Alumni in Focus

Rick Silva

MFA, Interdisciplinary Media Arts Practices (IMAP), 2007
Digital Art
Artist Website

My main motivation to attend CU was to study digital art with Prof Mark Amerika. The graduate teaching opportunities, access to professional equipment and facilities, and easy access to the Rocky Mountains also made it my top choice. 

A highlight was receiving a graduate research award for my multimedia internet art project titled SCREENFULL. The other recipients that year were all science PHDs, and it was affirming to be recognized at that level and context. SCREENFULL was recently featured in Rhizome’s Net Art Anthology book.

My newest project is a series of 8 videos titled CORES. They are a collaboration with Vancouver BC based artist Nicolas Sasoon. The online version premiered this fall and includes an accompanying essay by Elise Hunchuck and Jussi Parikka s-i-g-n-a-l-s.com/cores. An installation version of CORES will be shown at the Hors-Pistes exhibition at the Pompidou Centre in Paris from Jan-Feb 2021.

Adam Sekuler

MFA, Film, 2017
Artist Website

Since the program consists of not just filmmakers, but artists across disciplines, cohort feedback would come from artists working not just in filmmaking, but in photography, ceramics, sculpture, print making, and painting. Moreover, this gave me access to professors working in those disciplines as well.

When I was looking at graduate programs, I applied to a number of schools where I knew the work of the faculty. CU, at the time, had a number of well known filmmakers; Jeanne Liotta, Phil Solomon, Alex Cox, and Reece August. I admired all of their work, but faculty reputation alone wasn't the deciding factor. Additionally, when I learned that my incoming film cohort would consist of just one other student, I couldn't believe it. Not only would all these wonderful artists become colleagues and mentors over the next few years, but I wouldn't have to struggle to get time with them. Boulder, was unique in other ways as well.

I currently live in New Orleans teaching at Loyola University. My practice remains active with several projects in development. I recently received a major grant from POLIN, a Jewish museum in Poland, to make a new short film for an exhibition that will take place in April of 2022. Additionally, I'm in production on a new feature length documentary called The Flamingo, about a late in life sexual awakening of a 60 year woman in Salt Lake City. I also just completed a short experimental film exploring abandoning a project on the end of the world amidst a global pandemic.

Morgan Butts

MA, Art History, 2016

Access to courses that were relevant and faculty whose areas of study directly related to my own were my top priorities. University of Colorado Boulder had both of those things. Having the opportunity to work with Dr. James Córdova, and then Dr. Annette de Stecher in my second year, was the primary draw. I know my time working with them (among all of the other incredible faculty in the program) really elevated my work and helped develop critical thinking skills and theoretical framing that I still use today—both as an arts professional and as a person.

I look back and know I absolutely made the right choice. I couldn’t have asked for more supportive faculty. My interests are varied, and when I decide I want to do something, it’s difficult to talk me out of it. If there was something I wanted to do, even if it was unprecedented or part of an abnormal trajectory for an art history graduate student, the conversation was never “oh, that won’t work,” but instead “let’s try and make that work for you.”

I had the chance to travel to Peru for research, thanks to support from a United Government of Graduate Students travel grant. Environmental and architectural context were critical to my work—my thesis wouldn’t have been the same without that opportunity to travel.

I also often reflect back on the experience I had as a teaching assistant. While I was excited and honored to receive the opportunity to teach initially, I had no idea when I started the program that teaching would have such a massive impact on my life. Working in a university now, I can’t overstate how formative an undergraduate college experience can be. I feel so grateful when I think back to the conversations about art that I got to have with students each week, where we could ask difficult questions and learn together.

I’m currently serving as the Director of Communications at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University. The museum focuses on the art of our time—in dialogue with the historical—and encourages engagement with timely issues of local relevance and global significance, such as restorative, environmental, and racial justice. I’m fortunate enough to work in one of the few Zaha Hadid-designed buildings in the United States as well. It’s a pretty big perk! We also have a second space across the street—the MSU Broad Art Lab—that houses community-driven programming and exhibitions that focus on experimentation and collaboration in art-making.

