TASI Tenants Tip of 2012 – 2013 Season with Eclectic Art Exhibit

ISSUE Magazine: September 2012 | Story by Jaqueline Hays

Artist Abigail McLaurin works in her space at The Art Studio in preparation for the annual Tenants Show, opening Sept. 1. Photo by John Rollins

Abigail McLaurin may be small in stature, but the work she produces certainly isn’t.

If one ventures upstairs at the Art Studio, Inc. on any given day, they will most likely find McLaurin sketching as far as she can reach on canvases wider than her arm span in her signature skirt and tank, with glasses teetering on the bridge of her nose or pushed up on her forehead, as sweat beads on her face — usually with charcoal, pastels, or dirt smeared on her arms, and quite possibly her face, as she labors over her art.

Some of McLaurin’s pieces are so large, she makes them in sections so they can be shipped easier.

“I like the big pieces,” the 25 year-old Charlotte, N.C. native said, with a scrunched nose, while contorting her hands into claws. “It’s like they want to eat you.”

Her current works depict family settings and people from the late forties and early fifties.

“I am very interested in the era,” she said. “Particularly the position of women and children within the family.”

She evaluates the proximity of women in relation to the family unit. She is exploring the role of women of the era as the nurturers and caregivers of children parallel to that of  nurtures to men, e.g. their husbands.

Her space at TASI is littered with old family photos, massive renditions of the photos, newspaper clippings, and small blank canvases.

She said she is trying to create smaller, more affordable works, but it is difficult for her — that is why the smaller canvases are blank.

The Beaumont newcomer, who is a full-time artist, didn’t waste anytime after moving to the area to find a space to facilitate her rather large drawings.

“I looked up The Studio the first day,” she said.

McLaurin said she was pleasantly surprised to find a place that catered to the art community in Southeast Texas and was thankful she was able to find a proper studio in which to create. She also takes advantage of the company of other artists.

She said it is not so much a collaborative element she enjoys, just that there are other artists around to take breaks with and vent about problems with their work, or to talk to about exciting, new elements.

Although McLaurin has had other exhibitions and does commissioned work, she is currently readying her contributions to the annual Tenant’s Show, opening Sept. 1, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Currently, there are twenty tenants and fourteen plan to have pieces in the exhibition.

McLaurin feels that the community, not just the art community, but the larger community, would benefit from coming to the show.

“They can see what is going on,” she said.

McLaurin believes that art is a reflection of society.

“An artist’s job is to ask questions,” she said. “These questions lead to conversations from the viewer.”

The power of art will be represented by a wide array of artists at the exhibition that kicks off the 2012-2013 season.

Kaillee Viator, Lamar University art student and TASI tenant, said she has learned a lot from residing at The Studio.

“We all kind of do different things — we have sculptors and painters — and Abby does huge freaking paintings and those are pretty  amazing,” Viator said.

“Some do huge monumental paintings, and others do teenie-tiny little things, and as far as ceramics, some people do totally non-representational things and then others do flowers.”

Another contributing factor to Viator’s TASI education is the mixture of the different tenants of different ages.

“I am turning 22 next month — I am the baby here.”

All different types of art produced at The Studio happen to be generational because of the wide array of ages of the tenants.

Viator said at the end of spring semester she was faced with the dilemma:  get a real job or just do something. She decided to come to TASI — even though she doesn’t get paid.

“It has been a really awesome experience and I have made a lot of really good connections, but I haven’t really sold anything,” she said. “I have been able to take part in hanging shows and curating — cool stuff like that.”

She feels she has grown up a lot being at The Studio.

“I am pretty childish for the most part,” she said in a comedic voice, “but I am turning into an adult — or something.”

She said this maturity has progressed from hanging around the artists at The Studio.

“I hang around people that are decades older than me, and we still have conversations. I think that is cool,” she said, adding that she thinks more seriously about her art now.

“Obviously, I think more seriously about it, I go to school for it, but it doesn’t always work out that way,” she said.

While some of the pieces at the exhibition may not be for sale, most of the work, including Viator’s, will be.

Viator said she appreciates that there is a place for artists to create and to show their work in a small city like Beaumont.

“It is not an art community kind of place, but it is starting to be, “ she said.  “It is definitely getting that way.”

Tenants Suzanne Garrett, left, and Sandra Laurette work in their space at The Art Studio.

Tenants will be in their work spaces for the first hour of the Tenant’s Show reception so patrons can get to know them and see where and how they work.

The exhibition is free and open to anyone, and refreshments will be provided.

The Art Studio, Inc. is located at 720 Franklin in downtown Beaumont.  For information, call 409-838-5393.