Visual Art Studies students visit The Floating Piers during Learning Tuscany study abroad program in Italy
Thu. September 8, 2016
“Once we set foot on the dock, we were greeted by hundreds of people fighting their way to leave and to start their journey upon the water.”
For four Visual Art Studies students, traveling to Tuscany through the Study in Italy program turned out to be incredibly more than what they bargained for. During the Learning Tuscany program, students and faculty are based in a small town in Eastern Tuscany. In this location they are uniquely positioned to visit and take in the rich cultural sites of many of the great art cities in central Italy. Michelle Zhou, Elysium Gonzales, Anabell Horton and Anamarie Delgado joined the program excited to tour the famous museums and historical sights, while putting their educational practice into a greater art historical context. And they did! But they also were given the once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s The Floating Piers.
The Floating Piers is a large-scale public art project conceived by internationally known artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Thirty years in the making, and the first project from Christo since Jeanne-Claude’s death in 2009, The Floating Piers spans a three-kilometer walkway across Lake Iseo and the two and a half kilometers of pedestrian streets in Sulzano and Peschiera Maraglio. For many of the students, this was beyond compare, “As a girl whose family has never stepped foot on international waters, this one-of-a-kind experience of traveling to Italy and seeing The Floating Piers has given me a special kind of privilege,” writes Elysium Gonzales. “Knowing that this unique exhibition was temporary, and that we had arrived on only the second day of its opening was something I never would have dreamed of doing.”
The four students spent long hours of traveling and waiting to experience The Floating Piers, but ultimately found the experience worthwhile. “Being fortunate to see The Floating Piers and Studying Abroad in Italy has made be believe that I am capable of doing anything,” one of the students, Anamarie Delgado, writes while reflecting on the experience. “I had always seen studying abroad as a possibility, but never thought that I would actually be able to have the experience. But I am so glad that I let those worries go and just let myself experience the opportunity. This is what I hope to teach my future students. I want them to know that they should not limit themselves on what they think they can and cannot do. They should just take an opportunity that comes in their life and pursue it.”
To read more about their trip to The Floating Piers, visit the Learning Tuscany blog.
Haley Parsa, undergraduate in Studio Art, receives UT System Regents' Outstanding Student Award in Arts and Humanities
Sat. April 30, 2016
Haley Parsa, undergraduate in Studio Art, received the 2016 Regents' Outstanding Student Award in Arts and Humanities. Only two students will be awarded across The University of Texas System. Both students will be recognized in May at the U.T. System Board of Regents' meeting.
Parsa’s work covers a large variety of mediums, gliding smoothly between them, never committing entirely to one or the other. The ways in which images or objects are embedded in and experienced within time, histories, bodies and space through repetition and documentation is a point of investigation within Parsa’s work. Repetition negates the passage of time yet each mark, unit, form, is documentation of a repeated action.
As an Iranian-American, her Persian history and her connection with it are placed under an intimate and meditative lens. Parsa challenges the expectation to identify with one culture wholly yet entertain both sides and works to situate herself somewhere in between the two. By embracing the liminality of not belonging to one side or another, Parsa is interested in how things can engage with histories and with space to transform, to become more mysterious and impactful.
This originated from a reoccurring childhood memory of my grandmother that is carried out to this day. As she only speaks Farsi, almost everything she's ever said has had to be translated to me. She would always say "you are my liver," meaning "you are my life/I cannot live without you." Not only was this phrase funny to me but it was always funny to think I feel completely connected to her even though we've never "spoken" - that I can still be in touch with my family, roots, heritage on a very intimate level despite not knowing Farsi or being "fully" Persian or being Persian "enough." I have struggled to situate and understand my place in my family and myself as an Iranian-American woman.
Aesthetically, the piece employs the same repeated letter technique used when learning a language on a fundamental, elementary level. Each letter of the Farsi alphabet is contained in an organic shape similar to bodily, liver-like parts all composing one unit.
