Interview with MFA Graduate Maggie Avolio

What inspires your work? How do these influences appear in your practice?

Captured image of Avolio’s work From Fold Fragment Forum MFA Graduate Exhibition

What inspires me most is my everyday experiences, the mundane things we do every day, the clothes we wear, buildings we are surrounded by. But I’m also inspired by something that takes me out of the “everyday” like unique architecture or a color that I see that catches me off guard and sucks me in. I think that these influences do appear in my work. Some maybe more than others.

What is the concept or symbolism of your work in the show? What thought process did you through when making your work?

My work is layered, on one side I am working with materiality and simplicity of form. On the other, I am interested in the idea of a spectrum of labor, where one process seemingly utilizes as little work as possible, while another becomes unnecessarily complicated and laborious. I also wanted to respond to the large space in the Zuccaire Gallery, so I knew that I needed to make something bigger than I ever have before.

What was most challenging about installing your work in the Zuccaire gallery?

The Zuccaire Gallery is massive. It’s such an amazing opportunity to be given this amount of space to do whatever we want. But this also comes with its challenges. That amount of space can be intimidating. I made architectural models of the gallery so I could work through ideas in a small scale first without having to commit to the real thing at a monumental scale.

Which medium(s) do you work primarily with and why?

For the past few years my main medium has been canvas. I have unwoven it, rewoven it, sewn into it, painted it, cut it, folded it, and draped it. Canvas is such a versatile material and it operates in many different contexts for different purposes. It’s obviously used in traditional painting, but it also brings associations with clothing, temporary shelters, military, and laborers. I like being able to draw on these different associations through abstraction without solidly landing on any one of them.

What interested you about our graduate program?

I was drawn to The MFA program here because of the incredible studio spaces that are provided to us and because of the faculty.

How has the Stonybrook MFA program helped your practice and/or creative thinking to grow? Have you gained any personal growth as an artist or individual from our program?

Participating in the MFA program for the last three years has been the most amazing gift of time and space to work. The faculty and my peers have pushed me to develop my best work.

Do have any plans for your next steps after graduation?

I have a couple of residencies lined up for the coming year that I am very excited about.

Will you continue to create work like this in the future?

I will continue to develop my practice. I probably won’t be able to work quite as large as the work I did for Zuccaire anytime soon, but who knows!

Do you have any encouragement or advice for your fellow and prospective/incoming MFA students?

Take advantage of all the resources the Art Department and SBU has to offer. You may not have the opportunity to use facilities and technology like what we have available again after you leave. Be fearless in pushing your practice in ways that you didn’t think were possible or hadn’t even thought of before. Now is the time to do it.

Joseph Underwood (MA ’14, PhD ’17) receives Faculty Research Award from Kent State

Assistant Professor of Art History, Joseph Underwood received the Outstanding New Faculty Research and Scholarship Award. Sponsored by the University Research Council and the Division of Research and Sponsored Programs, this award is intended to recognize Kent State’s exceptional researchers and scholars. Awardees are selected based on the quality of their research, creative activities and scholarship and their impact on society.

The Guardian features work of Faculty Member Stephanie Dinkins

John Berger, whose 1972 series Ways of Seeing uncovered the political and social systems that shape art. Photograph: Jeremy Grayson/BBC

The Guardian has recently featured the work of Art Department Faculty Member Stephanie Dinkins in their report on the impact of John Berger in the article “New Ways of Seeing: can John Berger’s classic decode our baffling digital age?” In the text, they write:

“A close look at technology today shows that those prejudices have not gone away; instead they’ve been programmed into today’s seeing machines. Among others, we hear from Stephanie Dinkins, an artist building her own artificial intelligence from the stories of generations of women of colour to counter the prevailing biases of recruitment and sentencing systems.”

Dread Scott & Jenny Polak, working on their latest revolutionary posters in the Art Printmaking Studio

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Stony Brook University Department of Art 2019 Artists in Residence, Dread Scott & Jenny Polak, working on their latest revolutionary posters in the Art Printmaking Studio. Department of Art Professor Martin Levine, Dread Scott and Jenny Polak with students.

