All of Professor Josephine Durkin’s students receive a list of galleries and museums they must visit. There is a simple lesson in her list: “You have to show up.” What she means is that becoming an artist is about becoming a part of a community.
“Looking at art drives you to want to make art,” said Durkin.
With training from the Lorenzo di Medici School of Art in Florence, Italy, and a Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture from Yale University, Durkin came to teach in the A&M-Commerce art program in 2006. The budding designers and sculptors under her tutelage learn from her example. She shows up in a big way.
“Every other Saturday there is a gallery opening somewhere in the Metroplex,” Durkin said. “I try to get out to an exhibit whenever I can. I’m often supporting friends.”
Sometimes those friends return the favor and show up as guest judges for her students’ 3-D Fashion Show here on campus. She knows it is not always what her students have in mind when they sign up for a 3-D design class.
In one class she asks students to choose two objects to recreate in miniature using only white paper. The project is inexpensive, and it forces each student to focus on craft. “I’m interested in turning students into problem solvers,” Durkin said.
In the fall Durkin will turn her problem solvers to “The Rolling Dog Project,” initiated by Jerry West. “He creates these sort of wheelchairs for disabled dogs out of PVC, nylon straps and plastic wheels. I thought, ‘Here’s an opportunity for students to use shop tools and maybe figure out a better design in the 3-D class,” she said. In addition to her work with West’s project, she supports Operation Kindness in North Texas and runs 5Ks that benefit animals.
When Durkin needed an art assistant in her studio this summer, her connections in the local art community came through. John Frost, whom Durkin had been paired with at the Museum of Modern Art at Fort Worth, recommended one of his top students, Harrison Lin. As dedicated as his mentor, Lin drove from Dallas to Commerce every day for two weeks and worked in the studio for seven hours—without pay. Still, the 18-year-old was compensated with a whole new skillset and a piece of art, making him a better artist and collector.
Durkin is tireless in her own artistic contributions. Her work has appeared in a steady stream of solo and group exhibitions from Canada to Austria to Italy and London and all over the United States. Her recent work with the Dallas Contemporary—including her sculpture, “There Within Reach”—garnered the attention of director of exhibitions, Erin Cluley, who recently announced her departure from the Dallas Contemporary to open her own gallery in Trinity Groves in Dallas. Durkin is among the first artists to exhibit in the new gallery.
“This is the kind of opportunity I’ve been working toward,” said Durkin.
Learn more about “The Rolling Dog Project” by searching on Facebook. Operation Kindness is online at operationkindness.org. Durkin currently teaches 3-D Design, Sculpture, Contemporary Issues in Art and Video in Art. View more of her work and find out about her upcoming events at josephinedurkin.com.