Department of Art and Art History News

In memory of Greg Ploetz, widow creates scholarships for Studio Art students

Fri. May 29, 2015

TAGS

man lying in bed with grandson baby
Image courtesy of Deb Ploetz

In memory of Greg Ploetz, Deb, his widow, will create the Greg Ploetz Art Scholarship for students in the Studio Art program to be awarded annually for the next ten years.

Ploetz was a Longhorn football player and alumnus of the Department of Art and Art History. He received his BFA in Studio Art in 1972. Ploetz was awarded a prestigious scholarship, given to the best art student, to attend a residency at the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture. Greg went on to receive an MFA in Studio Art in 1975 from the university.

“Art was his true love and passion,” said Deb.

Greg taught art and coached football in high schools and colleges for over forty years. In 2009 he left his last teaching position in Aledo, Texas.

“He was the most brilliant teacher I’ve ever known,” Deb told The Dallas Morning News. “He did such a wonderful job getting his point across.”

A three-year letterman at defensive tackle, Ploetz helped the Longhorns claim three Southwest Conference Championships in 1968, 1969, and 1971. In those three seasons, Texas posted a 28-4-1 record (19-2 in the SWC) and finished the season ranked among the Top 20 each year.

Ploetz was a starter for the 1969 National Championship team and played in Texas’ "Game of the Century” national-title winning victory over Arkansas with a hairline fracture in his ankle that year. After sitting out the 1970 season, Ploetz returned to the Longhorn team in 1971 and went on to earn All-Southwest Conference honors.

abstract painting with green, yello, blue, and red paint with lines
Painting by Greg Ploetz. Image courtesy of Deb Ploetz.

Greg passed away this May after suffering for more than a decade of complications from dementia and frontal lobe damage. On May 24, a celebration of life for Greg was held at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden.

He leaves behind his wife, Deb, and two children, Erin Ploetz-Cherkassky and Beau Ploetz.

Greg’s life and challenges have been chronicled in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Denver Post, and The Dallas Morning News. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Greg Ploetz Art Scholarship. For information on giving to the Ploetz scholarship, contact Andrea Keene 512/ 471–9270.
 

Q+A with Berangér LeFranc, MA candidate in Art Education

Thu. May 28, 2015

women in black blouse poses for photo in front of window

Describe your background.

Berangér LeFranc: In 2011 I earned a BFA in Sculpture & Extended Media from Virgina Commonwealth University. I first became interested in art education after spending a couple of summers teaching art to middle and high school students at a sleep-away camp in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Following undergrad I worked for The Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond for two years, managing afterschool and summer art programs for members ages 6–18. There, I developed a passion for working closely with the immediate inner city youth community. Since moving to Austin for graduate school, I have gained valuable experience in many facets of art education: teaching sculpture at after school and summer programs with the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum, facilitating art activities at multiple community events with Creative Action, working at the Visual Arts Center (VAC), and leading tours of exhibitions at The Contemporary Austin.

What attracted you to the MA Art Education program at UT Austin?

BF: When I began researching art education graduate programs, I was having trouble finding one that complemented my interests in community-based education. Most programs focused only on teacher certification for the K-12 public school environment. The art education program at UT Austin stood out to me for its three different research tracks: schools, museums, and communities. This gave me confidence this program would offer a more well-rounded and interdisciplinary approach to art education.

What is your research focus?

BF: For the last year I have been completing my graduate thesis on mindfulness and its applications for teaching artists. This thesis is an action-based research project during which I conducted research on my teaching practice and myself as teaching artist. In summer 2014, I completed an eight-week training with Mindful Schools, an organization out of the Bay Area that offers instruction for educators on how to develop a personal mindfulness practice and how to implement mindfulness into your curriculum. Throughout this training, I kept extensive journals with writing and art responses to the process. In fall 2014, I developed an art and mindfulness pilot program called “Mindful Making” and realized three lessons at an afterschool program with Creative Action.

During my time at UT Austin, I also completed the requirements for the portfolio program in Arts and Cultural Management and Entrepreneurship, a joint effort of the College of Fine Arts and the LBJ School of Public Affairs.

You have been working at the VAC this past year, how has that informed your research?

