North Texas Daily

ArtSpace to showcase award-winning alumni

ArtSpace to showcase award-winning alumni

ArtSpace to showcase award-winning alumni
October 02
00:11 2014

Samantha McDonald / Staff Writer

For its second annual Alumni Showcase, UNT ArtSpace Dallas will feature artwork by internationally recognized artists and UNT alumni Rachel Cox, Elliott Johnson and Xiaoze Xie, winners of the renowned Dallas Museum of Art Awards to Artists.

The works focus on the artists’ present careers and represent what they have accomplished since graduating from UNT.

“These artists were chosen not only because they fit the mission of the gallery and the theme of this exhibition, but also because they are all making really great and important work,” said Victoria DeCuir, assistant director at UNT Art Galleries. “They are all continuing to use the skills they learned at UNT to see the world we live in and to communicate that world in their own unique way.”

Cox’s photography will be seen through her series, “Better Than Most,” an investigation into the systems of value that give meaning to commonplace objects and activities.

Johnson’s work, on the other hand, portrays a sense of troubled longing through acrylic paintings that contrast baroque art and text bubbles.

Lastly, Xie’s photogravures, which involve printing images on a plate using photographic methods, will capture the worn textures of rare books and historical manuscripts at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto.

The exhibition, which runs Oct. 4 to Dec. 6, will have an opening reception 5-7 p.m. Saturday at UNT ArtSpace Dallas.

“All of the works are visually stunning, but also have layers of depth and meaning that invite the viewer to look longer and deeper,” DeCuir said. “[They] encourage contemplation about interpersonal relationships, history, memory and what we as a society hold dear.”

The photographer

Rachel Cox has received a number of awards, but the 2010 Arch and Anne Giles Kimbrough Award, aimed at acknowledging talent and potential in artists under 30, was a jump-start to a larger project. She completed a performance art photography project of abandoned buildings and places around the nation in hopes of creating a series with a theme of domesticity.

“Traveling ties into the work because my photography is really about my experience,” she said. “I’m not necessarily a studio photographer; I’m more interested in the state around me and what I encounter on a day-to-day basis.”

Photo Courtesy of: Rachel Cox/Artist

Growing up in Texas, Cox developed a strong relationship with agriculture, which she features extensively in “Better than Most.” These photographs were displayed at the Talley Dunn Gallery in Dallas.

Before she graduated from UNT with a bachelor of fine arts in photography, Cox said she began her college experience unsure of what kind of art she wanted to pursue. After she found herself making frequent visits to museums around the area, a professor helped her get an internship in a Dallas gallery, which she considered the starting point of her artistic career.

Following her successes, Cox moved north to take a job as an assistant professor of art at Michigan State University. She continues to document her environment in pictures and admits that she is still thinking about her next major project.


Rachel Cox, Portuguese Tumbler, 2013. Archival inkjet print. Photo courtesy of Rachel Cox

“Any kind of person involved in a creative career will know that it’s so difficult to talk about the future until you have tangible things that you can show people,” she said. “I recalibrate my surroundings every time I move to figure out what’s around me that I feel I can somehow make a connection, but I’m still in the baby stages.”

The mixed media artist

Sometime in his late teenage years, Elliott Johnson picked up an art history book and found photographs of the Basilika Vierzehnheiligen, a cathedral in southern Germany. His fascination with rococo and baroque art began at that point, which grew in influence on Johnson’s work through the years. He planned to buy a camera and travel to Bavaria to see these architectural beauties in person.

In 2009, Johnson was awarded the Otis and Velma Dozier Travel Grant, and he did exactly that, visiting about 29 churches and residences, including the Vierzehnheiligen.

“Winning [the grant] allowed me to finally get to go see some of those places in-person and have my mind properly blown as the designers might have intended,” he said. “I came back with over 3,000 photos, and I’m still simultaneously inspired and overwhelmed by it.”


Elliott Johnson, The Wake of Transgression, 2009. Acrylic on DiBond panel. Photo courtesy of Elliott Johnson

Even after graduating from UNT with a bachelor of fine arts in painting and drawing,  Johnson has kept the rococo-inspired theme, but added a personal twist: the use of word balloons to give voice to the works’ shapes.

“It could be that the ornaments are becoming personified, but I personally prefer to see the imagery as visual manifestations of emotion upon saying or hearing such things,” he said.

Johnson took interest in 3-D graphics as a child and subsequently became fascinated with 3-D modeling. After earning enough in profits from his first solo exhibition in 2007 at Road Agent in Dallas, Johnson purchased a computer along with 3-D software applications. His work has since broadened to include not only 3-D modeling, but also renderings, animations and 3-D prints.

“It’s a long-term goal of mine to translate the imagery in my paintings into 3-D, but that has proven to be a pretty big task for one person, so I think it’s going to take a while,” he said.

The painter

Before graduating from UNT in 1996 with a master of fine arts degree, Xiaoze Xie hit three different milestones.

First, the DMA presented him the Arch and Anne Giles Kimbrough Fund. Then, Xie’s wife drove him to the airport for a job interview at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., where Xie was offered his first teaching position in the country.

Photo Courtesy of: Xie Xiaoze and Chambers Fine Art

It was during this visit that Hiram Butler Gallery owner Devin Borden called Xie, saying he would be interested in displaying Xie’s artwork in Houston.

“It was an exciting moment in my career in the U.S.,” he said. “The award was my first state-wide recognition I ever got, and it was very encouraging.”

Xie experimented in different art platforms before settling into painting. After graduating from Tsinghua University in Beijing with a bachelor’s degree in architecture, he attended the Central Academy of Arts and Design, which is often considered one of the most selective schools in China. Xie obtained a master of arts degree in 1991 with a concentration in mural painting, but he still wasn’t satisfied.


Xie Xiaoze, Chinese Library No. 57, 2014. Oil on canvas. Photo courtesy of Xie Xiaoze and Chambers Fine Art

The painter then moved to Texas, where he enrolled in UNT’s fine arts program. His time at the school allowed him to experience a new atmosphere, which he described as both “experimental and stimulating.”

“Texas was my America, and my American educational experience started at UNT,” he said. “I was able to really focus on pure art instead of something functional.”

Since receiving his degree, Xie has been making installations, photographs and videos in addition to paintings. He continues to work on paintings of books in the library series that began during his studies at UNT.

Featured Image: Elliot Johnson, “I wasn’t before, but I am now”, 2013. Acrylic and resin on 3D printed resin. Photo courtesy of Elliot Johnson

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