View the pictures below and on our Instagram Page: @sbuartofficial

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New Ways of Seeing: can John Berger’s classic decode our baffling digital age?

Associate Professor Stephanie Dinkins is mentioned in this article from The Guardian. View the article here!

“A close look at technology today shows that those prejudices have not gone away; instead they’ve been programmed into today’s seeing machines. Among others, we hear from Stephanie Dinkins, an artist building her own artificial intelligence from the stories of generations of women of colour to counter the prevailing biases of recruitment and sentencing systems.” -From The Guardian article, “New Ways of Seeing: can John Berger’s classic decode our baffling digital age?”

Link to Article:

Faculty Member Han Qin Opens Solo Show in Brooklyn

On Saturday, April 7th, Han Qin celebrated the opening of her solo exhibition “Ethereal Evolution” with other members of the Art Department. Following a special immersive performance co-designed by the artist and the curator titled Tracking the White Shadow, Junzi Kitchen’s chef Lucas Sin curated a culinary experience following the performance. The three-course menu was inspired by the exhibition and enriches the experience. The exhibition is described by the gallery in this way:

“Han Qin focuses on and concerns herself with people’s spiritual changes caused by relocation, migration, and other turbulent changes, either as individuals or within a group. Her works are ethereal—light but meaningful—and come in the form of digital art, printmaking, and performance art … Han’s experiences as an immigrant to the United States have driven her to continuously ponder the interrelation between herself and the world, and seeking a dynamic stability among the transfer of her identities. She is interested in issues from international immigration to the origins of human life; thus her artworks lead to diverse themes, such as the confusion of identity, social accessibility, the meaning of travel, and waves of immigration. She utilizes drawing, cutting, and layering to capture the language of the human body by scattering its movement into fragments of moments, frozen.”

The show will be on display from March 30 – May 12, 2019.

MFAs Celebrated at Thesis Show Opening Reception

​In the last week of March, the Stony Brook community celebrated the 2019 MFA Thesis Show “FOLD FRAGMENT FORUM” at the Zuccaire Gallery in two well attended receptions. The exhibition includes painting, drawing, installation and video works by graduating MFA students Maggie Avolio, Katherine Kaiser and Lauren Ruiz. The exhibition will be on display between March 23 and April 18.

Don’t miss the chance to hear that artists talk about their work in exhibition at the following Salon Talks at the gallery:

April 3, 1 pm: Maggie Avolio
April 10, 1 pm: Katherine Kaiser
April 17, 1 pm: Lauren Ruiz

MFA Alum Athena LaTocha Featured in Art in America

Athena LaTocha, “Ozark (Shelter in Place),” 2018, sumi ink, earth, lead on paper, 120 x 288 x 12 inches. (AL2018.0006) Photo by Edward C. Robison III

MFA Alumnus Athena LaTocha recently had her work “Ozark (Shelter in Place) ” featured in Art in America. For this piece, LaTocha took impressions in lead of the natural rock face in a nearby national park, land rich with Indigenous history from one-time habitation to its position on the Trail of Tears and attached these molded lead sheets to her wall-size painting of ink and earth on paper.

Collisions: A Symposium With Dread Scott and Jenny Polak

Please join us for “Collisions: Art Connects​ ​Migration From​ ​Africa with​ ​the European Slave Trade,” an evening symposium that will explore Dread Scott and Jenny Polak’s collaborative project ‘Passes,’ which draws on research begun during their residency at the Camargo Foundation in France and explores the connections between the forced migrations of the French Slave Trade and present-day migrations from Africa to Europe and the Americas. Joining them in discussion will be Dr. Julie Kleinman, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Fordham University, and ​​Dr. Shobana Shankar,​ Associate Professor of History at Stony Brook University.​

The symposium will take place this Tuesday, February 26th, 6-8 pm at Stony Brook University in the Wang Center’s Chapel Room. Doors will open at 5:45, and seating is limited.

​Please RSVP at the following link:


Dread Scott and Jenny Polak are presently artists-in-residence in the Department of Art at Stony Brook University. Both artists’ practices address a range of interrelated social issues related to race, colonialism, slavery, migration, and citizenship in global contexts. Their performances, events, poetic gestures, provocations, and projects challenge audiences and publics to critically engage the complex and often vexed political inheritances of contemporary life.