BF: As a community-based teaching artist, it is important to me to connect to my immediate community. During my time at the VAC, I was able to meet a wider array of students, faculty, and administrators in the Department of Art and Art History and make invaluable connections, both personal and professional.

Beyond the immediate academic community, the VAC was fortunate to host visitors of all ages from all over the state this year, enabling me to hone my skills conducting tours and engaging visitors in conversation about works of art. I also played a key role in the planning and implementation of this year’s Explore UT event, during which we had several hundred visitors come through our space and participate in gallery activities I planned with my colleagues.

What's next?

BF: This summer, I will spend a lot of time in coffee shops completing the written portion of my thesis. I am spending my second summer teaching several weeks of art camps with the UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum — a painting & drawing camp and a sculpture camp, both set in the lush garden environment. At the end of the summer, I am returning to Richmond, Virginia to live with my partner and our four cats. I hope to gain employment with one of the many wonderful arts-based non-profit organizations in the city.

Interview with Brent Dixon (MFA in Design, 2015) as he prepares to begin work at the United Nations

Thu. May 28, 2015

fake hands coming from wall with wired gloves on with three screens in back
Image courtesy of the Visual Arts Center. Photo by: Sandy Carson.

Describe your background and what lead you to the MFA Design program at UT Austin.

Brent Dixon: I was a round, jowly, and gassy baby. When I was two years old my parents put me in a baby beauty pageant, and I won "Champion Chubby." As a kid I drew on everything and did science experiments in my room. One time I set my bed on fire by trying to electrify Nickelodeon Gak.

Fast forward: After finishing my undergrad in journalism, I co-founded a web and mobile design shop with a couple of friends. We always designed our first prototypes around a table with our clients, using markers, paper, tape, and hot glue before making something digital. From there I started working in consumer finance, eventually using some of the same design processes to help create financial products for people with limited access to credit. I also led design workshops for business people, and realized how much I enjoyed teaching. A friend and I started a group that organized pop-up hacker spaces for kids, which brought me back to hot glue and science experiments that set things on fire. I came to the UT Austin Design MFA program because I wanted more of that in my life. This program opens up the entire university as one giant playground.

In how to listen: 2015 Design MFA Thesis Exhibition at the Visual Arts Center, you displayed your educational work with children and focus on bringing technology into the classroom in an easy way for teachers. How did you begin working with this age group and thinking about education?

BD: One of the best ways to learn is to teach. I wanted to learn more about things that will have a big impact on our future — technologies like synthetic biology, robotics, digital fabrication —but that felt far outside of my realm of expertise. Designing hands-on workshops for kids provided a system to distill these big topics down to something learnable, fun, and usually messy.

Organizing the workshops helped me meet parents, teachers, and other people working in education. Austin, in particular, has this amazing community of people working to bring hands-on, curiosity-based learning into classrooms. I had actually avoided schools early in organizing these workshops because I was afraid of red tape, but spending time with educators who teach 6 year olds to solder and use power tools opened my eyes to the universe of smart, inspiring people as well as the huge amount of work to be done in formal education.

For the how to listen exhibition, each designer contributed sound clips for a compilation of influences on your projects. Can you tell us more about your selections? Number 41 (a first-grade girl scratches a turntable for the first time) and 58 (a third-grade girl describers her experiments and inventions) and particularly good.

BD: Number 41 was from a one-day workshop at Travis Heights Elementary. We had an extremely amazing of artists, scientists, and educators who volunteered their time to lead workshops with the kids. Three of those mentors were from Dub Academy, an Austin-based DJ and music production school. They taught kids at Travis Heights about new and old school DJ technology. That clip was from a little girl learning how to scratch a record for the first time.

Number 58 was a girl from Walnut Springs Elementary, one of the schools I worked with during my MFA research. In addition to the inventions she describes in the clip (which are amazing) she also helped write a grant to get the school a 3D printer. Later in the interview she encouraged other kids in Austin, saying that if they wanted something like a 3D printer or a community garden at their school: "Just write a grant! You can do it! It's easier than you think!" I was blown away by her.

You recently accepted a position with the U.N. What will you be doing and how did this opportunity come about?

I'll be working with a new group designed to help Secretariat organizations use emerging technologies to address challenges. A mutual friend introduced me to the head of the group and we've spent the last six months brainstorming and getting to know each other. I'm extremely excited to get started.