I drew inspiration from an unlikely source: the grocery store. I took what appeared to be mangled meat or fish and distorted the image into a more abstract representation while staying true to the present values. It was important to treat each indistinguishable form with the same attention and grace. Each is rendered in a very precise and meticulous way in hand reduction (totaling 7 layers) to make accentuate the 3-Dimensionality of this seemingly grotesque abstracted image that would not normally be warranted this much attention or found as striking and curious.
Bucky Miller reflects on his time in London as RCA exchange student
Thu. February 25, 2016
Each fall, Royal College of Art, London (RCA) sends one graduate student to study at UT Austin, and the Department of Art and Art history sends one graduate student in their third semester to study in London. Bucky Miller, M.F.A. candidate in Studio Art, studied in London last fall.
First, an American man wearing all denim and an eye patch picked me up at Heathrow and took me to meet Genie, who was to live my life for a while. I was in London as an exchange student at the Royal College of Art Program in Sculpture, where I would spend four months working and researching through the seemingly limitless layers of history that describe that city.
The majority of the pictures I made during my trip, the majority of the research I accomplished, will hopefully find their own versions of sense over the coming months. But some pictures are outliers—one-offs or tangents that could easily slip through the cracks. I shared some of these tangents on the website of the Walkative group. Here are a few more:
THE ROYAL COLLEGE OF ART
I was housed alongside nearly seventy M.A. students inside the RCA Sculpture studios. The student body is so large that I don’t even think I met everyone in Sculpture, let alone the other disciplines, but I miss the ones I met. It is quite an international group, and I was one of only a few Americans.
Once, standing outside the pub opposite the RCA, I heard a man with an American accent say, “do you know Ari?”
“Sorry?” I said.
“Is your name Bucky? Do you know Ari? I’m Matt. I think I met you in Arizona in like 2006.”
(Studio Table) Here is a detail of my studio table. The studio spaces at the RCA are communal, and I was surrounded by wonderful people: one from Chile who made a sinking Moai and was charting the Rhubarb Triangle, one from Germany who was collecting novelizations of Dirty Dancing from the £1 store, one from South Korea who made a campfire without fire, and one from Japan whose art defies explanation but who seemed to be ruining televisions toward some fruitful end. In other parts of the building, somebody was preparing to launch a duck decoy with a brick while some others were conducting a ballet starring camp chairs.
At one point I made a drawing out of a bran flake. I tried to bring it home in a box of tea but it didn’t survive the flight.
London contains—by my count—276 museums; these gave me a map for my research. I went to as many as I could—up to five in one day—acting simultaneously as tourist and collector, getting lost in displays and wall text until I realized that I had forgotten to eat and scrambled off to find a sandwich. Actual museums that I visited, with made-up yet accurate names, include:
- The Middle-Class Living Rooms Museum
- The Museum of Famous Fat Men of the 1940s
- The House Where Freud Died
When I go over the blur of floor plans in my head, attempting to separate all those collections, I am surprised at how little overlap there is. Still, I believe these places can be united—not just museologically, but through fiction.
There are also museums that are built entirely out of photographs, but I will write more about that at a later date.
LIFE IN LONDON
I lived in Waterloo with Barbara and Simon. They had two cats, called Gilbert and George. I had my pig, Pig, who learned to fly in the downstairs kitchen. I learned to love QI. Sometimes there were visitors. Once, there was a Hanukah party.
Somebody informed me that all swans in England belong to the Queen, and that tampering with a swan was a serious offense. Generally I am more nervous that a swan will tamper with me. These two factors—combined—may explain why I did not photograph any actual swans.
I felt more comfortable photographing the other waterfowl in the Royal Parks, and it seemed a lot of the tourists had the same idea. It was one of a few indulgences I permitted myself; I didn’t ride the London Eye or take a Haunted Bus Tour, but the birds were free.
This is me. At one point I agreed that I was a heron. Heron Bucky still lives in London, patrolling the banks of the Thames for fish and discarded Shrek plushies, while I’m back in the States. I miss him.
