Outstanding Senior: Amanda Lipp’s passion for art history ‘boundless’

Amanda Lipp made no secret about it. After taking her first Art History class in high school, “I quickly realized that I wanted to study the subject for the rest of my life,” she said.

Fortunately for the School of Art, she decided to pursue her passion at the University of Arizona – and now she’s unlocking mysteries of 18th century Mexican pottery and researching discrimination that still exists 50 years after Linda Nochlin’s 1971 groundbreaking essay, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?”

Lipp, who just graduated, received the fall 2022 Outstanding Senior Award from both the entire College of Fine Arts and the School of Art for her devotion to scholarship and art communities through her museum work, volunteerism and leadership.

At a recent presentation at the Arizona State Museum on campus, Lipp enlightened an audience of peers, faculty and the public about the museum’s 18th century Mexican talavera jar – and how the earthenware has been misunderstood historically.

Amanda Lipp and talavera jar

“What makes Amanda so special is that she genuinely enjoyed tackling an object that was not going to reveal its secrets easily,” said Professor Stacie Widdifield, who oversaw Lipp’s project. “She not only literally looked at the jar from all sides, that is materially, but also in the context of the ASM collection and then in the broader art historical and museum context.

“Her joy and enthusiasm for the project was boundless.”

Some of that joy came from Lipp’s determination to learn more about her heritage.

“Part of my family is Mexican, but I’ve always felt a kind of disconnection from that culture,” Lipp said. “Connecting to talavera and to these deep parts of Mexican culture impacted by colonialism and many cultural shifts has been a way to connect back to myself and my family.”

Lipp grew up in Tucson and attended University High, where she was mentored in Art History by Whitney Sheets.

At the University of Arizona, she majored in Art History and minored in Art and Visual Cultural Education. She held internships in Tucson’s Museum of Contemporary Art and the Phoenix Museum of Art, where she assisted in the curation and installation of the popular 2018 exhibition, “In the Company of Women.”

The Phoenix all-woman exhibition “got me thinking about tokenism, exceptionalism, and the idea of genius,” Lipp said. “I thought it was interesting that the Linda Nochlin article so many curators referenced — ‘Why Are There No Great Women Artists?’ — seemed to contradict having these ‘all-women’ exhibitions.

“Systemic oppression and discrimination are an ongoing battle, and part of that battle is researching and uncovering those systems,” said Lipp, who wrote a paper on the subject for Professor Irene Romano. “I want to continue research on this project in the future, because I think it is important to do research based on real world issues.”

In spring 2022, Lipp also interned at the University of Arizona Museum of Art, where she developed a research guide for women artists in the collection, facilitating hands-on activities at community events, observing gallery tours and providing feedback on the tours.

She was awarded the School of Art’s Undergraduate Schaeffer Prize in the Art History Research Paper Prize competition in spring 2022 for her analysis of the talavera jar in Widdifield’s class. Lipp presented her research at the first Arizona Latin American Studies Symposium.

For her final paper in Professor Carissa DiCindio’s museum education class, Lipp focused on engaging people with art outside of museum spaces, holding a “Kunst” event at her home and discussing ways museum education practices could be used to garner interest in artist Gustav Klimt among her guests.

“Amanda dives into projects with creativity and focus,” DiCindio said. “She is definitely a student who really loves the work she is doing.”

Lipp restarted the school’s Undergraduate Art History Club and became its president, planning events to raise interest in and awareness of art history. She also served as a grant panelist for the Arts Foundation for Tucson and Southern Arizona.

In Professor Larry Busbea’s classes, she conducted probing research on institutional critique and psychedelic graphics from the 1960s.

“Out of more than 30 years of undergraduate teaching, Amanda stands out in my mind as one of our Art History program’s most informed and mature students,” Professor Paul Ivey wrote, “exhibiting creative innovation, intellectual vitality and rigor, and a gregarious drive to learn and integrate what she learns with her goal to become a professional art historian.”

Lipp’s ultimate goal, indeed, is to become a museum curator or educator, preferably for Latin American art. She’s planning on pursuing a master’s in Art History and a doctorate in either Art History or Art Education.

“Right now, I have it planned out, but who really knows what the future holds,” said Lipp, who has future trips schedule to Europe, Mexico City and Puebla, Mexico.

“It turns out, I love to teach and make art accessible,” Lipp added. “The School of Art really provided the perfect place to interweave my dual interests of people and art.”

