Department of Art and Art History News

Ryan Hawk (M.F.A. candidate in Studio Art) studies the Pitch Lake in La Brea, Trinidad

Thu. January 28, 2016

Ryan Hawk (M.F.A. candidate in Studio Art) received a traveling fellowship from his B.F.A. alma mater. Hawk discusses his practice in an interview in Big Red and Shiny and shares his experience during the trip below.


I am currently a 2016 Traveling Fellow which is an award given to alumni from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston to support travel and research for the production of new work. For my Traveling Fellowship I am studying the Pitch Lake in La Brea, Trinidad of Trinidad and Tobago. I was originally interested in traveling to the Pitch Lake because I found that the natural pitch from the lake struck a direct visual resemblance to GAK Polymer, a material that I have been using in my studio for several years. After visiting the lake for the first time, my fascination has now grown to include the labor practices and industrialization of the asphalt from the lake as well as the mythology as prescribed by locals who live near the lake. Moving forward, I plan to engage the unique aesthetic and physical properties of the lake in my studio for the production of a new body of work that will include drawing, sculpture and a performance-based video installation. Below are some images from my first trip to the lake:

photograph of pump house in field by pitch lake
Image courtesy of Ryan Hawk.

Overview of Pitch Lake and a pump house. Water collects on the surface of the Pitch Lake during the rainy season and can get as deep as six feet in places. The pump house is necessary to remove water so that the plant can collect the dry pitch (asphalt).

image of foamy substance and gas coming off pitch lake
Image courtesy of Ryan Hawk.

This foam is some kind separation of natural gases which seems to be intensified by the running water—a geological process I am unfamiliar with at this time. It smelled very much like methane.

tar-like gooey substance moving over dry tar
Image courtesy of Ryan Hawk.

Wet pitch slowly moving across the 'dry' surface of the lake.

dark wet matter running over dark ground
Image courtesy of Ryan Hawk.

Locals describe the wet pitch moving under the dry surface much like 'veins' in a body. Here, a vein has surfaced and is 'gooping' out.

yellow and orange minerals mixing wiht black tar
Image courtesy of Ryan Hawk.

Another strange geological process—the pitch is made of several natural gases, minerals and oils. When it separates, gold-like residue forms. I imagine this is why the first Western colonialists referred to the pitch as "Black Gold".

woman floating in black water
Image courtesy of Ryan Hawk.

In the cracks and crevices of the lake, water pools are common during the rainy season. Because the lake is constantly moving underneath and off-gassing various natural gases, minerals, and oils, some water pools are good for bathing. This image shows a sulfur pool with amazing neon-green colored water. Locals prescribe healing properties to these pools and some bath on a daily basis!

ryanhawk.info

The American School: Artists and Status in the Late Colonial and Early National Era by Susan Rather

Thu. January 28, 2016

brown book jacket with bio, image, spine, and front cover art

The American School: Artists and Status in the Late Colonial and Early National Era

What did it mean to be an American artist in the 18th- and early-19th-century transatlantic world? In this first comprehensive art-historical study of the subject, Susan Rather examines the status of artists from different geographical, professional, and material perspectives: portrait painting in Boston and London, the trade of art in Philadelphia and New York, the negotiability and usefulness of colonial American identity in Italy and London, and the shifting representation of artists in and from the former British colonies after the Revolutionary War, when London remained the most important cultural touchstone. The book interweaves nuanced analysis of well-known artists (John Singleton Copley, Benjamin West, and Gilbert Stuart, among others) with accounts of non-elite painters and ephemeral texts and images such as painted signs and advertisements, all well represented in this richly illustrated book. Throughout, Rather questions the validity of the term "American,” which she sees as provisional—the product of an evolving, multifaceted cultural construction.

Susan Rather is professor of Art History at The University of Texas at Austin. This book was published by Yale University Press in association with the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art.
 

Congratulations to our faculty promotions!

Thu. January 28, 2016

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man in blue jacket and shirt poses for photograph

Eddie Chambers, now full Professor of Art History, has been promoted after only two years in rank as associate professor. His 2014 book, Black Artists in British Art: A History from 1950–Present was described by a distinguished referee as “a dazzling account of the history that [Chambers] knows so well and in which he has played such a major role” as a former artist, curator and critic.


women wearing black long sleeved shirt and scarf smiles in front of video camera
Ann Johns, is newly promoted as the first-ever Distinguished Senior Lecturer of Art History, but has been long and widely recognized as one of the finest undergraduate lecturers in the College of Fine Arts. Johns has distinguished herself as a curriculum reformer, an experimentalist with teaching technologies, a turn-around administrator at salvaging struggling programs and a public intellectual who got the personal attention of President Obama and national press.

woman with brown shawl poses in front of wood panel walls

Susan Rather, now full Professor of Art History, completed—after many years of meticulous, multi-disciplinary research—a massive book titled The American School: Artists and Status in the Late Colonial and Early National Era, newly released by Yale University Press. A Harvard referee described this beautifully written book as "the essential reference on the topic.”


man poses for photograph in front of orange prints
Photo by James Scheuren.

Jason Urban, now Senior Lecturer of Studio Art, is a consistently fantastic undergraduate teacher who is credited by his chair and colleagues with energizing the Printmaking program and restructuring part of the freshmen curriculum. He is a widely exhibited artist, also known nationally for curating the online blog Printeresting and organizing national print exhibitions. Urban has taught in Plan II and developed numerous freshmen Signature Course.


four people posting for photograph and one woman holds award
(Left to right) College of Liberal Arts Associate Dean for Research Esther Raizen, grand prize winner Associate Professor of Islamic art and architecture Stephennie Mulder, UT Austin Vice President for Research Dr. Juan Sanchez, and College of Fine Arts Dean Doug Dempster.

Additionally noteworthy news from 2015 includes Professor Stephennie Mulder's Hamilton Book Award for Shrines of the Alids in Medieval Syria: Sunnis, Shi’ls and the Architecture of Coexistence. This was the fifth Hamilton Book Award won by a faculty member in Art History, more than any other single department or college at The University of Texas at Austin. Jack Risley was also newly named as the Meredith and Cornelia Long Chair in Art and Art History.

 

***Faculty promotions are effective fall 2016***

Q+A with Shelby Johnston, undergraduate in Art History

Thu. January 28, 2016

woman poses for photograph in front of scenic view
Johnston on the Palazzo Piccolomini Loggia in Pienza

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.

Photograph of Italian landscape
The view of the hanging gardens from the Palazzo Piccolomini Loggia. In the way background Mont' Amiata is covered with fog in Pienza.

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?

christmas tree by sculpture of man in courtyard
Piazza Salimbeni in Siena decorated for Christmas (I was there the week before Christmas).

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.

fresco of man shaking hand of woman with battle in background
The fresco Meeting Between Frederick III and Eleanor of Aragon and Canonization of Saint Catherine from the Piccolomini Libraryin Siena. Pius II is the figure in the center.
 
What's next for you in this upcoming semester?

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.
 

Georgia Carter (M.F.A. Studio Art, 2015) presents work at Lawndale Art Center

Wed. January 27, 2016

three graphic drawings hanging on white wall
Photo by Sandy Carson. Courtesy of the Visual Arts Center

Georgia Carter (M.F.A. in Studio Art, 2015) presents new work in "Grisaille" at Lawndale Art Center. The exhibition will be on view January 22 – February 27, 2016.