Gloria Lee

Dan Lothringer looks at a piece created by a faculty member of the Department of Art and Art History on Monday afternoon. The Visual Art Center’s “Inquiry” exhibit features artwork from faculty in all four departments in the College of Fine Arts.
Photo Credit: Zoe Fu | Daily Texan Staff

When faculty members from the Department of Art and Art History were asked to create art inspired by personal research, the results were questionable. “Inquiry,” the Visual Arts Center’s latest exhibit, features a towering stack of manuscripts, flasks of preserved goldfish and hand-drawn hieroglyphic translations.

“Inquiry” allows faculty members to showcase different modes of creative expression in each division of study in the College of Fine Arts: design, studio art, art history and art education. The exhibit features work from 58 of the 70 department faculty members who taught in the fall. Running from Jan. 30 to Feb. 21,  “Inquiry” aims to foster unity between the four divisions of study. 

Elizabeth Welch, a Ph.D. Curatorial Fellow and the co-curator of the exhibit, said the curators hope to give all divisions equal emphasis. Generally, studio art is the focus of the VAC’s time and space, according to Welch. 

“The theme was a way for us to think about what a studio artist does, what an art historian does, what a design artist does, what an art educator does and what they have in common,” Welch said. “And that’s [the fact] that they all have to read and do research before they create their work.”

In order to make the exhibit more inclusive, Welch and VAC director Jade Walker decided to use the term “inquiry” to tie four areas of study together.

Gloria Lee, design associate professor and “Inquiry” contributor, said many creative types spend time on extended research.

“A lot of people believe that people who make things may not actually reference reading,” Lee said. “If you spend some time with them, a lot of the faculty who are makers, artists and designers actually read a lot.”

Faculty were encouraged to accompany the art with a list of books — career-related or general — that were important to them. Gallery manager Emily Kelly said faculty had the option of submitting a bibliography, a biography, a physical piece of artwork or any combination of the three. 

Lee contributed all three forms. Aside from providing a biography and bibliography, she submitted a series of text messages printed onto blank cards using letterpress printing. She said her inspiration stemmed from text messages she shared with her children.

“I treasure the ordinary moments, and a lot of the texts we send are really kind of precious,” Lee said. “People like to preserve things, and it’s harder to preserve things that are digital. I [began] to realize that if I ever lost or upgraded my phone, some of these really great, fun, sweet or emotional texts would be gone.”

Welch said the faculty aspect is what sets “Inquiry” apart from traditional galleries and exhibits.

“I think students tend to forget that faculty members do work other than in the classroom,” Welch said. “When we spend time in the exhibition, it can really remind you that the reason [the professors] teach is because of what they do. They have their own practice, they make exciting things, they do exciting research.” 

Lee said the exhibit embodies each faculty member’s research interests and inquisitiveness.

“People tend to view things just as pretty,” she said. “But we actually have a question in our mind that we’re answering — not with words necessarily, but with form.”

Khappa Phi Lambda vice president Gloria Lee conducts a human trafficking workshop using scenes from the movie ‘Taken’ as part of the sorority’s philanthropy week Wednesday evening.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

Kappa Phi Lambda informed students about how human trafficking is a local problem despite misconceptions that abductions only happen overseas.

Kappa Phi Lambda sorority, a member of the Texas Asian Pan-Hellenic Council, pulled attention to the contrast between the reality of human trafficking and its portrayal in the media on the third day of its annual philanthropy week, “Fight the Fright.” Human trafficking is the focus of the sorority’s local philanthropic group, the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women.

Gloria Lee, textiles and apparel and pre-med senior and vice-president of the sorority, led a punctuated screening of the movie “Taken” to cite the differences between kidnapping and prostitution on screen and in real life. Lee said the sorority advocates for Asian women who have fallen victim to human trafficking. In association with the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, Lee said the sorority works to raise awareness of and to fight modern forms of slavery.

“When we talk about human trafficking, the first thing you think of is prostitution, but there isn’t a particular group or race that is targeted,” Lee said.

“It’s a very real business, and it does happen in America.”

Government involvement in human trafficking helps to make it the second most profitable criminal field in the world behind drug trafficking, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Errors in movie and TV depictions stem from the incorrect perception that people are not smuggled in their own communities.

“Just because we don’t see it happening doesn’t mean it’s not right in front of us,” Emily Leigh, advertising senior and Kappa Phi Lambda member, said. “People forget that it’s not always prostitution. It can be slavery of any form.”

Accounting junior Shawn Ngoh said the event helped the issue seem more relevant to student life, because it brought up the different kinds of people involved in abduction.

“I never thought of it as a business. Knowing that some of these guys are just businessmen making money to take care of their families makes it so real. They don’t have to be gangsters; they could just be walking down the street,” Ngoh said.

Kappa Phi Lambda will host a lemonade stand fundraiser Thursday in support of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, a movement to promote social equality for Asian Pacific Islander women, to conclude “Fight the Fright” week.

A design graduate student hopes people will use a more natural alternative to environmentally harmful plates and containers. Amrita Adhikary designed a system to make compostable dinnerware out of fallen areca nut palm leaves, which are native to India. She said she wanted to create a solution to the waste from the culture of high consumption. “We do need a disposable option because of our lifestyle; we are always on the go,” Adhikary said. “We need to take food when we travel or pick up food at fast food restaurants.” She said Styrofoam and plastic containers are environmentally hazardous because they don’t degrade or decompose. The waste from these products occupy massive amounts of space and can potentially harm ground water, she said. “Using leaves [to make plates] ensures that the plate is a totally environmentally-friendly product from the start to the finish,” Adhikary said. Although there are more biodegradable products on the market now, people are not consistently composting them, Adhikary said. She said biodegradable and compostable items that get thrown in the trash will not benefit the environment because they need air and moisture to decompose. They end up being like any other piece of plastic, she said. Associate design professor Gloria Lee, Adhikary’s adviser, said her design is remarkable because she did not just design dinnerware. “It’s a design project that looks at an entire system,” Lee said. “It’s not just a compostable set of dinnerware but continues through its life cycle and beyond.” Adhikary said the plates work best in an institution like a cafeteria. She said when the plates are done being used, they would be disposed in a certain bin and then picked up to be composted. She said an internship in India got her interested in the kind of social entrepreneurship where “people profit as well as the planet.” Adhikary has made between 1,500 and 2,000 plates for a test pilot in Austin that will begin after she graduates in May. Director of Sustainability Jim Walker said UT has many innovative ways it is being sustainable in its cafeterias. He said Jester and Kinsolving have gone trayless and use reusable silverware. He said they also made a reusable shell available to purchase to use instead of plates. “The main kind of composting we have in UT are in Jester and Kinsolving cafeterias,” Walker said. “All the food scraps are put into a compactor and hauled out in southeastern Travis County, where they are composted.”