Department of Art and Art History Graduate Students

Q+A with Rachel Stuckey, MFA candidate in Studio Art

Thu. May 28, 2015

screen shot of rooms in fake internet house
Image courtesy of Rachel Stuckey.

Describe your background.

Rachel Stuckey: I'm a third generation Austinite who grew up enthusiastically participating in my high school film literacy course, Center for Young Cinema classes, and youth events at SXSW and Austin Film Festival. I spent the first couple years of my undergraduate studies at the Savannah College of Art and Design's film program and finished at the University of Colorado at Boulder's Experimental Film program, which is where I received my BFA. While in Boulder, I worked for the International Film Series and First Person Cinema, an avant-garde film showcase that has run since 1955. I also taught an after school video art class hosted by Boulder LGBT Pride and the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. I moved back to Austin to do freelance film and video work and establish Experimental Response Cinema, a volunteer-run micro cinema.

Why did the Studio Art program at UT Austin appeal to you?

RS: After several years of work and study in exclusively film and video environments, I wanted to expand beyond the relatively small community of experimental cinema for my graduate studies by working in a mixed-disciplinary program. Transmedia's video/digital media/performance hybrid approach, nestled within a larger studio art program, along with the department's awesome faculty, UT's research resources, and the media arts community in Austin — UT was a perfect fit. I also hope to teach, so having the opportunity to TA has been wonderful.

You're wrapping up your second year in the graduate program. You've been working on a new project, Welcome to my Homepage!. How does this work depart or act as a continuation of your previous video work?

RS: Welcome to my Homepage! is a project that, unlike my single-channel video works, is changing all the time. It's an expanding cyber-dwelling that begins with the recognizable layout of a house and reaches further and further into the abstract ether of the web. It houses smaller video works and other digital art works as I make them and is also hyperlinked with projects I've made on New Hive and Tumblr, meaning unsuspecting users of those sites could encounter a doorway that routes them into the Homepage!.

It's part memory palace, part drafting board for new ideas, part net experiment. Homepage! also features a residency program, Welcome to my Guest Room!, where interested visitors can sign up to do whatever project they want in the attic space. Recently I've been using elements from Homepage! for a narrative video installation, T0WARD CY83RGN0S1S, that explores ways net-culture can manifest offline as technological occultism and internet-borne disorders.

small tv monitors in room with flowers and pink and purple light
Image courtesy of Rachel Stuckey and Hello Project. Photo by Jon Hopson.

You recently had an exhibition at Hello Project in Houston. What did you learn from the experience?

RS: Jon Hopson, Hello Project's director, approached me with the idea of building a show around a single-channel video work I had made. It was a nice push to start thinking more spatially about my video work in a very practical way, which has since influenced my practice in general. The installation included a single channel video, It Takes All Sorts, projected on an entire wall with surround sound audio that located the viewer in the middle of patronizing conversations, medical tests, and intercom announcements. Across the room were a collection of looping videos on monitors and arrangements of gaudy artificial flowers featured in the video, dimly lit in deep purple and hot pink.

Do you have any other shows coming up?

RS: I'll have a new projector performance in the New Media Art and Sound Summit in Austin on Thursday, June 11, and It Takes All Sorts will be screened in an experimental film event curated by Dani Leventhal at the Women's Studio Workshop in Rosendale, New York, this August.

Rachel Stuckey presents work in solo exhibition at Hello Project Gallery

Mon. May 4, 2015

blue flowers blooming in woodes
Image courtesy of the artist.

Rachel Stuckey (MFA candidate in Studio Art) presents her first solo exhibition at Hello Project Gallery. The exhibition, It Takes All Sorts, will be on view April 24 – May 23, 2015.

Juliet Whitsett talks about fighting cancer, raising children, and attending graduate school at UT Austin

Wed. April 29, 2015

family of mother father, twin toddlers, and teen boy pose for photo

Juliet Whitsett is a graduate student in Art Education and is writing her thesis on the principles that guide and motivate those who direct the Public Programs at the Friends of the High Line in New York. She is investigating how the recognition of these principles contributes to understandings regarding the development of art education in a community.

Whitsett received a BA in Art Education and certificate in Art in Special Education from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is proud to call herself as a teacher, public program coordinator, community arts educator, Salsa and Texas Swing dance instructor, plant lover, traveler, cancer survivor, stepmother to 13-year-old Kai, and mother to 3-year-old twin girls, Fischer and Sequoia.

