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TMCC Voices: Candace Garlock

Rebecca A. Eckland
art professor candace garlock

Art Professor Candace Garlock's work as an artist and educator focuses on creating and fostering connections.

Candace Garlock has been at TMCC since 2005 when, as a part time instructor, she taught Printmaking, Visual Foundations and started a nonprofit, community print shop with the help of some of her students. “I liked being an artist in the community. I thought: I’m going to keep doing exactly this.” This impulse to teach and to create has been a lifelong passion—and one that has fostered an appreciation for connection in Garlock’s work, both as a professional artist and teacher.

These days, Garlock is a full-time faculty member who's interested in connections: her work cross-pollinates with several media, genres as well as in research and critical processes. For Garlock, art shouldn’t be contained within the art room: rather, it’s an expression of how works relate to the artist and the world around them. “It amazes me that people don’t encourage others to think: ‘OK, you’re in math and how are you learning math and art?’ ‘Or, you’re in art—and all these other classes—how do they connect?’” she asked.

Creating “Nevada” Art

Garlock’s art, which is a fusion of printmaking, painting and digital photography, has been described as “Nevada inspired.”

“I wasn’t aware that my work was very ‘Nevada’ until I went to graduate school [in Boise]. Other graduate students in the program and professors kept asking about my colors and my space,” she said.

As a fifth generation Nevada resident, she wondered what it was about this place that had influenced her art. “There are a lot of things we take for granted… the casinos and the cocktail waitresses, the slot machines—we would walk through this as kids on our way to the restaurants.” Garlock describes the brightly colored spaces, layered in patterns that don’t make sense as an aesthetic that raised questions she addresses in her work.

Garlock’s latest artist statement captures these central questions: “I came to the conclusion that all my work really has to do with relationships. Humans have an instinct not to trust, to look upon another with a lens of self-preservation. But, at the same time, we seek understanding, connection and love. There is a beauty—a vulnerability—within each of us and there is always hope that we can each find the relationship that we most desire.”

In other words, Garlock’s work explores this territory of relationships and interconnectedness among all things.

What Art Can Give Students

The potential for any art—and artist—is in the willingness to create something that has the danger of failing. “Art is really good for students because it teaches them that it’s OK to fail. Everyone needs to in order to learn.” The creative spark—and willingness to risk failure—are the first steps toward a life in the arts. “Having a creative idea is maybe 7% of any project,” she said. "The other 93%? That’s doing the work knowing there will be a lot of failures in there.”

Garlock also finds value in the creative process—and not just its end result. “Art is an equation,” she said. “Math is like art. I always tell people—if you have the number 4, how do you get there? There’s 1+3, 2+2, 1x4—all these ways to get to the number 4.” The choice of one method over another is what we would call “process.” And, for art: process is key.

In a world where the answer to any question is a matter of how fast you can type the question into a Google search bar, understanding the steps you need to make it to the conclusion can make all the difference in the world.

TMCC’s Approach to Art

Garlock sees herself as both a teacher and an artist—two roles that can’t be separated. “When I’m working with a group of students, we’re learning together. If I present a project in the right way, I give them the opportunity to solve something, and then, I learn from them. It’s a give-and-take,” she said. For Garlock, true learning is a collaborative effort: something that people have to do together.

This student-centered approach is extended to the Galleries Practices and Portfolio Emphasis classes where students are expected to do the work themselves in every step of every process. This includes not only creating art, but also hanging it.

“Our galleries aren’t perfectly hung, but it’s done by the students because it empowers them,” she said. “We don’t ever say: ‘watch me hang this gallery.’” Instead, TMCC Art Students hang their own work, market their work, learn how to value (and price) their work—and do everything they will need to do in order to work as a professional artist in the community.

“That’s one of the strengths of TMCC—we’re here to facilitate student experiences, but it’s up to them to do the work,” said Garlock. To be an artist is to sign up for a lifetime of being engrossed in art. “You have to always be making art, either with a sketchbook or digitally with an iPad. Because art literally is going to become your life.”

Connecting to Community

Art is as much a part of creation as it is connection. In order to succeed, Garlock encourages her students to pursue opportunities in the community to not only show their work, but to volunteer, intern or find part time jobs in the industry. “It is all about networking,” she said.

Garlock has enhanced her connections to artistic communities to include regional and national organizations. She is heavily involved in the National Printmaking world, and also co-founded Rocky Mountain Print Alliance, which is planning on hosting a conference in 2021. She also participates in the Southern Graphics Council International (SGCI), an organization that meets once a year at an annual conference. Last year, Garlock was co-chair of the conference in Las Vegas, and she organized a print exchange called “mentoring circles” and participates as a mentor through mentoring services offered to others at the conference.

Perhaps it is fitting that an artist whose work fuses media is borne of a campus community known for its collaboration. The challenge—and the gift—of art is its capacity to open dialogues between worlds, to invite cross-pollination and to get students to see perspectives beyond their technical capacity to re-create it in a sketch or painting.

“TMCC is a unique community,” said Garlock. “It’s a place where you get these little birds and transform them.” The transformation happens when students learn to embrace their fear in order to embark on a new, unknown project... and when they can accept that art, like math (and most things in life) is a lot of work.