Wed. April 5, 2017
Annie May Johnston graduated with her M.F.A. in Studio Art in 2016, and since then has made her home in San Francisco. However, Johnston was recently pulled back to Austin for a mural commissioned by Facebook for their Austin headquarters.
Johnston answered questions from Studio Art professor and artist Leslie Mutchler by email.
Leslie Mutchler (LM): In your recent mural commission at Facebook (Austin), you've created a visually intense space—to say the least. The repetitive, hand-painted wallpaper of leaves, stripes and modernized fleur-de-lis is loose, expressionistic and vibrant; and over which you've added abstracted and flattened faux-doorways to interior spaces that bring to mind Memphis Design (Milan, circa 1980s). When you throw in the split complementary and warm/cool color schemes, it becomes an overwhelming, yet compelling mix. How did you arrive at this result? Was it planned? Was it intuitive? Can you walk us through your process?
Annie May Johnston (AMJ): Yes, I did have a plan, but I would say that I only stuck to the basic idea of a patterned hallway with doorways and houseplants. I decided that one side of the hall would be cool "wallpaper" with warm doorways and interior spaces and the other would be the opposite hue. My color choices mutated and changed from the start as the bright pink wall had an extreme reflective quality, so much so that it cast every color I chose for the green wall in a pink light, changing my colors completely. Originally, I planned to do the base of the wall with a stencil, but then I discovered a paint spray gun and the pattern developed out of moves that I had used before in smaller pieces. I also knew that I wanted to use milk paint, which is a type of material that is extremely matte and organic feeling, and I wanted to contrast it with bright acrylic and latex paints. I filled and layered the hallway until it felt satiated and could hold its own weight and was interesting enough on its own. The doorways were the next step, and I really felt they came out of nowhere as they were different from anything that I had made before. These pathways or portals needed to be modern and simple, but also absurd and a bit confusing. Ultimately, the result came from a combination of what the space needed rather than what I wanted and my own personal time spent wrestling and negotiating with the materials and surface.
LM: A patterned hallway and houseplants? What led you to this course of inquiry? Is there a reason you work with interior or domesticated spaces? And why are the houseplants important to the overall composition?
AMJ: Houseplants relate to our human desire to control nature. As captives in our home they completely rely on us for water, sun exposure and nutrients. Within wallpaper there is also that sense of wanting to control our natural environment. I link the patterns in floral wallpaper to expertly crafted gardens in their rows and circles and to our desire to be involved in our natural environment, but from a safe and warm location. The plants in this piece are important because they provide an anchor to the interior and to the "real world", a space that becomes separate from the more alien environment that exists through the portals or doorways. In previous work, my focus was on mapping and the psycho-geography of cities. My focal point was turned towards objects in the cities and later the objects in my own personal space. All of these areas felt too distant or too specific, so now my images are abstracted from my own personal memory. I'm currently trying to find a balance between anonymity and nostalgia.
LM: While here at UT Austin, you made prints and paintings—some installation—but ultimately the work always had an element of repetition. I'd say you are a printmaker at heart—although you work in a great variety of media and ways. How do you think your interest in print, specifically contemporary print, relates to how you make and what you make?
AMJ: I think to describe my relationship to contemporary print means I must talk about my introduction to printmaking. For some time I worked for an atelier in Paris that specialized in lithography, and I had the great honor of working with a wide variety of artists whose prints we pulled and published. At the workshop, Michael Woolworth Publications, we didn't just do editions. I saw prints pulled using pressed and pulped flowers and dried flies. Prints were painted over, folded, added on to, and some incorporated printed materials like books or magazines. Early on I saw print being used in dualities, (e.g., the monotype vs. the edition or the precious print vs. the zine) and in using the medium you encounter a kind of push and pull between intention and form. My most recent work sprung from an exploration of plants, pattern and space, so a natural arena to consider was wallpaper, an art form with its roots in the world of print.
LM: It's great to hear a printmaker talk about print in a less restrictive way. I think your background in print, especially your experiences at the publication shop in Paris has allowed you to work with the idea of the multiple and process in an innovative way. What's next for you?
AMJ: I really enjoyed having free-reign of a 90 ft. surface, especially the uniqueness of a hallway, so I imagine I will look for opportunities to work with other large surfaces in different spaces. My experience changed the way I'm currently working through compositions and colors, and I feel very fortunate that the environment challenged me. I have a show coming up in San Francisco in a space that has really old decorative accents and I am planning on doing a hand-painted area, so I'm looking forward to using the tools I gained during the Facebook project to continue working with the wall directly.
Notes from the Field: Art Education Graduate Emma Grimes at the National Art Education Association Conference
Mon. April 3, 2017
The world’s largest art education convention, The National Art Education Association’s (NAEA) conference in March is host to 1,000 participatory workshops, panels, seminars for art educators in elementary through higher education. The NAEA works to provide expertise and tools to its many attendees to help them effect change on their local levels. For graduate students and UT Austin professors alike, it is an opportunity to share scholarship and network among peer researchers and educators in the field.
We asked one of our Art Education graduates, Emma Grimes, to give us some notes from the field. She returned with a list of themes, highlights and personal takeaways.
