Department of Art and Art History Faculty

Q+A with alumnus Dave Woody and Professor Teresa Hubbard

Wed. September 30, 2015

Dave Woody received a B.F.A. in Photography from Colorado State University in Fort Collins and an M.F.A. in Studio Art from The University of Texas at Austin in 2007. In 2009 he was the winner of the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, which is a competition open to all media. As a result, the National Portrait Gallery commissioned him to make a portrait of Alice Waters, activist and chef. That portrait was unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery in January 2012.

Woody has lived and taught in Colorado and Virginia, and has exhibited throughout the country and internationally. He currently teaches photography at Humboldt State University in California. His photographs have appeared in The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Elle Decor, and M Le Magazine Du Monde.

He answered questions from Teresa Hubbard, the William and Bettye Nowlin Professor in Photography.

man in glasses and white shirt poses for photo
Image courtesy of Dave Woody.

Teresa Hubbard: For me, one of the most powerful elements in your photographs is how your images make me reflect on what it means to be alone. The French writer, philosopher and literary theorist, Maurice Blanchot, a ‘camera shy’ kind of person during his lifetime, remarked about himself as a writer, that it was comical to recognize his solitude by addressing a reader and by using methods that actually prevented him from being alone. How do you see this quality of what I’d describe as a kind of exquisite ‘aloneness’ in your work?

Dave Woody: I think what you see in my work is a trace of my interaction with the people that I photograph. The place from which I approach people is one of curiosity—I’m an introverted person and I use the camera as a way to engage with the world. With a portrait one is able to look again and again with impunity. That desire on my part to look often feels like it comes from a lonely place.

The subjects I choose often stand out in a quiet kind of way. What I look for in an image is when there is some kind of 'slippage' between public and private identity, although I hesitate to go as far as Diane Arbus in showing the sadness of that disparity. I’m looking for a moment where a person appears stripped of self-consciousness and reveals a vulnerable quality.

man standing in front of wire fence
Pacific #6, 2014, archival digital print, 16 x 20 inches

I remember one of our critiques in which you said my work sometimes was too nice—that it could stand to be sharpened up a bit—and I often think of that conversation. It’s the need as an artist to go beyond mere flattery and to edge into something deeper about the human experience.

TH: What is the role, or what kind of humor is to be found there?

DW: If I see humor in my work it tends to involve that 'slippage'—how someone believes they are presenting a certain image to the world can be at odds with how the world may perceive them. Again, I try not to be cruel, but I like to subvert notions of masculinity or toughness—I like finding a moment in which a tough façade is replaced by something soft or gentle. This all gets at the fictive nature of photography—that these images are split second moments chosen by me to reveal something more about what I want to say about the world and less about some kind of truth about the person portrayed.

man standing on trail by hill
Pacific #12, 2015, archival digital print, 16 x 20 inches

TH: How has your life and work changed since graduating?

DW: I’ve taught at several different universities, photographing along the way. I’m currently in Northern California at Humboldt State University. I got married, and my wife and I have a 4-year-old daughter, so that has been a big change in life. Most of my life is devoted to either my family or photography in some form or another.

I see some of my work evolving into an exploration of a kind of 'social documentary'—where my concerns are less insular and private—and this reflects my own interest in examining current issues in the U.S.

person standin in distance by hill and river
Pacific #2, 2015, archival digital print, 16 x 20 inches

TH: What are you working on now?

DW: I’m currently working on a series along the Highway 101—of hitchhikers and travelers and homeless people, and the landscape along the highway.

I’m also working on a series of color images of gender-neutral persons—I find it fascinating that our way of thinking of gender is evolving so rapidly. I’d like viewers to come away from the experience thinking primarily about what it means to be human, regardless of the idea of gender.

Design Course with Kate Catterall responds to campus carry lesgislation

Wed. September 30, 2015

people sitting in auditorium

Campus Carry: A Design Response

Using anticipatory design methods, students in the Design in the Social Environment course, Fall 2015, will explore design-centric approaches to changes that may be precipitated at The University of Texas at Austin after S.B. 11 is implemented in August 2016.

Students will focus on social and physical transformations of the environment as they research the legal and constitutional questions central to SB 11. They will explore the history, design and marketing of weapons; weapons storage; body armor (textiles/other); and other pertinent artifacts.

They will research every aspect of safety, security and defense in relation to the body, mind, in both public space and learning environments—ultimately designing a range of speculative design proposals.

Presentations and research materials will be archived in a course blog.

Guest speakers include:

Caitlin Sulley: a Research Project Director at the Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault at the School of Social Work at The University of Texas at Austin. She will speak about the Campus Carry legislation from the Institute's perspective.

Jose Perez: a veteran and recent graduate of the graduate program in Design, M.F.A. 2015. He will present his recent speculative design work the function of which oscillates between therapeutic tool and means of communicating information about difficult mental health issues.

Officer Peiper: an officer in the university police department, will speak about campus security past, present and future.

Raul Comacho: Safety Measures

Representatives from Texas Law Shield

Cody Wilson: Defense Distributed

Makers of the Liberator Pistol

Leslie Mutchler and Jason Urban present paper at Impact 9: Printmaking in the Post-Print Age

Wed. September 30, 2015

Image courtesy of the artists.

Leslie Mutchler and Jason Urban will present at a conference entitled, IMPACT 9: Printmaking in the Post-Print Age. The conference will occur at at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, China and is sponsored by the Center for Fine Print Research at University of West England.

Their essay, "Assembly," examines the rewards of labor, the value of the handmade, and the relationship of maker and consumer, through the work of contemporary print artists.

Nicole Awai listed in 10 Caribbean Artists You Should Know

Wed. September 16, 2015

colorful design drawing
Image courtesy of the artist.

Nicole Awai listed in African and Afro–Diaspora Art Talks' 10 Caribbean Artists You Should Know.

Leslie Mutcher and Jason Urban present at IMPACT 9: Printmaking in the Post-Print Age

Mon. September 14, 2015

white overlapping hexagon and cube forms on green background

Leslie Mutcher and Jason Urban present at IMPACT 9: Printmaking in the Post-Print Age. This year's conference will be held in Hangzhou, China in September.

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