On Tuesday, Sept. 6, Tara Hufford Walker presented “Subject Matters” in the Steckline Gallery at Newman University. Students, faculty, and friends gathered to enjoy this “Art for Lunch” event hosted by Associate Professor of Art and Director of Visual Arts Mary Werner, MFA. Not only is a free lunch provided, but also this event gives Newman students the opportunity to hear about the artist’s background, inspiration, and artistic process firsthand.
Walker said that ever since she was 4 years old, she knew she wanted to be an artist. Her childhood consisted of making clothing for her Barbie dolls, building a variety of crafts out of shoe boxes, and decorating her bedroom as a way of expressing herself.
“Growing up, I always knew that I’d go to college,” Walker said. “My parents were very encouraging of me pursuing my passions but also my education. I started off as an art major, but I understood that I needed a job with security in order to support myself.”
Walker graduated with a degree in Art Education from Wichita State University in 1979, and immediately began her life in the "real world," she said. “I got married on Saturday, graduated from college on Sunday, and was hired at Andover Elementary by Monday,” Walker said.
Her career as an art teacher took her from John Marshall Middle School to North High School. It was here that Walker worked for 14 years, won the Teacher of the Year award, and was recognized by the City of Wichita.
After her mother passed away, Walker said she had a life-changing experience. “In 2003, I attended the exhibit, ‘St. Peter and the Vatican: The Legacy of the Popes,’” Walker said. “I felt that all of the shiny gold and jewels did not represent real people and faith.”
Soon after viewing the exhibit, Walker said she became inspired by artist James Rosenquist and started creating her own pop art collages. “While pop art may be flashy, it uses real imagery," Walker said. "I think seeing Rosenquist’s work is what helped me put a finger on what it was that attracted me, and made me realize there was someone out there I really related to.”
After her presentation, Walker answered questions from attendees. Sophomore Kenneth Santiago said that he particularly enjoyed Walker’s piece, “Golden Triangle.”
“I got the impression that the image was addressing how women today are being shaped into what society wants them to be rather than who they want to be,” Santiago said. “I thought the artwork made an important statement.”
Walker concluded the event by sharing a piece of advice that sophomore students Claire Setter and Anthony Navarrete said they especially appreciated. “It doesn’t matter what you do, just do it,” Walker said. “Be curious, because more often than not, inspiration does not just come to you. Finally, do not let others discourage you. If you enjoy something, challenge yourself and go practice doing it.”
Editor's Note: Walker is the daughter of former Newman Professor of Education Don Hufford, Ph.D., who retired in 2014.