By Luke Newby/reporter

A March 1 reception marked the opening of a new art exhibit, Vertebrate Vanguard, now on display in NW Campus’ Lakeview Gallery.

The artist, Nathan Porterfield, an adjunct art professor at Tarleton State University, created the art using mixed media and drawings.

Vertebrate Vanguard is about how we as humans have this place at the top,” Porterfield said. “We are at the vanguard of existence as we know it.”

Remembership, Nathan Porterfield
Remembership, Nathan Porterfield
Photo by Robert Burn/The Collegian

Porterfield’s pieces are a mix of materials ranging from cardboard and matches to paint and canvas.

“That’s part of the energy of these pieces as well,” he said. “I’m reaching and learning about the history of these pieces, and it’s up to me as the creator. My job as the artist is to bring the life out of these pieces. I don’t have a direct overarching theme in my work, so I allow these things to seep in little by little.”

Porterfield didn’t start out as a mixed-media artist.

“I studied printmaking in school and wanted to make prints but didn’t have resources,” he said. “The seed of this work was starting to use what I had at hand. I started reaching out into disciplines I didn’t know much about, and I was excited because every time I made a mistake, there was a disappointment but a huge learning lesson.”

Potent Engine: We Have an Old Mother that Peevish is Grown, Nathan Porterfield
Potent Engine: We Have an Old Mother that Peevish is Grown, Nathan Porterfield
Photo by Robert Burn/The Collegian

His influences range from everyday life with his son to philosophy and American history.

“I’ve been really enamored by American history,” Porterfield said. “I’m especially interested in individuals who have given their lives over to a cause.”

Porterfield’s historical influences are individuals like Frederick Douglass, whose prayer regarding his liberation from 20 years of slavery helped shape one of the pieces on display. Martin Luther King Jr.’s galvanizing words on fighting racism also help summarize what it means to be a vanguard of freedom and inspired the work.

Only the Dead, Nathan Porterfield
Only the Dead, Nathan Porterfield
Photo by Robert Burn/The Collegian

“The absurd nature of what I’ve come to see as work are examples of individuals who represent the diversity of what the world has to offer, but all have some common existence and belief,” Porterfield said. “This idea that we’re writing our own story through free will. You have the power as an individual to manufacture moments to your greatest effect.”

Porterfield encouraged others to experiment and sometimes fail.

“The best part of experimentation is definitely the mistakes,” he said.