It was immediately clear to me that pigeons in London are surprisingly handsome. This fellow, who is really pretty average by London standards, hung out on the balcony at Tate Modern. I lived relatively close to the Tate and found myself there all the time, taking in their massive collection bit-by-bit. One day I might only look at Arte Povera stuff, the next Nam Jun Paik, and one specific Dorothea Tanning painting on the third. There were at least a couple visits where I only looked at the pigeons, who had a great view out over the Thames at a point where the buskers sang American folk songs.
This bird is a horse. It is about the size of a typical London swan, but I’m pretty sure it does not belong to the Queen. Photographed for scale.
I’d been in the UK for less than two weeks when I wound up on a farm in Cuckfield, West Sussex, for a performance art festival. In this picture, a performer hides in the lettuce patch, wearing lettuce and talking on a lettuce phone about the latest happenings in British politics (Jeremy Corbyn had just been elected leader of the Labour Party). All the work was heartfelt, different, and, for me, slightly mind-bending. Overall the day was produce-heavy: I was given blackberries straight from a bush, I photographed a cabbage, I sang to a pear, and I fell in love with a cauliflower.
London contains a lot of art. So much art, in fact, that I’m not sure how to distill it here.
Before I left Texas I made loose plans to travel, to see more of Europe. It didn’t really happen. I did make it to Cambridge once—and here’s their Polar Research Institute—but I was completely consumed by the ecstatic act of existing inside of London. I saw no reason to leave.
All images courtesy Bucky Miller.
Q+A with Shelby Johnston, undergraduate in Art History
Thu. January 28, 2016
How did you learn about the Undergraduate Research Fellowship and what was the process of applying like for you? Did you have a clear idea of what you wanted to do?
Shelby Johnston: Dr. Ann Johns, my thesis adviser, recommended I apply for the Undergraduate Research Fellowship. In addition, I discussed the process with Jessica Thompson, an art history major who had received the fellowship the prior year. In August I started on the application. I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to do and needed to see how that corresponded with my thesis, which helped me in the application process.
What sites or artifacts were most important for you to visit? How does the in-person experience of your research topics change or influence your ideas?
SJ: I was in Siena, Italy for the majority of my trip, but I also took a day trip to Pienza. The sites that were the most important for me to see were the Piccolomini Library, which is located in Siena’s Duomo, the façade in Piccolomini Square, and the Palazzo Piccolomini in Pienza.
My senior thesis is on Pope Pius II and his legacy in Siena and how his patronage affected the city. The in-person experience is so different from researching online and looking at photos from books. Art History and art historical research so heavily relies on the visual aspect of things and being able to see Pius II’s projects as well as the Piccolomini Library in person greatly benefited my thesis research, especially since Pius describes all of his projects in his Commentarii. There are certain details that you cannot retain from seeing a photo or reading about a place. Being able to actually walk around these places you can make your own observations and that can influence your ideas. Pius II’s descriptions have more meaning now that I have seen some of the places he describes. For example Pius II describes the view of Mount Amiata from the Palazzo Piccolomini loggia in Pienza and compares it to Petrarch’s Mont Ventoux. If I had not seen this view myself how could I truly understand Pius II’s inspiration?
What was the funniest or most surprising experience during your travel?
SJ: Well, Italy is always bound to be an adventure. When traveling there during the off-season not as many restaurants are open and different sites and buses don’t have their normal hours. Probably the most surprising thing that happened occurred on a day trip from Siena to Pienza. Normally the bus first stops outside of Pienza and then again in the square just outside the medieval gate. Of course it being the off-season the bus did not make its second stop.
By the time we were leaving Pienza I realized the bus wasn’t stopping and ended up getting out at the next stop and spending that day in Montepulciano instead. However, this mishap turned into a wonderful day nonetheless. We met Adamo the owner of Cantina Contucci who is featured in Rick Steves’ travel books on Italy. He was delightful and gave us a personal tour of his winery.
SJ: I will finish writing my senior thesis “Pope Pius II: The Building of a Legacy in Siena” and present it at the Undergraduate Art History Symposium in April.