UT Visual Arts Center

From the mountains of Libre, Colo., in his self-built dome home, artist Dean Fleming will be answering questions via Skype at the UT Visual Arts Center on Thursday. The exhibit, “Travels in North Africa and Greece,” showcases the artist’s work and allows students to journey through the paintings of his travel sketchbook. The exhibit consists of many different paintings of colorful geometric shapes and designs. 

Art history professor Linda Henderson is the curator of the exhibit and will host the talk with Fleming. Henderson believes Fleming’s art searches for another realm of space through shape.

“What we see in this exhibition is his discovery of the way, if he alters the grid or starts stretching things, the space will start moving,” Henderson said. “He would really like these works to shake your confidence in the 3-D world as you know it.”

Xochi Solis, director of events and public programming at the center, helped coordinate the upcoming talk with Fleming. 

“[Fleming] just had hip surgery, so it will be a Skype interview, but he’s looking forward to it,” Solis said. “Dr. Henderson flew in [from Berlin] for this event.”

Henderson and Fleming have worked together before in reaching out to students. Fleming lectured when his work was featured at the 2004 Blanton exhibit “Twister: Moving Through Color, 1965-1977” and also gave a lecture to one of Henderson’s classes a year ago. 

“When he talks to students it is so inspiring because he believes so much in the power of art and its ability to affect people in a positive way,” Henderson said. “What’s so great for art students and students in general is to hear about somebody who believes so strongly in goals.”

Studio art freshman Connor Frew enjoyed the Fleming exhibit, saying he appreciated the way Fleming’s art correlates with goals he has in his own art and related Fleming’s art to a project he did last semester.

“We were doing this project with foundations, where we were working with what [Fleming] was basically doing,” Frew said. “I’m a big fan of structural stuff, and that’s something I enjoy a lot.” 

Henderson said Fleming’s message to students is a positive one. According to Henderson, Fleming is interested in students and is always eager to speak.     

“He’s had really wonderful interactions with students,” Henderson said. “There’s so much for students to learn, but also there’s this larger message of believing in art and following your dream — that kind of vision, that belief in possibility is really important.”

Fleming has also inspired Henderson as an educator.     

“For me as a scholar, he’s really inspiring,” Henderson said. “His mood and his attitude say that art can change the world.” 

Theater and math senior Ben Matkin assists artist Alyson Shotz in preparation for the Invariant Interval installation Friday afternoon. Shotz’s art piece was shipped from Brooklyn to Austin, where student volunteers can work along side with her.

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Artist-in-residence Alyson Shotz’s “Invariant Interval” exhibit plays on space in more ways than one.

The artist-in-residence program invites a well-established artist to create a piece of art catered to the UT Visual Arts Center. Shotz, this year’s artist, is known for her minimalistic work featured in notable museums such as the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. 

It was this minimalistic aesthetic that drew Jade Walker, gallery director of the center, to Shotz’s work. 

“I loved her work in the studio. We haven’t had anyone who builds so minimally,” Walker said. “We wanted to bring in an artist who worked with very ephemeral objects and [was] minimal in terms of the way the work looked but also multiple in the way they built. “

Shotz toured the Visual Arts Center to gauge the space and create a design suited for it. The result is a suspended sculpture made of glass
beaded wires that is connected to create a three-dimensional grid-like structure. 

“This is a work commissioned especially for the [center] and for this space,” exhibit curator C.C. Marsh said. “That means it has never been created before or installed anywhere else. So just hearing her thought process is fascinating because you get to see how a work of art is made from start to finish.“

Shotz drew inspiration from outer space and the use of items of little mass to fill up large spaces. 

“I was interested in experimenting with expandable structure; also looking for new ways to describe space sculpturally,” Shotz said. 

While on campus, she worked with the McDonald Observatory to gain further inspiration from the sky. 

“Usually when we bring in an artist, they come in for a large period of time,” Walker said. “A week of her residency she spent out at the observatory working with the scientist there. And so that was something totally different that we’d never done before.” 

Shotz began creating her piece in her Brooklyn studio. After building its basic design there, she shipped it to Austin where she and student volunteers assembled it. 

“Students are helping to actually build the pieces that you’ll [see] in the gallery. So it’s hands on,” Walker said. “When [Shotz] first got here they were all on the floor together building and beading, and then right now they are actually raising this huge structure that she has built.” 