I think quite a bit about how everything I experienced in graduate school led me to this position. While I had years of professional communications experience, my leadership style is deeply rooted in the classroom—as both a graduate teaching assistant and a student—where listening, co-learning, negotiating, and making decisions are all of equal importance.

Ryan Everson

MFA, Sculpture & Post-Studio Practice, 2016
Artist Website

The connections and friendships made with other students and faculty were the most important. The uninterrupted time for studio work and the focus on creative process was important in developing both hard and soft skills while at CU.

I currently own Matchless Builds in Portland Oregon. Its a 12 person shop focused on making ideas a reality. We build fine furniture, cabinetry, fine art and pretty much anything imaginable. We are currently working on a large fine furniture project and some large scale public art pieces.

Christin Turner

MFA, Film, 2017
Artist Website

I am living and working as a freelance filmmaker/artist in Berlin. My current project is a feature length essay film, which is an extension of my thesis short “Vesuvius at Home.” Based upon Jungian scholar Linda Fierz-David’s classic psychological analysis of the Villa of the Mysteries and its frescoes depicting an initiation ceremony for women, and Nor Hall’s study of the lives of Jungian women analysts to excavate a memoir of cinema, the female self situated in the paradox of destruction, creation, and preservation. 

I choose the CU Boulder MFA program because it was the best value for faculty, equipment, and personal freedom than the other MFA programs I was accepted to. I appreciated that it is interdisciplinary because my video work benefits from the other arts. Furthermore, being located away from filmmaking hubs like Los Angeles or New York, I could focus on developing my own voice as an artist/filmmaker outside of commercial pressure and have access to landscapes or ideas outside of or inaccessible to the typical modes of image-making in America. 

I remember my first week at the program uncertain if I had made the right choice to be there. I was sitting in a class by the late and great Phil Solomon titled Transcendental Cinema, where we sat in the dark and had the most deeply moving and emotionally resonant images presented before us by a man who loved them as much as a parent loves a child. Eloquence, beauty, and reverence were before me in body, spirit and celluoid. I was humbled and sure that despite any challenges or setbacks that lay before me, or were of my own making, I was ultimately where I needed to be for the type of work I needed to make. 

David Alcantar

MFA, Painting & Drawing, 2004
Artist Website

It is during the informal time where you find the greatest authenticity and sincerity. That is when some of the greatest learning actually occurs, and when bonds are formed and strengthened, because there’s less theater and more sincere reaction to what is happening to us and around us. It is absolutely critical to accept (and perhaps this is underscored by our current circumstances) that we are imperfect beings, prone to mistake, navigating flawed systems as best we can to (hopefully) improve them. 

Despite having applied to dozens of art programs across the country, CU provided me with the most generous financial offer and the immediate opportunity to achieve a personal goal of living away from home in Texas, and obtaining my terminal degree. It certainly didn't hurt that CU is nestled against the backdrop of the Flatirons, which I went to visit at Chatauqua Park on a regular basis between classes.

I am a full-time artist, working from a home studio. I just finished a body of work that illustrates a specific aspect of an ongoing investigation into negotiation behavior.  This small body of work, uses mapping and diagrammatic visual language to illustrate how the choices we make pull or push us into trajectories of time, space, and history.

Aaron Treher

MFA, Sculpture & Post-Studio Practice, 2018
Artist Website

I chose CU for several different reasons. First, I was interested in a MFA program that had well known faculty that were leading the way in the growing territory of art practices that fall outside of the typical studio art model. Second, I was very interested in working with Yumi J. Roth and Richard Saxton whose practices incorporate a very wide range of influences. I had worked with countless volunteers and in a variety of contexts that all fell outside of what might be considered a normal arts practice. Naturally, I wanted to find a way to merge my arts practice with the community projects that I had been invested in. That’s when I came across the Sculpture and Post-Studio Practice area and the Rural Environments Field School at CU. I had applied to a number of other programs but the SPS area was exactly what I was looking for to grow my arts practice.