Q+A with INGZ, a feminist anti-racist art action group

Thu. May 28, 2015

for women stand in gallery with artwork on floor
INGZ members during installation of LaToya Ruby Frazier: Riveted at the Visual Arts Center

INGZ defines themselves as a feminist anti-racist art action group. They collaborate on exhibitions, publishing, lectures, interventions and art making to promote conversation about the many expressions of identity. Fluid and strategic, INGZ attacks white supremacist capitalist patriarchy by creating space to be heard, to listen, and to experiment in the field of the visual. INGZ includes Uchenna Itam (PhD student in Art History), Julia Neal (PhD student in Art History), Rebecca Giordano
 (MA student in Art History), and Natalie Zelt (PhD student in American Studies).

Describe your individual research focus.

Itam: I am interested in contemporary artistic practices in the United States with a focus on performativity and the diasporic African experience.


Neal: I research 20th century art from the United States, and consider virtuality, sound, and identity within global contexts between 1940s–70s.

Giordano: My research comes from a place of genuine curiosity with an aim toward teaching. I am compelled to the exploration of the political through visual forms and aesthetic practices by women and people of color from 1968 onward. Particularly, I consider the consistently political forms of conceptualism and systems art that targeted invisibility and erasure as well as the politics of labor. My eye rests where the line between art and politics is untraceable. 


Zelt: I study contemporary art from the United States with focus on photography and identity.

How did you four meet?


INGZ: We met as colleagues in Dr. Cherise Smith's seminar Historicizing the Politics of Identity during the fall 2013 semester.

What was the impetus for starting INGZ?


INGZ: With Dr. Smith's Historicizing the Politics of Identity as both a real and conceptual backdrop, we compelled each other to put into practice our own negotiations for ethical and responsible curating. A smaller seminar allowed us to build an intimate space for learning and a sense of camaraderie that could foster new projects and creative intervention. With and through challenging curriculum, our time in Dr. Smith’s seminar was an invaluable educational experience for professionalism in the arts. INGZ is a testament to a trajectory of a spirited class experience catalyzed and synthesized for tangible, durable forms of practice outside the classroom.

The Visual Arts Center's call for exhibition proposals was timely. We are transients and new to Austin, experiencing the city through various lenses, from isolated educational spaces at the university, to East Austin neighborhoods and different classed social scenes. We wanted to work with an artist who engaged with socioeconomic issues akin to those affecting Austin communities. Though we came together to begin with a project, INGZ is as much about us forging a new model of collectivity and curatorial process as it is about our commitment to promoting and presenting artwork. What we do is a practice.

Your first curatorial project was LaToya Ruby Frazier: Riveted, what was the thinking behind the exhibition?


INGZ: We prefaced Frazier's name to emphasize the primacy of her photographic practice and discursive identity in relation to art, activism, teaching, and criticism. First, we were adamant about organizing an exhibition of work that we all valued, and secondly, work that manifested a consciousness about intersections of race, gender, class, and nationality. The term "riveted" followed after striving to provide enough space and time for audiences to encounter multiple aspects in Frazier's work. We succeeded in obtaining two venues for displaying her work, hence "riveted" was used as a moniker linking both shows. We decided to work on this exhibition only after Frazier graciously decided to work with us.

Why did you use two on-campus spaces for the exhibition?

INGZ: LaToya Ruby Frazier: Riveted consists of two exhibitions and was intentionally designed as such. Curatorially, the two-shows-under-one-heading structure allowed us to push the show in many more directions. We were able to present two very different narratives and offer two residencies that included a variety of student-centered events. As with any show, the venue draws a specific audience. It was exciting to see the range of visitors who were able to see Frazier’s work because there were two distinct shows in two different kinds of galleries. 
After INGZ received support from Dr. Cherise Smith, associate director of the Warfield Center and associate professor in the Department of Art and Art History, we immediately broadened our scope for the possibilities of what to put on view. It was a quick, deliberate, and conscientious choice. Having a second semester-long exhibition was the next logical step in what would have just been a one-month show at the Visual Arts Center.

What did you learn from the processing of managing the exhibition and public programming?

INGZ: If you need things done, you do it. For most of us, this wasn’t new work at all. What we learned was that we don’t need to rely on old methods and forms. We can apply our know-how and passion to do things the way we envision. The experience of engaging with the multiple institutional and bureaucratic levels of UT Austin reinforced our existing skillsets as professional scholars and curators, as well as committed activists and educators.

