Department of Art and Art History Undergraduate Students

Undergraduate students in Friends Collective build community

Tue. December 22, 2015

six people sitting on steps in front of house
Friends Collective members with Rachel Parnell of Amity House and Chris Omenihu of Human Influence. From left to right, top to bottom: Kendall Hanna, Henry Smith, Rachel Parnell, Michael Colaianni, Nicholas Osella, Chris Omenihu.

At its core, Friends Collective is pretty much what it sounds like: a group of close friends collaborating on their passion—art. But the group has wider goals of fostering friendship within and outside of the collective.

Members Michael Colaianni, Kendall Hannah, Nicholas Osella, and Henry Smith founded the group as a way to experience each other’s methods. Michael Colaianni and Henry Smith are Studio Art majors, while Kendall Hannah and Nicholas Osella are Design majors.

Although coming from different majors, the members met in their Foundations courses which mixes students from all Department of Art and Art History majors. “By the beginning of sophomore year we were a tight-knit, strange little family,” remembers Kendall Hannah. Once out of Foundations, the friends formed Friends Collective as a way to stay involved in each others’ work.

“We were all curious with what each of us were making and the projects we had going on in different classes,” said Osella. “We wanted to be a part of each other’s art making and collaborate as a way of seeing the process behind work.”

The collective has organized group shows featuring their individual and collaborative work, as well as inviting other art students into the exhibitions. By doing this, Friends Collective fosters a better-connected community inside and outside the art building.

“It is important to build up a community with my peers,” said Michael Colaianni. “Our exhibitions are an opportunity to show work that doesn’t feel like it was made as an ‘assignment.’”

Nicholas Osella recalls the group’s first collaborative project—a series of paintings that passed between the artists until they felt it was done. “After we finished, we took a step back and realized that we made work that we were proud of.”

The collective’s first show was held at Amity Arts House, a project run out of the living room of friend and fellow Studio Art undergraduate Rachel Greene. The members exhibited their collaborative paintings as well as individual works.

“Placing my work directly alongside that of another artist, who's style and approach may be entirely different from my own, forces me to be much more aware of my choices,” describes Henry Smith.

Friends Collective shared their second show with Humans of Influence, a creative group with hands in everything from fashion to house parties. As part of the exhibition, the two groups asked for donations of toiletries for the local non-profit Austin Shelter for Women and Children.

The collective hopes to expand its connections and collaborate with a wide range of people, not just those of a creative walk, that share their appreciation of good attitude, friendliness and community outreach.

“Our message is to be inspired by and collaborate with anyone and everyone in our community to make and support projects that matter,” says Nicholas Osella.

Kayla Jones lives in Austin, Texas where she is pursuing a B.F.A. in Studio Art and B.A. in English at The University of Texas at Austin.

Teresa Hubbard interviews undergraduate Chandler Allen about recent New York Magazine commission

Tue. November 24, 2015

Chandler Allen is an undergraduate student in Studio Art. She recently completed a photo shoot with New York Magazine and answered questions via email.

two people sitting at picnic table look over at camera
Hannah and the Singer, 2015, premium luster inkjet print, 30 x 24 inches. Image courtesy of the artist.

Teresa Hubbard: First of all, congratulations on garnering a paid photography assignment to shoot for New York Magazine. The photography editors looked at photography work being done by undergraduates around the country at a number of different universities, and the editors were very impressed by a number of our photography students working here in the Department of Art and Art History at The University of Texas at Austin who submitted portfolios for their consideration.

Could you tell me about the the experience of working on assignment for such a prominent client?

Chandler Allen: Thank you. I am honored, as I know many candidates across the nation applied. Working for a major publication like New York Magazine was a rewarding whirlwind. From the day I got the job, I was in conference calls with the Photography Director every other morning before attending class and working closely with the Senior Photo Editor on a daily basis. Every night I would go out to fraternities, Co-Op’s, apartments and other parties around campus to photograph elaborate shoots of friends, lovers, strangers and even one self-portrait. It was essentially my job to be at the right place at the right time in the dark hours of the night and orchestrate a narrative depicting that party, sexual encounter or relationship.

TH: I know that the assignment entailed several weeks of very intensive on-location work. What kind of things did you learn about photography and yourself while working on this job?

CA: I learned a great deal regarding technique. I sharpened the intentionality of my subject’s gaze and body language to emote sexuality without having to illustrate sex. It was very important that the work spoke about college life and our sexual journeys in subtle ways like a look of pride, a placement of a hand, a furled brow and not only obvious ways, like nudity. I also learned that as a photographer I constantly want to relate to my subjects. I found myself inadvertently interacting and not just stuck behind the camera; this allowed my subjects to open up and be more vulnerable which produced better results.

two men in pool hug
Angel and Preston in the Water, 2015, premium luster inkjet print, 40 x 34 inches. Image courtesy of the artist.

TH: Has working commercially, for a client, changed how you approach your own artwork, and if so, in what ways?

CA: I knew the work I did for New York Magazine would be published for millions to see. So in my mind, it required a heightened responsibility and ownership. Because the work was about sex and relationships in college, it was important to me to submit a self-portrait and put myself in the shoes of my subjects.

Now in my artwork I take this same approach more often—exposing myself physically and emotionally as much as I ask others to. This has only strengthened my artistic integrity. I think to often college art students reject commercial work because they think in some way it is beneath them. What they don’t realize is that most of the world's most successful artists have at one time or are currently being funded by commercial work and that it is smart to utilize both sides of the market.

The New York Magazine assignment has already begun to open new doors for my career and I thank professors like you, the College of Fine Arts Career Services, and the university, for bringing this opportunity to light and consistently supporting my endeavors.

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