Lawrence McFarland

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.”

Lawrence McFarland, photography professor in the College of Fine Arts at UT, stands in front of his work. The gallery, which is being featured in the Department of Art and Art History Faculty Exhibition, includes his images from the American West and parts of Italy.

Photo Credit: Kiersten Holms | Daily Texan Staff

When college art students see the work of a professor on display, the effect can be similar to seeing a high school teacher outside their classroom. It’s a little strange. But for the art students, their professors’ work becomes a real life example of the processes and techniques they are taught in the classroom.

On Dec. 1, the Visual Arts Center will host an Artist Talk to learn a little more about the motivation and ideas behind the work of six of the ten faculty members whose art is currently on display in the Mezzanine Gallery. The talk is from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and is free to all.

“It’s kind of weird to see your professors’ work because in class you view them as your superior,” studio art sophomore Abby Clinton said. “It’s strange to see them in a vulnerable position and to look at their work [and see them] as an artist rather than as a professor.”

Clinton, who attended the grand opening of the faculty exhibit, has only taken a course from one of the professors whose work is on display, but said seeing all the faculty art made her excited for some classes and scared for others.

“I would really like to hear from professors I haven’t had yet have to say about their work,” Clinton said. “I think it would be a great opportunity to get an idea of what their classes are like and what they value in art.”

The event will be moderated by interim department chair Lee Chesney, who has some of his own printmaking on exhibit. He noted it would be a good opportunity for those skeptical of the value of the arts to hear faculty perspective and see what they are creating.

“They will be talking about ideas behind their work. That’s mostly what the faculty like to talk about,” Chesney said. “What it is you’re trying to say, how can you make it more meaningful and articulate it better visually — those are the issues that drive the faculty in their own work and what they will talk about.”

There are ten faculty members with work on display, and six have volunteered to discuss their work. There is no overarching theme to the exhibit, but there are themes to some of the individual artists’ collections.

Photography professor Lawrence McFarland has photographs of the American West on exhibit from sites of historical value between the period of 1804-1890. He said he is looking forward to taking questions and talking about the motivations behind his work.

“I’ve been going to historic sights where important events happened to see how that affects culture today,” McFarland said. “Sometimes it really affects people. Sometimes there’s nothing there.”

While the talk will be specifically valuable to art students, anyone inclined to learn more about the art school faculty and their work can attend.

“You can get an understanding of what the commitment is to be a professional artist,” McFarland said. “The opportunity to meet, see and listen firsthand is a rare opportunity.”

Printed on Wednesday, November 30, 2011 as: Art exhibit offers look at professors' work