If I can give any reflection, it is about the importance of getting lost. I mean that in every sense of the phrase. Get lost in your work and forget that anything is happening in the world around you. Also, get lost in your concepts and realize that the ideas you are pursuing are so much more complex than you can ever expect to completely master in your time as a graduate student.

And most importantly, get lost in the land. Drive into the eastern plains of Colorado, turn off your GPS and follow the first dirt road you find. Drive until you don’t know East from West. Maybe then you can really find out where you are going.

My most recent public art project is a small collaborative project called the Street Light Survey Project and is funded by Boulder City’s Office of Arts and Culture. The Street Light Survey Project is a project that functions as an archive of urban ecology and street lights. The work is aimed specifically at creating an awareness of the interaction between artificial light, animals, and the human built environment. The project consists of two street signs, a biodiversity survey, an online database, and a corresponding sonic interpretation of the survey data. Located at a public street light that has a high rate of attraction to bugs—an official project sign, survey box, and biodiversity survey will guide residents to collect information and document insects at a designated site and other street lights. 

Melanie Clemmons

MFA, Interdisciplinary Media Arts Practices (IMAP), 2015
Digital Art
Artist Website

The visiting artist program was an invaluable part of my experience as a graduate student. I was able to meet artists I admired, and am fortunate enough to continue to keep in touch with them.

I'm currently working on a solo show about live cams and healing for Women & Their Work Gallery in Austin, TX, and am an assistant professor of digital/hybrid media at Southern Methodist University.

Before I attended CU Boulder, I worked a lot of random day jobs and would spend my free time doing live visuals for bands and installations, and teaching myself how to make net art. When I found out that professor Mark Amerika had a similar background and was critically engaging with that kind of art at the graduate level, I was intrigued and wanted to work with him and in the IMAP program.

Aubrey Hobart

MA, Art History, 2010

I am now the Curator of Collections and Exhibitions at the Roswell Museum and Art Center in Roswell, New Mexico. The city is mostly known for aliens, but there's a surprisingly strong arts community here as well. Sadly, there is very little Spanish Colonial or Renaissance art in our collection, but I've learned a great deal about the New Mexico modernists and contemporary Native American art. I'm hoping to get my first book published this year.

After my first semester at CU Boulder, I sat down with professor Claire Fargo (Emerita) to discuss my academic trajectory. She explained that the field of Italian Renaissance art history was pretty saturated and encouraged me to look at what else was happening in the world around the same time. The next semester, I took "Conquest and Colonialism" with James Cordova, a class about Spanish Colonial art in the Americas. I was so fascinated by the subject and his approach to it that I changed my major and eventually earned my PhD in Spanish Colonial art. It was at CU Boulder that I truly learned how to think critically, and it significantly reshaped my personal and professional life for the better.

Yana Payusova

MFA, Interdisciplinary Media Arts Practices (IMAP), 2006
Artist Website

I have been teaching at the University of Arizona in Tucson and have just accepted the position of Assistant Professor of Painting at the University of Texas at Arlington and will be moving to Dallas/Fort Worth in August. In the studio I am working on a large-scale ceramic installation entitled Memory as Weight, Power, Burden which is scheduled to be shown at the Museum of Russian Icons in March 2021.

CU Bouder's MFA program gave me the time, the necessary resources and all possible support to develop and mature as an artist. I really appreciated the interdisciplinary nature of the program, as we were able to take any course that we were interested in and interact with other MFA students from painting, ceramics, art history, etc. during graduate seminars. The relationships I built with my fellow graduate students have turned into lifelong friendships and these people are now my collaborators, colleagues and closest friends. 

Michael Dixon

MFA, Painting & Drawing, 2005
Artist Website

I received two bits of advice when I was considering graduate school. The first was to pick a place where there was someone you wanted to work with teaching in the program, and the second was to pick a place that you felt like you could live in for two or three years. CU Boulder fit the second criteria for me. 

