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Studio art sophomore aspires to represent Texan identity through portraiture

Studio art sophomore aspires to represent Texan identity through portraiture

Studio art sophomore aspires to represent Texan identity through portraiture
March 05
10:33 2022
Courtesy of Carter CordesCourtesy of Carter CordesCourtesy of Carter Cordes
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Courtesy of Carter Cordes

Texas is home to more than 29 million people and more than 250,000 square miles from one border to border. Studio art sophomore Carter Cordes is set on highlighting the nuance of the diverse Texan identity through painting.

Cordes, 19, is planning to create a portrait series based on how Texans’ lives are shaped by the state they call home. The idea first popped into her head as she prepared to graduate from a fine arts high school in her native town Austin.

“When talking about college, there was a lot of judgment where people were going and if you were staying in Texas or not,” Cordes said. “I started to think a lot more about what people’s internal biases are.”

Cordes saw friends and colleagues leave Austin to study at art schools in New York and California while she chose UNT. She said she was drawn to the notion that Texas is considered less-than when it comes to the arts.

While the project was born from the idea that stigma exists around the arts in Texas, Cordes said she has maintained supportive friendships with other artists from her high school.

“Coming from that artistic community in Austin, I have all these friends that went to art school,” Cordes said. “We all still talk online and compliment each other’s work. Seeing each other’s creative process even though we aren’t together is so cool.”

Cordes has also discovered a new support system at the university, including her friend and studio art sophomore Camryn Hawks.

“She told me about her project to represent different Texan identities that weren’t just the typical cowboy you think of,” Hawks, 19, said. “Since she focuses on portraiture, I thought a project about representation was a good concept for her.”

Cordes was immersed in the art world at a young age as her father, who is also a painter, encouraged her to explore her creative side. Throughout her adolescence, she said the pair spent hours painting outside and working through online art courses that he purchased.

“It was great to have somebody in my life that was really supportive and understood that I kept wanting to learn,” Cordes said. “He wants me to pursue art to the fullest that I can.”

After starting out with graphite portraits, she ultimately fell in love with oil painting. Cordes said she was not passionate about any medium until oil paint, which her dad introduced her to.

“I like the practicality of it,” Cordes said. “I like the tradition.”

In high school, Cordes was heavily impacted by works painted by 17th-century baroque artists Artemisia Gentileschi and Caravaggio. She said what stood out most to her was the intense drama that oil painting can bring out.

More recently, Cordes has taken inspiration from John Singer Sargent whose art is aligned with the realism movement. Hawk said her favorite thing about Cordes’ art is the nonrealism aspects she has within her realism art.

“I feel like she’s moved past the part where she is focused primarily on recreating life and is at the point where she can break the art rules,” Hawk said.

Plano resident Kaamilah Ali, 19, was Cordes’ freshman year roommate and posed for a portrait last year. Since they lived together, she witnessed as the piece developed into its final form.

“Seeing the finished product was insane,” Ali said. “I felt honored that she wanted to paint me and I thought she did an outstanding job.”

For now, Cordes said she plans to complete two oil paintings for the project using photographs and incorporating information gained through interviews. Eventually, she hopes to have enough pieces for a showing.

“I would love for there to be a way where the viewer of the art also experiences the interview, but I just haven’t figured it out yet,” Cordes said.

Featured Image: Carter Cordes sits in the art studio of the City Parc apartments on Feb. 20, 2022. Photo by Maria Crane

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Connor Patterson

Connor Patterson

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