This student involvement provides an educational opportunity for aspiring artists to see and experience firsthand the work that goes into creating an installation. 

“I went to visit classrooms early this week and introduced them to [Shotz’s] body of work,” Marsh said. “Each day there have been maybe nine opportunities total for people to come in and work with [Shotz] on the piece, so it’s really volunteer basis. It’s a great opportunity for them to work with a well-known artist and assemble something that might be different than their own craft.” 

Shotz has also enjoyed her time working with the student volunteers.

“I’ve found them to be a highly-motivated group, very competent, and helpful and fun to be around,” Shotz said. 

“Invariant Interval” opens Sept. 27 and will run through Dec. 7. For more information, Shotz will give a talk about the exhibit on Sept. 23.

Business freshman Avni Kothari, right, watches a screening of "13 Most Beautiful...Songs for Andy Warhol's Screen Tests," showing in the Visual Arts Center on Thursday as a part of an ongoing lunchtime film series.

Photo Credit: Thomas Allison | Daily Texan Staff

A screening of “13 Most Beautiful... Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests” caused students to focus on minute details of behavior at the UT Visual Arts Center’s inaugural Lunch Break program held Thursday.

Visual Arts Center public relations intern Natalie Mathis said the Warhol screening was the first in a series of three events that will occur this semester during the lunch hour.

“We wanted this to be accessible to students and professors who can’t come back to campus during our evening events,” Mathis said.

More than 20 visitors came to the screening and enjoyed picnic-style eating while watching a montage of 13 screen tests made of some of the famous artist’s closest friends. The collection was compiled by the Warhol estate after the artist’s death. The selected screen tests are the only tests released widely to the public out of a huge collection.

“Warhol liked collecting things, whether it was cookie jars or gemstones,” Mathis said. “It was not limited to objects. These screen tests are just another collection of his.”

The 13 screen tests, which are essentially moving portraits of a variety of faces ranging from anonymous to the highly recognizable actor Dennis Hopper, are set to music in the film, an addition to the original footage.

“I found the soundtrack to be a very nice compliment to the film,” Mathis said. “The music helped carry you through what is essentially just a series of faces. The music I feel helps keep the viewer engaged. It was a nice addition to what was on its own a beautiful thing.”

Mathis said the tiniest details of human behavior were the most striking things she noticed during the film.

“They seemed to be self-conscious and hyper-aware of every single movement,” Mathis said. “He wasn’t reliant on camera angles or the background. It was just a very intimate portrait of the person.”

Art history lecturer Elizabeth Chiles said the intimacy of having to look intently at a live portrait and focusing on the small details of a person’s face can be a bit uncomfortable.

“It’s interesting,” Chiles said. “The first two or three [screen tests] I felt like I was looking at their inner struggles with themselves. It was really uncomfortable as compared to the other side where we’re looking at them and not into them.”
Business freshman Avni Kothari said she also found that watching the small movements of someone drinking a Coke, chewing on their fingernails, smoking a cigarette or just staring intently back at someone could be a bit uncomfortable but rewarding at the same time.

“It sometimes made you feel uncomfortable, but it became really personal,” Kothari said. “I liked how Andy Warhol used such minimalistic techniques that you focused on detail-oriented things.”

The next Lunch Break event will be sponsored in conjunction with the “Queer State(s)” exhibit at the Visual Arts Center and includes a talk about LGBT issues after a screening of the documentary film “Red without Blue” on Oct. 20.

Printed on Friday, September 23, 2011 as: "Lunch Break program debuts with Warhol."

Austin Director Richard Linklater stopped by the art building to speak with visiting artist Mika Tajima about his 1991 film, “Slacker,” the philosophy of slacking and how they relate to Tajima’s exhibition at the UT Visual Arts Center.

Photo Credit: Tamir Kalifa | Daily Texan Staff

Director and filmmaker Richard Linklater and artist Mika Tajima contended that slackers aren’t apathetic or lazy, but are instead driven by a unique ideology that emphasizes enjoying life. They discussed their views on slackers at a program presented Tuesday by the Blanton Museum of Art and the UT Visual Arts Center.

Linklater, known for his 1991 film “Slacker,” and Tajima, creator of an exhibit in the Visual Arts Center entitled “The Architect’s Garden,” noted the ways art facilitates an appreciation of a slacker’s world view.

