Tarleton’s Wells Gallery Hosts ‘My Jesse James Adventure’

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STEPHENVILLE, Texas — The Tarleton State University Department of Fine Arts will present the inventive multimedia installation “My Jesse James Adventure” by Colette Copeland in the Clyde H. Wells Gallery of Art in Stephenville, Aug. 24-Sept. 19.

The exhibition is free for students, staff and faculty. Copeland will give a public lecture at a later date.

The installation centers around personal research of the artist’s infamous ancestor — the outlaw Jesse James. It includes a 22-channel video and framed solar plate etchings, as well as original music composed by Dallin B. Peacock and an audio guide featuring Dallas actor Ike Duncan.

Copeland’s fascination with James stems from childhood family lore. Her great-great-grandmother’s second husband, Billy James, was Jesse James’ first cousin.

Over the past three summers, the artist traveled to places where Jesse James lived, filming and leaving her DNA in the form of a lock of hair at each site. The performative journey/quest spanned nine states and more than 4,000 miles.

The project addresses the mythos of criminals, specifically how cultural icons like Jesse James are presented in books, film, comics and historical sites, as well as the fascination with DNA networks such as ancestrydna.com.

Copeland is a visual artist, arts educator, social activist and cultural critic/writer based in Dallas-Fort Worth. Her work has appeared in 25 solo exhibitions and 143 group exhibitions/festivals in 35 countries. She teaches photography and contemporary studio practices at Collin College and UT Dallas.

She earned her BFA from the Pratt Institute in New York and her MFA from Syracuse University. She received a Leeway Foundation Award for Art & Change and the 2020 Kevin Mullins Memorial Award.

She writes cultural and arts criticism for Glasstire, Arteidolia and Eutopia Contemporary Art Reviews, and has been published in numerous other journals and publications. She volunteers with organizations that help sex-trafficked youth and also teaches dance at juvenile detention facilities.

A founding member of The Texas A&M University System, Tarleton transforms generations by inspiring discovery, leadership and inclusion through teaching and research. Degree programs for more than 14,000 students in Stephenville, Fort Worth, Waco, Midlothian, at RELLIS Academic Alliance in Bryan, and online emphasize real-world learning that addresses regional needs while sustaining the values of excellence, integrity and respect.

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