50 years of professors collaborate for anniversary art show

A painting by James Templer, former COM art professor, leads the COM Art Gallery’s exhibition featuring art from 14 professors who taught throughout the college’s 50-year history.

Max-Karl Winkler, the first College of the Mainland art professor, hired in 1968 and 13 other art professors have collaborated to present the College of the Mainland 50th anniversary art exhibition now through Oct. 27.

Participating artists include Winkler (COM’s first art professor who later became a scientific illustrator at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.), J. Todd Allison, Nick Barbee, Lydia Bodnar-Balahutrak, Douglas Cason, Janet Y. Hassinger, Marilyn J. Heath, Cynthia Leigh-Nussenblatt, Mona J. Marshall, Elizabeth Polifka, Odette Ruben, Debra Rueb, James R. Templer and Jean Carruthers Wetta.

In preparation for the exhibit many professors reminisced on their trailblazing years at COM.

“Many of the artists we brought to speak at COM were nationally known: Wayne Thiebaud, Neil Welliver, Rackstraw Downes, Janet Fish, Pat Stier, Jane Freilicher and Paul Georges. In addition, because ARCO Pipeline awarded COM Gallery a grant for the new realism exhibition, I travelled to New York to visit many of these artists in their studios,” said Jean Carruthers Wetta, who was a COM professor and later COM Art Gallery director from 1979-1984 and now paints full time near New York City.

The hundreds of students mentored throughout two decades of teaching stand out to Mona Marshall.

“I remember the highly motivated students who worked hard to find their own voice and challenged themselves to make excellent quality prints. I loved those first days each semester in the darkroom when students saw an image magically form on the paper,” said Marshall, who taught drawing, photography and Intro to Visual Arts from 1979-2010.“Most of all I enjoyed the dialogues, and talking to students who brought different world views to the class.”

COM art students and professors’ legacy continues to thrive.

“The Salt Grass Potters had its origin in the ceramics program at COM. It started as a club in 1974 when several like-minded students from COM joined to expand their interest in clay outside the classroom,” said Marilyn Heath, who taught at COM from 1972-78 and is a docent at The Contemporary Austin. “Since that time, The Salt Grass Potters have grown, and it functions today as a potters’ guild and is still active in Houston.”

Professors look forward to many more years of mentoring students.

“I am thankful for the time I spent at COM as I was able to meet and work with some great people and valued the welcoming attitude of the COM culture,” said J. Todd Allison, a current professor at San Jacinto College - Central.

Committed to making contemporary artwork accessible, the COM Art Gallery is free and open to the public. Exhibits are created and coordinated with speakers and other events to promote the area's richly diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

The gallery is located in the COM Fine Arts Building and open Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., one hour before COM Community Theatre performances and by appointment.

For more information, please contact 409-933-8354 or 409-933-8348 or visit www.com.edu/gallery.

In honor of the college’s 50th anniversary, the College of the Mainland Art Gallery is displaying photographs, paintings, ceramics and mixed media art from art professors who taught at COM in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.

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