Department of Art and Art History Graduate Students

Jessamine Batario receives $20,000 dissertation fellowship from Dedalus Foundation

Wed. September 30, 2015

woman in blue shirt and slacks poses for picture in front of tree

Jessamine Batario, a doctoral candidate in Art History, has been awarded a $20,000 Dedalus Foundation Dissertation Fellowship for 2015–2016. Batario’s dissertation, “The Art and Intellectual History of Byzantine Modernism,” seeks to establish the significance of a “Byzantine Modern” art history alongside other narratives of modernism and to contribute to the discipline’s recent evaluation of institutional periodization.

Batario received a B.A. in art history from the University of California, Berkeley and a M.A. in Art History from the Department of Art and Art History at The University of Texas at Austin. Her interests lie in 19th century European painting, history of art history, phenomenology and hermeneutics.

Batario’s work focuses on Modern art and critical theory. Her research interests include European and American modernism, Byzantine art, mid-20th century art criticism and history of art history. For two years, she worked as the graduate research assistant for Dr. Richard Shiff in the Center for the Study of Modernism. She has also served the Department of Art and Art History as the Ph.D. co-chair of the Graduate Student Art History Association and the co-chair of the Research Roundtable. Batario also holds a Named/Endowed Continuing Fellowship from the Graduate School at UT Austin.

Founded in 1981 by the artist Robert Motherwell (1915–1991), the Dedalus Foundation fosters public understanding of modern art and modernism through its programs in arts education, research and publications, archives and conservation, and exhibitions, as well as in the guardianship and study of Robert Motherwell’s art.

The Dedalus Foundation Dissertation Fellowship is awarded annually to a Ph.D. candidate at a university in the United States who is working on a dissertation related to painting, sculpture and allied arts from 1940-1970, with a preference shown to Abstract Expressionism.

Ryan Hawk and Gracelee Lawrence selected for UMLAUF Prize

Tue. September 15, 2015

photo of sky in circular shape of hand
Image courtesy of Gracelee Lawrence

The UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum (UMLAUF) is proud to announce the 2015 UMLAUF Prize winners, multi-media artists Ryan Hawk and Gracelee Lawrence. The UMLAUF Prize honors an outstanding MFA candidate in Studio Art at The University of Texas at Austin with an exhibition, lecture and cash award. Although the Prize traditionally has been offered to a single student, after touring graduate studios in April 2015, Juror Suzanne Deal Booth selected two young artists.

Booth notes, “Being a juror for the UMLAUF Prize is daunting because it requires distinguishing something in the work of a group of peers that is noteworthy, unique, fresh — and yet has the potential to stand the test of time. The graduate students of UT Austin do not make this choice easy. This year both Ryan Hawk and Gracelee Lawrence were awarded the Prize because their work exhibits a passion that is deeply personal and intellectually universal.”

image of person hold black plastic floppy forms
Ryan Hawk, Untitled, drip performance for the camera 2014

“Ryan’s visceral courage and his deep commitment to how art is experienced by the viewer as well as his connection to history and identity issues is both immensely appealing and challenging. Gracelee tackles her subject matter with a richness and yes, grace, that underscores the complexity of the societal pressures of gender and sexuality, nourishment and ritual. Their work is inspiring, and though completely different is connected by the exploration of `identity issues’. As such it made complete sense to award the UMLAUF Prize to both of them.” Both students are working with UMLAUF Curator Katie Robinson Edwards this summer to develop new work for their exhibitions. The UMLAUF Prize opening, Thursday, September 10, 6-8 p.m., will be free and open to the public.

Charles Umlauf (1910-1994) taught at UT Austin for forty years, retiring as Professor Emeritus in 1981. The UMLAUF opened in 1991 with the mission of exhibiting work by Umlauf and other contemporary sculptors in a natural setting and providing educational experiences that encourage the understanding and appreciation of sculpture. In 2005, UT Austin alumnus and UMLAUF Board Member Damian Priour (1949–2011) and his wife Paula founded the UMLAUF Prize to support emerging artists from UT Austin. Umlauf’s own work acknowledged his artistic forbears while presenting new approaches that looked toward the future. Previous Prize winners are: Adam Crosson (2014), Stephanie Wagner (2007), Katalin Hausel (2006), Mark Schatz (2005) and Holly Fischer (2004).

About the UMLAUF:
The UMLAUF Sculpture Garden & Museum is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization founded around a vast collection of work by American sculptor Charles Umlauf. The UMLAUF provides educational experiences that encourage the understanding and appreciation of sculpture, and exhibits the work of Charles Umlauf and other contemporary sculptors in a natural setting.

About Ryan Hawk:
Ryan Hawk holds a BFA in Studio Art from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in conjunction with Tufts University. In 2012 he attended the AICAD New York Studio Residency Program in New York, New York. Ryan Hawk is currently a MFA candidate in Studio Art at The University of Texas at Austin.

About Gracelee Lawrence:
Gracelee Lawrence received a BFA in Sculpture from Guilford College in Greensboro, NC. and is pursuing her MFA in Studio Art at UT Austin. She is a contributing writer for the International Sculpture Center Blog and Catapult Magazine. Lawrence has exhibited at grayDUCK Gallery in Austin, Texas; BLUEorange Contemporary in Houston, Texas; Saint Cloud University in Saint Cloud, Minnesota; Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, North Carolina; The Carrack Modern Art in Durham, North Carolina; Rancho Paradiso in Joshua Tree, California; and the Visual Art Exchange in Raleigh, North Carolina. She received the David Womack Memorial Fiber Arts Scholarship (2014), Eyes Got It! Grand Prize Winner (2013), and the Ella Fountain Pratt Emerging Artist Grant (2011–12). She has also held several national residencies.

