Q+A Martha Hviid, graduate exchange student from Royal College of Art in London
Thu. December 18, 2014
You have been on exchange from the Royal Collect of Art in London (RCA) for the fall semester. What interested you in studying abroad at The University of Texas at Austin?
Well, to me it was a matter of several factors coming into place. First of all, when this exchange was announced to us at the Sculpture program at the RCA, I thought it would be one of the craziest things I could do. I had just settled in London and was really excited about being there. Our MA program is only two years long, so going away for 3 months out of this seemed like a long time. But the more I thought about it, it made sense for me to go explore a place of such different scale. I’m thinking not only the university, but Austin as a city, and Texas as a state.
Returning to the United States (I’ve lived in L.A. previously) seemed like a healthy way to come full circle with a lot of things in my life and thereby also in my art. From experience I think it’s often a good idea to do the thing that seems the craziest or most daunting—jumping into the water and then learning to swim. I applied and, fortunately, got selected by the faculty at the RCA. My practice isn’t very studio-bound so it was fairly easy for me to pick up my stuff and just go.
Would you describe the themes that you work with? What drives your interest in them?
I think, to many artists, being asked these two questions feels like getting caught in the headlights. It’s quite paralyzing having to sum this up in a short and clear way. I usually tell people that I work with perception, though not just in sensory way but also often in a more phenomenological way. I am very interested in how we as humans orient and place ourselves in context and space. I’m curious about where the central nervous center of the body lap over into the more intangible and, to use the perfect German word Geistlich, which refers to both spirit and ghost, mind, and essence.
You've talked about impressions as a theme that recurs through your work. The exchange program seems to fit right into that. Can you describe how you've felt impacted in even this short time?
I think most art students collect impressions, and they try and make sense of it all in their brains and bodies. I think a lot of art is about being confused and then trying to figure out the confusion—or even surrendering to it. For me, traveling (meeting new people and seeing new places) is like stirring the pot, adding a bit of unknown and confusion. In that way it gives me something to work with.
There is a very different physical feeling of being in tense, compact, busy London and spread out, warm, laid back Austin. Some have asked me which I prefer, but to me it’s really not about that, it’s about knowing (or trying to know) both. I’m from Copenhagen in Denmark, which is a third version. Even though I love it in Denmark, I can’t imagine I would have become a very good artist if I had just stayed there, in this unstirred pot, for my whole life.
What has been the most surprising experiences while you have been here?
I don’t think I get surprised as much as I get excited. I’ve generally had a really wonderful time here. In a way, I think the most surprising thing has been how easy it was fitting in, making friends, and getting things to happen. It was brilliant to get the opportunity to have my own show in Fieldwork Projects. I think it was a great exercise and a good practice for when I get back to London and have to start working on my graduate show. In my time here, I got to meet some very inspiring persons, including the artist and musician Laurie Anderson, the retired astronaut Alan Bean, and a variety of Austin-based curators and the school’s faculty.
The most overwhelming thing, though, must be the friendliness, generosity, and talent that the graduate students at the studio art program have shown me. Not in my wildest dreams would I have imagined this kind of energy and inspiration being channeled. I deeply hope I can stay in contact with this group of people because this has been the main reason why I feel so privileged to have done this exchange.
Meet new graduates who walked the stage early December
Thu. December 18, 2014
Devin Tayne, BA in Art History
Tayne knew she wanted to become a teacher before she came to college and decided to begin by studying Art History, her favorite subject from school. She also studied History and joined the UTeach Liberal Arts teaching preparation program. During college, she developed a passion for educating the next generation about issues in art history and world history. She also grew a respect for other cultures and a desire to travel and work abroad. Tayne is now headed off to teach history in an international school in Bangkok, Thailand. Certified in teaching AP Art History, she hopes to one day teach an Art History course but isn't hesitant to sneak plenty of art history into her World History class.
Tayne said, "I'm going into a career in which I am in the position to shape many of tomorrow's minds and the Art History program has prepared me to address many difficult issues, such as gender and race inequalities, and to better the world through the power of education."
Alejandra Amaya, BFA in Studio Art
Amaya is a nomadic Texan with a passion for the ephemeral experience of identity. She creates installations utilizing sculpture as well as performance based video art. The layers of theses mediums and others speak on the different vantage points of perception and experience. When asked about her time at the university, Amaya said, "My favorite part of being a part of the Department of Art and Art History was the privilege of working with engaged peers and challenging mentors.”
Jonathan Gruchawka, BFA in Studio Art
Gruchawka was born in 1987 in the state of New Jersey, and has since lived in Georgia, Connecticut, Tennessee, and now, Texas. He switched the focus of his studies from biology to visual art while attending community college in Dallas before transferring to UT Austin. Upon graduation, he moved back to Dallas and is preparing to show his work in February at the Dallas Public Library, while continuing his work in sculpture and painting as well as preparing for application to MFA programs across the country.
Gruchawka described that the Studio Art program "was a complete physical and intellectual challenge that left me not only a much better artist, but also a more intelligent, confident, and wise person that somehow has more questions now than ever before."