She answered questions from Professor Paul Bolin by email.

Paul Bolin: Tell us about your background and what led you to the Art Education program at UT Austin.

Juliet Whitsett: When I was finishing my bachelor’s degree in Art Education, I told myself "There's no way I am applying for a job as an art teacher after graduation. I want to have some more adventures first.” So that’s what I did.

I moved from Madison to Austin and became an AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer teaching gardening to children. VISTA really shaped my life. I made contacts in the environmental education world, and I took a position as an Environmental Educator at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. I infused the arts into my entire curriculum, and I saw how they could be used to teach about the natural world.

After the Wildflower Center, I took a job as a guide with an international organization that leads trips for young adults to various parts of the world. Journeys focused on adventure travel, volunteerism, and language study. My work with them took me to the South Pacific and Central and South America. I landed in Mexico, where I lived for two years polishing up my Spanish and learning how to teach Salsa, and directing an art, dance, and Spanish camp for U.S. teens.

In 2009, I moved back to Austin. While working for a high-end landscape business, I discovered I had cancer. I spent six months in chemotherapy and one month undergoing radiation.

One day after a chemo session, I was listening to a piece on the radio about John Cage, and something about it made me reflect on creativity in a new and different way. I marveled at how he was so rewarded for his divergent thinking and how he followed so many visions. Hearing that flipped a switch and rekindled an interest in returning to my roots as an art educator. I took the GRE while undergoing radiation. A few months after I completed treatment, I began the Art Education program in the fall of 2010!

PB: What were the most challenging parts of the program, and conversely, the most rewarding?

JW: In the summer of 2011, I wanted to find an incredible internship. I wanted to work for the High Line in New York; however, the Public Programs Department of The Friends of the High Line did not have an internship program. I was fairly persistent and, recognizing that my experience with both art education and environmental education was the perfect fit, they accepted me as their first summer intern.

A few weeks before leaving for New York, I found out I was pregnant — with twins! Determined to fulfill my dream of living in New York for a summer, I spent the first three months of my pregnancy away from home, writing curriculum and executing public programs.

I encourage graduate students to find an internship that they really want. I learned so much and gained incredible contacts. I ended up working for Friends of the High Line the following year, writing some of their summer curriculum — Babies in Tote — from Austin. Eventually, the High Line's public programs became the subject of my thesis.
It is now 2015 and most of my classmates graduated in the spring of 2012. It has been a long haul. Writing a thesis while juggling sweet and inquisitive twins — now preschoolers — and a tween stepson, as well as working full-time and writing a thesis is challenging.

Now that I am in the throes of my final thesis edits and my last classes are wrapping up, it's starting to sink in that I really did this! I couldn't have done it without my loving husband's support or without the patience and confidence of you, my faculty adviser.

PB: Do you have plans once you finish the program?

JW: I’m going to do is celebrate my master's degree with my family and friends! I will continue to contribute to the world in a creative way, and right now, I’m enjoying teaching art and gardening at Austin Discovery School. In my younger years, I avoided Art Education in search of adventure. I'll be 40 this year and I have had my fair share of adventures, so I’m excited to embrace this next step.

Alumni Spotlight: Melissa Warak, PhD in Art History, 2014

Wed. April 22, 2015

woman in black dress with green stone necklace posing for portrait

Linda Dalrymple Henderson: Readers will be interested to hear about your interdisciplinary research focus. Can you talk about that and what led you to your interest in music and art, even before arriving at UT Austin?

Melissa Warak: I grew up in a musical household. My mother had trained as a classical pianist and we listened to classical music on the radio all the time when I was a child. In college, I worked in college radio and loved learning about experimental music, which tied nicely to my studies of art history and English. I found all of these great connections among artists, composers, and musicians that interested me enough to want to write about them.
LDH  :   How did the graduate program at UT Austin help you develop your interests in art history and other fields?

MW: My graduate coursework in modern and contemporary art really helped me hone my interests in the 1960s and in sound art. I took courses in Music, Germanic Studies,  History, and American Studies to develop my research skills in cultural histories and production. I found that my Art History professors encouraged my outside interests in music and metaphysical philosophy and even arranged introductions to faculty members across campus. I also learned that many other departments at UT Austin value the interdisciplinary research skills developed in the art history graduate program.
LDH: What role did your time as a Vivian Smith Fellow at the Menil Museum play in your graduate work?