My graduate school experiences pushed me and stretched me. There was lots of joy and lots of disappointment. I think the people I continue to stay in contact with made my time in Boulder priceless. I want to mention Kay Miller who was the chair of my graduate committee. She is the reason I ended up attending CU Boulder, and she continues to be a positive force in my life today. Overall, the years I spent in graduate school were some of my best years of my life. 

I am currently working on a new body of work called "Picaninny 1976." My mother is white and my biological father is black. I make work about race and identity that primarily focuses on exploring this "in between" space. My mother's parents grew up in Mississippi and when my grandfather first met me he said, "Where is that little picaninny?" I am painting images of myself as a child and inserting crocodile/alligator imagery. The pairing of black children and alligators is common within racist memorabilia in the United States. These images were ubiquitous around America but especially around the gulf states.  I am interested in the word picaninny; its historical context; this particular personal narrative within my family; and the implications of violence or erasure of black bodies within this imagery.

Dakota Nanton

MFA, Film, 2019
Artist Website

It was amazing to have studio visits with the many visiting filmmakers and artists in the program, I met so many artists I looked up to previously and got to have one-on-one discussions with them.

I was an Alumni of the BFA program in printmaking and had a great experience with supportive faculty and staff in the department. When I decided to pursue my BFA I returned to the MFA program in another discipline in order to expand my career skills and work with the amazing mentors on the faculty and to take advantage of the amazing facilities and resources.

I recently began a career as an Assistant Professor of Cinema at the University of Hartford after completing the prestigious yearlong "Jackie McLean Fellowship". I am currently working on an animated travelogue that is the culmination of five years of research and archival work.

Summer Ventis

MFA, Printmaking, 2012
Artist Website

I chose the CU Boulder MFA program for the interdisciplinary nature of the program, for the amazing facilities, and for the opportunity to work with the CU Boulder faculty.

It was important to me to work in an interdisciplinary environment. The opportunity to interact closely with faculty and other graduate students, not only from other studio areas, but also from Art History and Film, was invaluable.

My recent work engages the reciprocal relationship between internal and external landscapes, between people and our environments, in the landscapes of the Western and Midwestern United States. Across these bodies of work, the tent form is emblematic of the tenuous nature of our relationship to our surroundings, an object that allows us to connect with the landscape, to spend time in it, by separating and protecting us from it. I am currently Assistant Professor of Printmaking at California State University Sacramento.

Judd Schiffman

MFA, Ceramics, 2015
Artist Website

I just completed my third year as the Visiting Assistant Professor of Ceramics at Providence College in Rhode Island. I am making new work for a solo exhibition at Maake Projects in State College, PA, a group exhibition at Inman Gallery in Houston, and a group exhibition at 1969 Gallery in New York. My recent work explores utilizes wall-mounted, framed narratives composed of ceramic tiles to explore themes of masculinity, discovery of self, sexuality, and family, and all the nuanced guilt, confusion, and elation that exist in tandem.

I loved the work of all the ceramics professors and felt aligned with their approach towards art-making. After visiting, I felt like everyone in the program was dedicated to their studio practice but also invested in their students, and that there was a strong sense of community. I was right, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. All the current graduate students were completely immersed in their studio practices and intent on transforming their work. I also liked the interdisciplinary nature of the program.

Graduate school was a rich time for me, all I did was work in the studio, read, and hang out with new friends from the graduate school. I had meaningful conversations and felt immersed in a rigorous practice. I spent a lot of time thinking about what art is, and how it can be a part of my life. I was invigorated by the visiting artists, professors, and other students dedicated to making art. I laid the foundation for a lifelong studio practice, expanded my understanding of historical and contemporary art, and started the process of becoming a professional artist.

Jonathan Nicklow

MFA, Printmaking, 2010
Artist Website

I chose the MFA program at CU Boulder so I could study under Melanie Yazzie and the other faculty in the Art and Art History Department. The opportunity to fully focus on my art practice during my time in graduate school was my best memory.

Currently I am able to pursue my printmaking in my home studio and continue to produce relief, intaglio, and monotype prints. I am also teaching at Metro State University, Denver.