Department of Art and Art History

Former Art and Art History professors Lawrence McFarland and Bradley Petersen are featured in the “Compound Interests” art exhibit. McFarland, a photographer, and Petersen, a painter, are two of eight former Art and Art History professors who are a part of the exhibit.



A studio art exhibition spanning a variety of mediums is currently under way, but one common thread ties it all together: All eight of the artists are former professors from UT’s Department of Art and Art History. 

The exhibition, aptly titled “Compound Interests,” is open for viewing at Gallery Shoal Creek on East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard from now until Sept. 14. 

One of the artists, Lawrence McFarland, is former UT photography teacher of 28 years. His portion of the exhibit includes four images forming a group titled, “Celebration of the Sun.” 

“The sun is the most powerful force to interact with the Earth,” McFarland said. “If we did not have the sun we would not exist. I hope to address, through my images, the sun and how important it is to us physically, intellectually, psychologically, creatively and metaphorically.”

Much like McFarland’s images of the sun, the purpose of art is often to portray ideas and subjects in uncommon ways that allow for better understanding. 

Each of the artists has their own way of portraying these certain ideas and subjects. While Bradley Petersen and Susan Whyne have pieces focused on drawing and painting, Thelma Coles focuses on ceramics and Don Herron’s pieces are metals. 

Mark Goodman, former photography professor, captured photographs of downtown Austin from 1980 through spring 2013.

“When you pay attention and get to see what [a subject] looks like as a picture, it changes what’s in front of you,” Goodman said. “It changes how you can understand pictures. It’s a way of coming to terms with, and making sense of, what’s in front of you.” 

Goodman said pictures, and art in general, can help people understand who they are and what’s happening around them. 

McFarland said his attraction to art dates back to when he was five years old, recreating landscapes and cartoon characters with pencil and paper. 

“I decided then that I wanted to be an artist,” McFarland said. “Later when I went to college, I had a double major — math and art. Math was easy and art was hard, so I decided to major in art, and I have not looked back.”

Kenneth Hale, a professor in the department for 40 years, said producing and viewing art is one of the best experiences he has ever known. Hale, as well as Tom Druecker, will have their prints showcased at the exhibit. 

“Living a life with art is an imperative no matter what career students choose,” Hale said. “Art takes you out of the everyday routine of life and can take you to a new place, if you are lucky.”

Having been with the University for so long, the eight newly retired faculty members treasured many moments during their careers, despite some tedious or difficult tasks of being a professor.  

“I will not miss endless faculty meetings, committee meetings, the evaluation of faculty year after year with no increases in salary and the endless department, college, university, state and national reports and paperwork that is required just to teach a class at the University of Texas,” McFarland said. “But, I say, and I think most faculty will say, the students — as they are the future — keep us all honest and make us feel alive.” 

These artists, though no longer at UT, have created passion and inspiration in their wake, leaving those who learned from them to push forward with their knowledge. 

“I hope that I have helped students to believe in themselves,” McFarland said. “When they leave school they will not have anyone in their studios standing around to inspire them. They will have to find that energy somewhere, and I hope they leave the University with the ability to find that inspiration inside themselves.”

Assistant preparator Daniel Vargas carries a paint tray to add finishing touches to the new art installations of the Visual Art Center on Thursday afternoon. The VAC, located in the Art Building on San Jacinto Street, will open its four new exhibitions to the public today and will remain open until March 10.

Photo Credit: Fanny Trang | Daily Texan Staff

To commemorate the semester with new and riveting art, the Department of Art and Art History will launch the Visual Arts Center’s spring semester by previewing their first four exhibitions of the season at their opening reception tonight at 6 p.m.

Featuring a variety of work in each of their galleries, the highlight of the evening is an exhibition presented by the department’s artist-in-residence, sculptor Diana Al-Hadid. Based in Brooklyn, New York, Al-Hadid presents a site-specific sculpture that seems to be a combination of structure and allusion, using a variety of common sculpture material. The piece appears to be in a state between construction and deconstruction and was created through Al-Hadid’s four-week stay at the University. Art and art history students were also given the opportunity to work with Al-Hadid individually on the piece, to learn from her as a contemporary working artist. An estimated twelve undergraduate members of the Center Space Project, a student-run and student-curated organization within the department, were involved in the creation of Al-Hadid’s piece to be featured in the opening, according to director of the Visual Arts Center, Jade Walker.

Students involved in the Center Space Project often get the chance to work with guest artists to gain greater knowledge of the professionalism in the field. Senior art history major Claire Dempster feels that the Visual Arts Center provides great opportunities for students.

“The point of the VAC is for the department of art and art history to give their students an opportunity to work in an art gallery and to see what it’s like to be a working, professional and successful artist,” Dempster said.

The opening reception, slated to run from 6-9 p.m., will feature five exhibitions in which the general public can attend at no cost.

Other exhibitions feature an assortment of shared cultural identity pieces by 25 Chinese artists, a site-specific installation created by San Antonio-based artist Justin Boyd, an assortment of prints and the student-curated exhibition that addresses themes of chance and inevitability in a variety of art mediums.

Shannon Stagner, Coordinator for External and Alumni Relations for the Department of Art and Art History, is excited for the way the department continues to build the relationship between students and guest artists through exhibitions featured in the opening reception.

“Last year those openings averaged about 1000 people, so it’s a really big event,” said Stagner. “It’s a great way to see people and be seen.”

Conveniently located within the Department of Art and Art History, the Visual Arts Center was established fall 2010. Due to the long unmet need for an exhibition space, the center was created with the fundamental values to provide a vibrant, collaborative and innovative space for students, guest artists and faculty to explore and develop contemporary art.

Although the opening reception is a one-night-only event, the art installations will remain in their respective galleries through March 10. Following these exhibitions will be the work of graduating students within the department who will be able to showcase their work for two to three weeks.

Whether they’re interested in making art or observing it, the Visual Arts Center provides an opportunity for a growing student interest in the contemporary arts scene readily available on campus. 

Printed on Friday, January 27, 2012 as: First exhibits of season shown at Visual Arts Center