Department of Art and Art History News

Q+A with alumnus Dave Woody and Professor Teresa Hubbard

Wed. September 30, 2015

Dave Woody received a B.F.A. in Photography from Colorado State University in Fort Collins and an M.F.A. in Studio Art from The University of Texas at Austin in 2007. In 2009 he was the winner of the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, which is a competition open to all media. As a result, the National Portrait Gallery commissioned him to make a portrait of Alice Waters, activist and chef. That portrait was unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery in January 2012.

Woody has lived and taught in Colorado and Virginia, and has exhibited throughout the country and internationally. He currently teaches photography at Humboldt State University in California. His photographs have appeared in The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Elle Decor, and M Le Magazine Du Monde.

He answered questions from Teresa Hubbard, the William and Bettye Nowlin Professor in Photography.

man in glasses and white shirt poses for photo
Image courtesy of Dave Woody.

Teresa Hubbard: For me, one of the most powerful elements in your photographs is how your images make me reflect on what it means to be alone. The French writer, philosopher and literary theorist, Maurice Blanchot, a ‘camera shy’ kind of person during his lifetime, remarked about himself as a writer, that it was comical to recognize his solitude by addressing a reader and by using methods that actually prevented him from being alone. How do you see this quality of what I’d describe as a kind of exquisite ‘aloneness’ in your work?

Dave Woody: I think what you see in my work is a trace of my interaction with the people that I photograph. The place from which I approach people is one of curiosity—I’m an introverted person and I use the camera as a way to engage with the world. With a portrait one is able to look again and again with impunity. That desire on my part to look often feels like it comes from a lonely place.

The subjects I choose often stand out in a quiet kind of way. What I look for in an image is when there is some kind of 'slippage' between public and private identity, although I hesitate to go as far as Diane Arbus in showing the sadness of that disparity. I’m looking for a moment where a person appears stripped of self-consciousness and reveals a vulnerable quality.

man standing in front of wire fence
Pacific #6, 2014, archival digital print, 16 x 20 inches

I remember one of our critiques in which you said my work sometimes was too nice—that it could stand to be sharpened up a bit—and I often think of that conversation. It’s the need as an artist to go beyond mere flattery and to edge into something deeper about the human experience.

TH: What is the role, or what kind of humor is to be found there?

DW: If I see humor in my work it tends to involve that 'slippage'—how someone believes they are presenting a certain image to the world can be at odds with how the world may perceive them. Again, I try not to be cruel, but I like to subvert notions of masculinity or toughness—I like finding a moment in which a tough façade is replaced by something soft or gentle. This all gets at the fictive nature of photography—that these images are split second moments chosen by me to reveal something more about what I want to say about the world and less about some kind of truth about the person portrayed.

man standing on trail by hill
Pacific #12, 2015, archival digital print, 16 x 20 inches

TH: How has your life and work changed since graduating?

DW: I’ve taught at several different universities, photographing along the way. I’m currently in Northern California at Humboldt State University. I got married, and my wife and I have a 4-year-old daughter, so that has been a big change in life. Most of my life is devoted to either my family or photography in some form or another.

I see some of my work evolving into an exploration of a kind of 'social documentary'—where my concerns are less insular and private—and this reflects my own interest in examining current issues in the U.S.

person standin in distance by hill and river
Pacific #2, 2015, archival digital print, 16 x 20 inches

TH: What are you working on now?

DW: I’m currently working on a series along the Highway 101—of hitchhikers and travelers and homeless people, and the landscape along the highway.

I’m also working on a series of color images of gender-neutral persons—I find it fascinating that our way of thinking of gender is evolving so rapidly. I’d like viewers to come away from the experience thinking primarily about what it means to be human, regardless of the idea of gender.

Leslie Mutchler and Jason Urban present paper at Impact 9: Printmaking in the Post-Print Age

Wed. September 30, 2015

Image courtesy of the artists.

Leslie Mutchler and Jason Urban will present at a conference entitled, IMPACT 9: Printmaking in the Post-Print Age. The conference will occur at at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, China and is sponsored by the Center for Fine Print Research at University of West England.

Their essay, "Assembly," examines the rewards of labor, the value of the handmade, and the relationship of maker and consumer, through the work of contemporary print artists.

Shelley Wood presents work in group exhibition

Wed. September 23, 2015

Shelley Wood (B.F.A. in Studio Art, 1986) presents work in a group exhibition entitled, Deux, at Photo Méthode Gallery. The exhibition will be on view September 10 – October 23, 2015.

Noah Simblist's curatorial project False Flags selected for Artis Exhibition Grant

Fri. September 18, 2015

white hexagonal and cube outline on green background

False Flags, an exhibition curated by Noah Simblist (Ph.D. candidate in Art History), was awarded a 2015 Artist Exhibition Grant. False Flags opens in March 2016 at Pelican Bomb in New Orleans, Louisiana.