Tajima said she often integrates the concept of ‘flaneur,’ or experiencing the world as you stroll through it with no particular destination in mind, into her work. She said flaneur is a key element to one piece she has on display at the Visual Arts Center, where emphasis is put on the empty space in the work, rather than the physical parts of the piece.

“It’s like the classroom at the University where no one showed up to class,” Tajima said.

Society often overlooks great pieces of art and artists that require them to think about that space in between the art, or non-traditionalist thought, Linklater said.

“My prototypical American slacker would be Henry David Thoreau,” Linklater said. “People hated Thoreau.”

Thoreau, a renowned 19th century essayist and naturalist, is an example of people who have rejected the traditional way of life in centuries past, he said.

“There’s always going to be people who are going to be like ‘screw this, I want to live,’” Linklater said.

Linklater said he believes that people who avoid consumeristic obsession usually are more apt to place emphasis on life and people rather than their dollar value.

“The stock market crashes,” Linklater said. “We’re like ‘so what?’ There’s a sense of community. There’s not a lot of greed.”

Linklater and Tajima acknowledged the growing influence of consumerism in the evolving purpose of college, a topic recent Trinity University graduate and Visual Arts Center intern Elyse Rodriguez said directly applied to her life.

“We touched upon many issues that affected me personally as a recent college grad,” Rodriguez said. “College used to not be so expensive. Now, you are pressured into taking a job right away, even if it’s not what you love. I want to do my own thing. I don’t want to be in a cubicle with computers because it makes me money.”

People must decide how they define the word “work” before being able to truly appreciate a non-consumeristic ideology, Linklater said.

“You have to be careful how you define work,” Linklater said. “I don’t really consider what I do work. This is the life I chose. I love it.”

Linklater’s most recent piece of work, “Bernie,” starring Jack Black and Matthew McConaughey, isn’t set to be released until next year, but audiences will have a chance to screen it Saturday, Sept. 17 at the Paramount Theatre to raise funds for fire victims in Bastrop. Most filming was done in Bastrop, and Linklater has property in the area.

“It’s something people in Austin can do to help our neighbors,” Linklater said. “My neighbors all lost their houses. Unlike my neighbors, I am not homeless.”

Printed on Wednesday, September 14, 2011 as: Director, artist inspired by slacking.

The UT Visual Arts Center announced Monday that New York artist Mika Tajima will spend three weeks on campus in the Artist-in-Residence program this semester.

Tajima, who currently lives in New York, manipulates multiple media in her modernist work. Tajima’s sculptures, paintings and other visual creations have been displayed in museums across the U.S., as well as the South London Gallery. Her work with each media is combined to create art installations that surround viewers as they walk through the display.

“You walk in and you’re not really sure if you’re behind the scenes on the set of a play or in another world,” said Calandra Childers, public relations manager for the Seattle Art Museum, where other projects by Tajima have been on display since July. “People have been spending a lot of time in the exhibit and are really excited to see something this different.”

The work Tajima created for the Visual Arts Center, entitled “The Architect’s Garden”, combines sculpture and projected images inspired by UT and the city of Austin. Tajima is scheduled to be at UT from Aug. 30 until Sept. 15, and her work will remain on display on campus throughout the fall semester.

Jade Walker, Visual Arts Center director, said she and other program directors have been interested in bringing Tajima’s work to UT for some time.

Aimee Chang, Manager of Public Programs at the Blanton Museum of Art, is curating the Tajima display at the Visual Arts Center and said she has followed the artist’s work since 2006. Chang said she loves the way Tajima incorporates geometric extraction with physical movement taking place in her created space.

“I’m very interested in spaces that are activated and art that can reach out and interact with people,” Chang said. “A lot of her installations are usually spaces where things happen — spaces that are art in themselves but also serve another activity.”

Chang said Tajima’s focus for “The Architect’s Garden” was to create a space that could also serve as a classroom where learning and conversation could take place. Walker said this focus will become evident through the programs presented by the Visual Arts Center and the Blanton Museum of Art, which will highlight the exhibit and shed light upon Tajima’s inspiration.

Both organizations are sponsoring an “artist talk” Aug. 30 at the Blanton in which Tajima will discuss her display in depth, Walker said.