MW: This fellowship allowed me to work firsthand with objects and archival material related to my dissertation. I was able to dive into my work completely. I proposed an exhibition (Takis: The Fourth Dimension, on view until July 2015) that was approved even after I finished the fellowship. I also had the opportunity to organize a two-day symposium on art and music, for which I invited prominent scholars in the field. My fellowship at the Menil Collection also allowed me to develop professional connections and relationships with artists, art historians, and other specialists across Texas, which has served me well in my present position at the University of Texas at El Paso.  
LDH: How did the program at UT Austin prepare you for your current position at UT El Paso and your work as a liaison between the university and the Judd Foundation?

MW: I teach art from 1850 to the present at UTEP, so having access to a broad range of graduate classes in modernism, theory, and contemporary art has served me well. UT Austin has had several graduates write on Donald Judd, including Adrian Kohn and David Raskin, and of course, Dr. Richard Shiff is a wonderful source for any students investigating Judd's legacy in Marfa. One of the books featured front and center in Judd's library in Marfa is Dr. Linda Henderson's book on the fourth dimension and non-Euclidean geometry, so I have always felt that there are advantageous connections among scholars at UT Austin and Marfa.

Graduate students in Art History at UT Austin develop strong speaking agendas through conferences, symposia, and invited talks, so creating community becomes second nature to many of us. I also earned quite a bit of valuable teaching experience as a graduate student. As soon as I arrived at UTEP, I began to nurture the relationships between my department and the Chinati Foundation and Judd Foundation in Marfa. Given my relatively close proximity to Marfa (a three hour drive), I can take students every semester. My comfort in working with undergraduates allows me to get to know students so I may support their internship applications to the arts organizations in Marfa.
LDH: What advice would you give to students completing their graduate work at UT Austin?

MW: It feels so good to finish that thesis or dissertation and move forward. I loved teaching at UT Austin — it is an incredibly valuable experience — but it is also time-consuming to create courses and lectures. I was able to finish only through the support of outside fellowships that allowed me to write exclusively, so I would encourage graduate students to seek external funding. In applying for jobs, cast a wide net. In addition to seeking career advice from faculty members, graduate students should also take advantage of the wide network of Art History alumni.

Alumni Spotlight: Milady Casco, MA in Art Education, 2010

Wed. April 29, 2015

woman with curly hair and glasses poses for portrait in blue blouse

Paul Bolin: It's been a few years since you've graduated, what have you been up to?

Milady Casco: Since graduating in 2010, I have been living in Guatemala working as the on-site coordinator for Casa Herrera, UT Austin’s academic research facility in Antigua. Casa Herrera is operated by the Department of Art and Art History and serves as an extension of The Mesoamerica Center. After almost 4.5 years on the job, I have helped facilitate a number of study abroad programs, academic residencies, and conferences in the areas of archaeology, anthropology, education, and visual culture. Our programs keep growing every year! This summer 2015, we will be welcoming 50 study abroad students from UT Austin and other US academic institutions.

PB: Why were you interested in working in Guatemala at Casa Herrera? How did it fit into your past research?

MC: I initially arrived to Casa Herrera for the first time in 2009 as a student visiting researcher through Casa’s academic residency program. I lived in Casa Herrera for three months and dedicated my time writing my master’s thesis, which was a case study about art education and issues of cultural identity at the Museum of Art in El Salvador (MARTE). I never expected that this residency would be a turning point for me professionally.

During my time in Antigua, I was captivated by the city’s colonial charm, but more importantly I was drawn to learning about the indigenous communities and Mesoamerican history that form the basis of Guatemalan culture and society today. There were many parallels that I had made between the histories and art practice of El Salvador and Guatemala. The more I learned, the stronger I desired to return to Guatemala and continue exploring themes that I had researched in my thesis.

When the opportunity to work at Casa Herrera as a staff member came about, there was no doubt in my mind that this was the job for me. Not only did it give me the chance to work in Central America (which had always been a personal goal of mine), but also to interact with a dynamic group of anthropologists, archaeologists, artists, linguists, and historians working in Guatemala. The best part of my job has been sharing all that I have learned to help create new and exciting experiences for other UT students who participate in Casa Herrera programs.

PB: What advice would you give to the newest graduates from the program?

MC: Be open to every opportunity and task that presents itself. Sometimes the most challenging situations can turn out to be the most transformative experiences.

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