​Julie Kleinman is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Fordham University. Her book, Adventure Capital: Migration and the Making of an African Hub in Paris (forthcoming with University of California Press), examines how West African migrants use the largest railway station in Europe—Paris’s Gare du Nord—to construct their own pathway toward meaningful integration in a context where state institutions and E.U. migration policy have failed them. She has also written and published on migrant rights activism in Europe, the politics of deportation and humanitarian aid in France and Mali, and the effects of migration and migration restrictions on Malian transnational kinship relations. She is currently working on a new project on contemporary forms of pan-Africanism in practice as understood through Malian migration politics and the experience of African immigrants living in Bamako, Mali.​

Shobana Shankar is a historian of modern Africa, with a particular focus on West Africa. Her earlier work focused on the social and religious history of Muslim Northern Nigeria, where freed slave girls and women, political dissidents, and ethnic minorities formed a largely invisible but thriving Christian minority community over the last century. This same community has in recent years been one of the targets of Boko Haram. Her current work focuses on African-Indian cultural history and politics, which includes an examination of the legacy of African slaves in South Asia and their impact on the discourses surrounding blackness in India, where racial animosity has grown. With generous funding from Stony Brook, she recently bring the New York Public Library visual art exhibit on Africans in India to the Wang Center.​

MFA Alum Fiona Cashell Joins Faculty of The University Of Salford

MFA Alumnus Fiona Cashell is now an Academic Fellow in Digital Media, working in the School of Arts & Media at the University of Salford under the auspices of the BA in Digital Media Program. In addition to her role at UoS, she travels frequently to China and deliver modules in art & design subjects at Lu Xun Academy of Fine Arts, an international partner of the University of Salford.

Artist-in-Residence Dread Scott Gives Talk About His Practice

On Wednesday, February 6th, the Art Department’s Artist-in-Residence Dread Scott gave an engaging to lecture about his practice to MFA students and several undergraduate classes. Among many topics, he talked about his work “What is the Proper Way to Display a U.S. Flag? as well as his new collaboration with Jenny Polak exploring the legacies of slavery and migration in North Africa. Both artists will be working on campus throughout the semester in a series of events, talks, and workshops.

Alum Allison Conley Awarded by the IPC

As one of the New Prints Artist Development Program awardees, Stony Brook Art Department Alumnus Allison Conley will be in residence at IPCNY for the duration of Forms of Enclosure, where she will develop a new body of monumental handprinted woodcuts. As part of her residency, she will host a Pint n’ Print demonstration and talk on Thursday, February 21, from 7–9pm.

Faculty Member Ian Alan Paul Premieres New Work in Milan

Assistant Professor Ian Alan Paul premiered his new experimental documentary “La Orilla Infinita” (The Infinite Shore) this January as part of Traces’ Contentious Objects / Ashamed Subjects Exhibition at the Galleria del Progetto in Milan, Italy.

The work explores the entanglement of three contentious historic narratives on the Canary Islands brought together by the surrounding sea: The Spanish colonization and genocide of the indigenous communities in the 15th century, the fascist coup that was initiated from the islands in 1936 while Francisco Franco was stationed there, and the mass arrival and drowning of migrants coming from West Africa in the present.

Prof. Dinkins named 2019 Creative Capital Awardee

Prof. Stephanie Dinkins has received a 2019 Creative Capital Award for her project “Not the Only One,” a multigenerational memoir of a black American family told from the mind of an artificial intelligence of evolving intellect. It is designed by, trained inclusively and aligned with the interests and culture(s) of people of color.

The 2019 Creative Capital Awards represent 50 projects by 58 artists from all over the country. The projects span a range of genres, including literature, performance, the visual arts, moving image, technology, and socially engaged art.

Standout projects in this year’s final round were multidisciplinary, collaborative, and addressed the urgency of the current socio-political climate while evoking or referencing timeless conditions. The most successful applications utilized a specific lens through which to engage with a potent, yet often overlooked issue that relates to a broad and meaningful range of ideas. —Alice Gray Stites