SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald
Fortunately, for Fort Lewis College, Homecoming 2011 means more than just football.
This class reunion has a special meaning as FLC celebrates its 100th birthday, and a group of artistic Skyhawks alumni (and a Raider or two) are sharing the fruits of their post-college labor with the Distinguished Art Alumni Exhibition this month in FLC’s art gallery.
The show features five FLC alumni; locals Karyn Gabaldon and Lorna Meaden are joined by Tim Louis Graham of Chicago, Victor Pascual of Seattle and Gunnison artist Shannon Lowry.
Gabaldon is likely the most well known, at least around these parts. Her namesake art gallery is a Main Avenue fixture and she has been at the forefront of Durango’s art scene for more than 30 years. Her contribution to the exhibit is one of several of her unmistakable paintings. Gabaldon is one of the only Southwest painters with an Asian flair – it’s an unlikely combination, but she pulls it off with masterful use of color that suggests real landscapes, though there’s rarely anything recognizable.
The antique-looking but very modern ceramic pieces in the exhibit are Meaden’s. She’s not only a successful ceramicist, she also teaches in FLC’s art department. Graham’s work is also easy to spot. Installations are his specialty, and he added vibrant blue neon to the gallery. His installation art have also been on display in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.
Pascual owns DGTL/NVJO, a creative design studio, and he’s the most high-tech of the alumni. He earned his degree in graphic design. Lowry also is an installation artist, so there’s very little unused space in the gallery for the alumni exhibition.
The show was assembled by Chad Colby, an assistant professor of art history and former interim director of the FLC art gallery. He’s currently abroad on sabbatical, but the show was expertly curated by new director Elizabeth Gand, who took over in August. In an email from Mexico, Colby said the show was a concerted effort to strengthen ties with art alumni and to create an annual event. The current art faculty devised a long list of possible participants and whittled it down based on diversity and other factors.
“By ‘distinguished,’ we were looking for alumni with some record of professional success in the art world after graduation,” Colby said.
“We were looking to balance the offerings amongst different media in order to highlight what we do in the program. Fortunately, all five that were asked said ‘yes,’ and you can thank Dr. Gand for putting all of the details in place for a successful show.”
Friday’s opening was packed, and earlier in the day, a group of art students crowded the gallery for a Q&A with Gabaldon, Graham and Meaden (Pascual and Lowry could not attend). One question dominated the vocationally motivated minds of the budding artists: How do you make money in art?
“We all had the same answer – if you want to make money, do something else,” Gabaldon said, laughing.
“It’s a career that’s a passion, and very few people get rich off it, and none of us have. I had a teacher who said that, and I said ‘OK I’ll show you.’ I kind of have, but it’s been really hard, too. I feel like I’ve been lucky.”
Gand said she’ll probably continue what Colby started and have alumni shows a regular part of the gallery’s rotation.
“I think it’s both inspiring and fun, especially for the students, because it shows so many diverse paths that someone can take with an art education,” Gand said.
The Distinguished Art Alumni Exhibition will remain on display through Oct. 29 and will be followed by the exhibit “Animas Perdidas” beginning Nov. 4.