About Suzanne Deal Booth:
Suzanne Deal Booth is an art and preservation advocate. She co-founded The Friends of Heritage Preservation, a non-profit organization dedicated to critical preservation causes worldwide. She currently serves as a Trustee of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Centre Pompidou Foundation, the Menil Collection in Houston, the Contemporary Austin, the Blanton Museum of Art, and Marfa Ballroom. Suzanne Deal Booth also serves on the Art Committee of the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago. She served as a gubernatorial appointee on the Board of the California Cultural and Historical Endowment for the State of California where she was responsible for the disbursement of $125 million. In 2001, she and her family established the Booth Family Rome Prize Fellowship for Historic Preservation and Conservation at the American Academy in Rome. She was the patron of the James Turrell Skyspace, Twilight Epiphany, on the Rice University Campus and in turn it was named the Suzanne Deal Booth Centennial Pavilion. Suzanne is a noteworthy collector and supporter of contemporary art.

For more information, contact Noemi Szyller at the UMLAUF.

Hawk and Lawrence were featured in The Daily Texan.

Alumna Daphane Park performs in New Media Art and Sound Summit

Tue. June 2, 2015

Daphane Park (MFA in Studio Art, 1997) performs with Raquel Ball on June 12 during the 2015 New Media Art and Sound Summit, organized by Church of the Friendly Ghost. NMASS will occur June 11–13, 2015.

Q+A with Shrankhla Narya, MFA candidate in Design

Thu. May 21, 2015

woman looking over her shoulder at camera with beach behind
Image courtesy of Shrankhla Narya.

Describe your design practice.

Shrankhla Narya: My practice as a designer is rooted in the belief that future designers will have to critically examine the theoretical, philosophical, and social aspects of design. My formal education in engineering, social science, and aesthetics has allowed me to develop an interdisciplinary approach towards design and examine its relationship with human needs and environments.

I believe that human-centered design, backed by in-depth research, can open doors for innovative solutions to real world problems.

What attracted you to the graduate Design program at UT Austin?

SN: The graduate Design program at UT Austin was an excellent mix of research and skills. I wanted to spend two years doing a course that would not only allow me to do studio work, but would also let me conduct research in areas that truly interested me. The program at UT Austin has been an excellent mix of making and thinking. The fact that we can take electives from any department makes it all the more valuable in terms of the variety of thoughts and experiences that we are exposed to.

What is your current research focus?

SN: My current research work seeks to investigate alternative narratives of technology use that are not driven by the prevailing consumerism of the privileged quarters of the world. I am beginning to streamline my research to investigate and suggest technological interventions for underprivileged people, currently focusing on day laborers in Austin.

Although I acknowledge that policy change and changes in the social structure are very likely the best methods of empowering marginalized communities — in the absence of enlightened legislation — I believe that technological interventions, deployed with an understanding of the social context, can support and complement this process of empowerment and inclusion.

Projects such as Krama and MissU and my ongoing research with day laborers in Austin can be taken as responses, in their own contexts and via their own perspectives, to the larger question “Who do we talk about when we talk about users?” Whether dealing with the most vulnerable sections of the society or engaging small and isolated communities to better understand the many dimensions of inclusion and exclusion, my work describes encounters with technology informed by different cultural, economic, political, and linguistic constraints.

What issues were you trying to solve in your Krama project?

SN: Krama is Sanskrit for progressing step by step towards a desired goal. This project is a speculative system for the future. Krama's aim is to build an alternate economy for the lower caste people (regarded as untouchables) in India by fostering upward mobility for them, both socially and economically. The lower caste people in India have faced extreme discrimination for centuries, and were denied access to public water wells, places of social gatherings, temples, and schools.

Krama creates 3D-printed DIY solar energy kits and portable water purification units for them and helps them learn how to produce resources for themselves, eventually leading to the possibility of an alternate economy for them to function in.

And MissU?

SN: MissU is an app that allows for communication through subtle visual cues displayed on physical objects around the receiver. The idea was born out of my need for long distance communication with my mom, where the time difference between our geographic locations and her lack of exposure to technology and English were the primary hindrances. The app communicates with the night lamp at the receiver’s end (who does not need a smart phone) through arduino and wireless shields.

In the future, we wish to develop 3D printed lamp shades with screens to display the icons and change color based on the sender’s mood.

How has your research or work developed over your time here so far and what are you looking forward to in the next year?

SN: My work has undergone some significant changes since the time I joined this program. I was a fresh chemical engineering graduate from India with no prior work experience. The past 10 months have been an excellent learning experience, along with a rigorous process of unlearning. I have found the area that interests me most, which is at the intersection of interaction design and social design. Arriving at a research area that one can commit to for a long period of their life is never easy, but I am glad that I have been able to find something that brings together my interest in technology and certain questions about our society that have troubled me for a long time.

I will be spending the next few months talking with day laborers in Austin and organizations that work with them. I hope to take my first significant step towards understanding a culture that is alien to me.

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.

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