artwork at Wayland – some of whom really got their start at creating here – to returning to WBU for the exhibit in celebration of the centennial, with artwork in hand. The other meaning was inspired by a record album by the rock band The Doors titled Full Circle, with cover artwork by WBU alum Joe Garnett. Both are meaningful to Keller.

“Anyone who teaches will tell you that the best part of the job is working with the students. It has been my privilege to work with so many talented individuals here at Wayland over the years and a joy to see them make such a difference in the world,” said Keller. “As diverse as their art, the artists hail from across the country and from other countries with the common bond of their creative interpretations of our reality. Their work comes from places as far-ranging as Alaska and Africa, California, Ohio and New York.”

The artists featured represent several decades of Wayland’s history and varied career fields. The show will include the work of Travis Bennett, 1999 graduate; the late Debbe Brightbill, 2007 ex; Mary Byrd, 2001 graduate; Matthew Callahan, 1992 graduate; Wilson Kigen Cheptoo, 1986 graduate; Amanda Dyson, 2006 graduate; Tim Fisher, 2007 graduate; Joe Garnett, 1964 ex; Bettye Givens, 1968 graduate; Esther Gonzales, 2003 graduate; Gary Gray, 1979 graduate; Chad Johnson, 2003 graduate; Lara Manley, 2005 graduate; Clorene McDonald, 1992 graduate; Curtis Morales, 2005 graduate; Richard Porter, 1987 graduate; Joe Provence, 1966 graduate; Michelle Sanders, 2008 graduate; and Danny Smith, 1984 graduate.

Though the students share the Wayland experience, what they accomplished after their years in Plainview varies greatly. Pampa native Dyson, for example, is a talented painter whose work has been enriched by recent internships in Dublin, Ireland, the Guggenheim in New York and presently in Santa Fe, N.M. Garrett, a resident of Lockney, still remembers modestly his solo show in Wayland’s Van Howeling Library in the 1960s, and his self-portrait is included in the show, along with The Doors album cover that inspired the show’s title. He completed an art degree at California Art Institute.

Cheptoo, a Kenyan runner who came to Wayland on a track scholarship, discovered a creative ability as an artist and craftsman while here. Now back in Kenya, he has continued his innovation by building a school for children with his own hands, giving opportunity and encouragement to a new generation of African children. Proceeds from the sale of his work will benefit the school in Africa, and photographs of the school and its progress are included in the alumni exhibit.

A special part of the exhibit will be the work of former student Debbe Brightbill, who studied art with Keller for four years before she died in 2007. Keller called Brightbill “a remarkable colorist and acrylic painter who was an inspiration to fellow students.” Friends and loved ones established an art scholarship in her name upon her death, and memorials are being accepted for that fund to continue the legacy of the arts at Wayland.

The alumni art show runs through March 26 at the gallery, which is located in the lower level of the Mabee Learning Resources Center. The exhibit is free and open to the public during regular gallery hours: 10-5 Monday through Thursday, 10-4 Friday and 2-5 Saturday. For more information, contact the gallery at (806) 291-3710.