Centennial winner Kray raises mental health awareness

What began as a way of understanding her nightmares has turned into an art project that Emily Kray hopes will act as “a portal” to help others cope with mental illness, trauma and stressors.

Kray, a School of Art graduate student, is the recipient of the 2022 Marcia Grand Centennial Sculpture Prize. She will use the $10,000 award to expand her project, “N is for Nightmare,” into an edition of 66 three-volume large accordion books and three art installations to serve as mental health spaces within the University of Arizona and community.

As Kray tried to analyze her nightmares, she said she started to write and create illustrations that depicted her dream-self conquering “the monsters.” But when that didn’t help her heal, Kray began to depict the monsters not “as villains, but instead as comrades, friends and lovers,” and she began to organize and curate the illustrations into alphabetical order.

Emily Kray

“With this process, not only did I allow myself to cope with my mental illness, trauma and stressors in a compassionate way, but I also see it as a portal for others to see and understand this process themselves,” said Kray, 26. “My experience is not unique, and knowing this, I hope that this project allows others to reflect upon their own inner monsters.”

For more than 30 years, the Centennial Sculpture Prize has been given to an MFA candidate, specifically to support the completion of sculptural/3D artwork. The recipient is determined by a committee of staff and faculty through a proposal process. Recent honorees included Mariel MirandaBenjamin Dearstyne HosteMarina Shaltout and Karlito Miller Espinosa.

“I’m honored and so excited about this project being financially supported,” Kray said. “This project, when compared to my other recent works, is highly personal and talks about feelings and modes of expression that took me a while to become comfortable enough with to share.

“It feels incredibly validating to have this body of work recognized because it means that my personal story can be made available to share with a larger audience for years to come.”

Kray plans to place the mental health art installations and “N is for Nightmare” books at the Poetry Center and renovated School of Art building on campus and at Groundworks Tucson, a non-profit community arts space. She also will donate the books to Special Collections at University of Arizona Libraries.

“Emily investigates life in her art process with vigor and tenacity,” said Professor Karen Zimmermann, assistant director of the School of Art. “She tirelessly produces work that investigates personal narratives and explores materials and forms.”

Kray’s large accordion books will contain pop-up elements and can be displayed more easily in a gallery setting and at national exhibitions. The pop-up elements are shown as alphabet blocks that appear in the valley of each fold of the accordion book. She’ll letterpress print the books using photopolymer plates.

“Emily has beautifully incorporated the best of analog and digital processes to create her book works,” said Zimmerman, who has taught Kray in her classes. “I am so impressed with her work and approach to taking serious issues and making them accessible to all.”

Within Kray’s planned three mental health spaces, the books will be displayed on shelving units in installations that will resemble a bedroom.

“The furniture and other items within the room will be designed to resemble the monsters in my nightmares,” Kray said. “These monsters will be transformed into objects of comfort,” allowing people to lie down with a red snake body pillow and a blanket covered in beetle embroidery.

“The bed frame itself will be designed where you can lay and relax within an alligator’s mouth,” Kray said. “Having these monsters being transformed again can be conceptually viewed as the artist attempting to comfort and connect with their audience.”

Kray is a visual artist working primarily with watercolor and book arts to investigate the complexities and fallacies of memory by manipulating our attachment to nostalgic and familiar forms. She began her artistic career by living and working in Las Vegas, and received her BFA from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2020. That same year, she began her MFA at the University of Arizona.

“At (the School of Art), we’re lucky enough to have faculty members who have a wide breadth of experience with book arts as well as incredible letterpress equipment,” said Kray, who singled out Professors Cerese Vaden and Zimmermann. “I’ve been dabbling in bookmaking as an art form since the beginning of the pandemic.

“Holding and making a book is a very nostalgic experience for me and mentally brings me back to flipping through books throughout my childhood,” she added. “It’s that simple comfort that the medium can extend to my audience as well.”

Kray, who plans to earn her MFA in spring 2023, has participated in group shows nationally since 2016 and solo shows across Nevada and in Arizona. She’s a graduate teaching assistant at the School of Art, where she’s mentored undergraduate students in Color, Theory and Design (Art 100) and Elements of Drawing (Art 200).

After graduation, Kray plans to continue as a visual artist, researcher and educator, while making art with a focus on community involvement and nostalgic comfort. “My inspiration typically comes from my community, as art is rarely made in isolation,” she said.

“Being an artist and an educator allows me to fill the shoes of those who have inspired me,” Kray said, “with hopes that I can elevate the voices of my students and my community as my teachers and comrades have done — and are still doing — for me.”

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