What is next for INGZ?


INGZ: The question of "what's next" implies finality for our first project. In reality, we have built some incredible relationships that will have an enduring impact on our anti-racist and feminist commitments as scholars and curators. We are working towards maintaining respectful, challenging, and professional approaches to the privilege of representing art on behalf of artists. Ideas abound.

Individually, what is the next step in your research?

Itam: I’m preparing for qualifying exams in the fall, so I’ll spend the summer reading.


Neal: I'll be in Middlebury, Vermont this summer to learn German, a seven-week 24 hour tabula rasa of my fluency in French. 


Giordano: This summer I will be completing my thesis on the work of Mierle Laderman Ukeles, which suddenly has become about the immateriality of the readymade. I will be working as a research assistant on an upcoming book project and am currently pursuing positions in museum education. 


Zelt: Right now, I am reading for my comprehensive exams in the fields of American Studies, Critical Race and Gender Studies, and Contemporary Art/Photography in the United States. Inspired by my research and work with LaToya Ruby Frazier’s work, I am considering intergenerational self-portraiture as a means of upsetting representational histories.


LaToya Ruby Frazier: Riveted 
was previously on view at:

Visual Arts Center
November 7 – December 6, 2014
View installation images

The Warfield Center for African and African American Studies, ISESE Gallery
February 18 – May 6, 2015
View gallery talk and reception images

 

Q+A with Bryan Martello, MFA candidate in Studio Art

Thu. May 28, 2015

TAGS

digitally altered photograph of man with legs cut off at knees on ground
Waisting, 2014

"I am interested in subverting the history of 'straight' photography, one predominately made by heterosexual men. I use the camera as a tool to lie, exaggerate, and conceal. In my staged photographic montages, I hijack the authority of advertising tropes. My photographs explore androgyny and question gender roles enforced in advertisements by juxtaposing traditionally masculine elements with those traditionally feminine.

The production of my photographs occurs entirely in my studio; I take on the role of a laboratory technician, a toucher of objects. I create fictions that are low-tech and DIY. I am drawn to synthetic materials for their efficient and commonplace qualities. The objects are identifiable but derailed from their prescribed function. The pathetic becomes glamorous."

—Bryan Martello

dark ice melting on blue plastic with pink background
Public Pool, 2014

Describe your background.

Bryan Martello: I moved to Austin two years ago to begin my Studio Art graduate studies. Before moving here, I was living in Boston where I’m originally from. I got a BFA in photography from the Massachusetts College of Art, and then worked for the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts for a few years.

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

BM: I was drawn to studying at UT Austin for many reasons. The biggest was the work that was associated with the program — from both students and faculty. I was impressed and familiar with many of the faculty and wanted to work closely with them. Once I visited the MFA studios, I also was impressed by the current graduate student’s work and felt like this was a community I wanted to be a part of.

Your work can be humorous, familiar, and disconcerting — sometimes all at once. Would you describe how you decide what to portray?

BM: In my work, I look to hijack the authority of advertising tropes. I’m very interested in the affect my images can have on the viewer, which is often why I use humor, the familiar, and things disconcerting. There is a dark humor in the work that is on one hand funny and on the other hand really uncomfortable. There is an awkwardness to the objects I make that is integral to my work.

You're wrapping up your second year in the graduate program. What has been the most dramatic change in your process?

BM: I think the most dramatic change in my process since beginning here at UT Austin has been the use of my studio. My entire process revolves around the studio, and it is where all the objects are made and all the photographs are taken. As a result of that, I’ve been more interested in materials and the overall materiality of the photograph itself.

What has been the best thing about being in Austin?

BM: The best part of Austin, especially for a graduate student, is that it’s a really easy and fun city. There is enough going on to keep the city interesting and exciting, but there is also a lot of time and space available which makes art making easier than in other cities.

bryanmartello.com


Martello was recently awarded the Martha Leipziger-Pearce Endowed Scholarship in Art and the Graduate Named Endowed Fellowship from the Graduate School. Martello also received the William and Bettye Nowlin Endowed Presidential Fellowship in Photography in 2014 and the Russell Lee Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Photography in 2013.