“Some of the recurring themes from NAEA included socially engaged curriculums, specific strategies for how to make a difference with art education, creating communities that foster advocacy, and the increasing need for quality research,” Grimes wrote.
On meeting your idols (or at least your authors)
We have done a substantial amount of reading this year and many of the authors of articles we’ve studied were present at the conference. It was a special experience to hear veterans of the field speak candidly about current topics and issues that art educators face today. As someone just entering into the field, it was inspiring to hear words of wisdom from educators, activists, and historians who have seen art education evolve over the past few decades.
On research presented by a peer
In the session “Understanding Challenges: Teaching and Learning Social Justice Through Art” InJeong Yoon presented her doctoral dissertation research composed of case studies of undergraduate art courses that she had taught where topics of social justice were introduced into her curriculum. Her findings were particularly useful to me, as similar topics and concerns have emerged in the Art and Art History Core freshman class where I serve as a teaching assistant for this semester.
On changes within the field of art education
In the panel between Mary Ann Stankiewicz, Kerry Freedman, Laurie Hicks, Doug Blandy, Graeme Sullivan—all prominent figures in the world of art education and all people who have published articles read in our grad program—they discussed trends in art education research, what research is currently needed, and tactics for encouraging more quality research to be conducted. The question of the value of research in our field was brought up multiple times, and the panelists reiterated the need to garner more support for research if our field is to remain a professional one.
Thu. March 30, 2017
The Blanton Museum of Art re-opened its doors on Feb 12, 2017 to a completely reimagined presentation of its galleries and permanent collection. In its new incarnation, the ancient American and Latin American galleries have been enriched by the addition of The Art and Art History Collection (AAHC) on loan from the Department of Art and Art History. Consisting of ancient artifacts, ethnographic materials and historical objects primarily from the Americas, the breadth and depth of the collection spans approximately 5,000 invaluable objects for research and studious exploration.
“Many people in Austin know that the Blanton was a pioneer in the field of Latin American art, but for the last decade, visitors have only had a glimpse of that interest, through temporary exhibitions and programs,” says Curator of Latin American Art Beverly Adams to the Austin American-Statesman. “The new installation of the permanent collection will be the first time in our current building that major movements and ideas in Latin American art have been represented.”
The Art and Art History Collection ranges from early Pre-Columbian ceramics to twentieth-century hand-crafted textiles, from small lithic bifacial points (ex. hand axes, spear points) to life-size wooden sculptures. Supplemented by cultural holdings from the Texas Memorial Museum and objects from Duncan and Elizabeth Boeckman of Dallas, Texas, the most substantial holdings of the collection pertain to the Pre-Columbian cultures across the Americas.
The process of integrating the long-term loan of the AAHC into the new Blanton galleries offered yet another opportunity for the department and the museum to intersect through the work of the Mesoamerica Center and art history undergraduate and graduate student assistants. “As someone interested in museum work and ancient American art, it was an amazing opportunity to assist with the installation,” writes art history master’s degree candidate Kendyll Gross. “I came to The University of Texas at Austin as Art History Lecturer and Assistant Director of the Mesoamerica Center Dr. Astrid Runggaldier and the Blanton were creating a plan of action, so I have been active with the project from the very start.”
“The first thing that awed me about the collection was its diversity and sheer size. There are over a thousand objects hailing from different regions and time periods of Latin America,” writes Gross. “I loved scanning through everything we could choose from. I would research items from the collection and compare them to similar objects in museums across the country. I would flip through the Metropolitan or LACMA’s online databases and think ‘Wow, we have something just like that here at UT!’
A vital resource for the student and scholarly community as well as the greater community of Austin, a selection of The Art and Art History Collection objects and textiles can be viewed in the new Blanton gallery devoted to the art of the Ancient Americas, and in the gallery of Native American art.
Mon. March 27, 2017
The Loeb Classical Library Foundation at Harvard University has awarded a Loeb Classical Library Fellowship to Art History Professor John Clarke and the Oplontis Project. The Loeb Classical Library Foundation awards fellowships to qualified scholars to support research, publication and other projects in the area of classical studies. With the fellowship in 2017-2018, Oplontis Project will continue their work at the site of Oplontis in Torre Annunziata, Italy.
Thu. March 23, 2017
From the 1940's zines devoted to H.P. Lovecraft to the Soviet underground press samizat, the recent work of Studio Art faculty member Jason Urban mines the rich landscape of print history. His prints, drawings, paintings and installations have been featured in numerous venues nationally and internationally, and, most recently, brought him to The University of Alberta. Urban was invited to lecture about his work and research in conjunction with the opening of The Formalist’s Library at The Society of Northern Alberta Print-artists (SNAP) Gallery in Edmonton, Alberta.
In The Formalist’s Library, Urban meditates on the structure of the traditional brick-and-mortar library as a vehicle for delivering information as we move from the physical to physible. The Formalist’s Library is an ongoing series exploring various aspects of library architecture and systems and the lifespan of printed media in both the micro (daily) and macro (centurial) sense.
The Formalist's Library is on view March 16, 2017 - April 22, 2017.