Department of Art and Art History News

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

Thu. May 28, 2015

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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.
 

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 net.art 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.

Alumna Hayley Woodward heads to New Orleans for fully funded graduate program

Thu. May 28, 2015

woman wearing dress and red scarf poses for photo on bridge with river behind
 

“My options were to continue in the professional world or to take a risk to pursue what I love,” described Hayley Woodward (BA in Art History, 2013). “I decided to follow my passion and apply to graduate school.”

Woodward will be attending Tulane University to study Post-Conquest mapmaking in Central Mexico. She received a full tuition waiver and generous stipend.

“Dr. Guernsey was present through my entire graduate school application process,” said Woodward. “She was also my mentor as an undergraduate.”

As a junior, Woodward discovered her interest in art of the Ancient Americas while in a Mesoamerican art history course taught by Dr. Julia Guernsey. Woodward recalled that Guernsey “breathed life into the ancient wall murals, animal figurines, and monumental stone effigies of the Pre-Columbian world.”

“I was hooked,” said Woodward.

She presented her paper, The Hollow Baby Genre: Implements of Elite Domiciles and Evidence of a Pan-Mesoamerican Tradition, at the Department of Art and Art History’s inaugural Undergraduate Art History Research Symposium, as well as at the South-Central Conference on Mesoamerica. Immediately after graduating, she traveled to Belize to do fieldwork at the Late Classic Maya sites of La Milpa and Hun Tun.

“At UT Austin, I was able to fully explore Mesoamerican art, using numerous resources such as the Art and Art History Collection, Benson Latin American Collection, Fine Arts Library, and many helpful professors and graduate students,” described Woodward. “My professors always went above and beyond for their students.”

After graduation, Woodward returned to Dallas and eventually began working at Samuel Lynne Galleries. She gained experience in all aspects of the gallery, from writing press releases and researching artists to working with clients and creating promotional materials.

“As an Art History major, I learned how to research, write, and communicate information in a succinct manner,” remarked Woodward. “That is exactly what I did on a daily basis at Samuel Lynne Galleries, in a contemporary art setting.”

This fall, Woodward will move to New Orleans to continue her research under Dr. Elizabeth Hill Boone, the Martha and Donald Robertson Chair in Latin American Art at Tulane. Boone is a renowned expert on Mexica (Aztec) manuscripts and received her MA and Phd in Art History from the Department of Art and Art History in 1974 and 1977.

“An interest in the Ancient Americas must run in my blood,” laughed Woodward. “While a student in Latin American Studies at George Washington University, my father took a course with Dr. George Stuart, the renowned National Geographic Archaeology Editor. While at UT Austin, I studied with his son, Dr. David Stuart, professor in the Department of Art and Art History. It is a small world indeed!”
 

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.