The Pennsylvania State University

School of Visual Arts

Get to Know SoVA’s First-Year Graduate Students

SoVA is very pleased to welcome an exciting group of students to our graduate programs, including art education and studio (M.F.A.). The talent they bring makes the expectations high. Below we provide a brief introduction of each student, and snapshot into their research and creative activity.

Rebecca Brittain-TaudienRebecca Brittain-Taudien. Ph.D. Art Education
As a teacher I taught about how art is a tool for life, discovery, and the formation of meaningful relations with the world. Children can begin to see things in a different way and think critically about their visual world. Not only do children learn to construct new knowledge, but they also form new ways of thinking about what they already know. Nature has played an important role in my connection with the world and is essential to the way I live. In my current body of work I call attention to the unnoticed, invisible, and ordinary.



Emily BurnsEmily Burns. M.F.A. (Graphic Design)
My recent work seeks to create a dialogue about the history of imagery, primarily as it pertains to the use of the modern American female. I am interested in the evolution of these images from classical painting, photography, advertising, television, and the Internet and the subliminal messages and psychological effects they proliferate. I create compositions by breaking apart and rebuilding the parallel environments of human and animal worlds through digital collage. Each work seeks to highlight the anonymity of the subjects while representing the unnatural myth of youthful beauty and conformity in opposition with nature. Through the viewers’ engagement with the characters, I emphasize the popularity of ambivalence, their connection to the hegemonic gaze, and the distinct fallacies they represent.



Eunjung ChoiEunjung Choi. Ph.D. Art Education
My art is a performance. It is a performance that takes the museum space as its site. My role as a performer in this space is to facilitate the activity in which the audiences—the other performers—delineate their own texts that are based on their social and cultural backgrounds on separate pieces of tracing papers. Then we place those multiple layers of tracing papers on top of another to perform an intricate connecting activity by looking through the multi-layered sheets of tracing papers. The purpose of this activity is to examine the dominant, fixed, and stable narrative of the institutional museum and reconstruct it into dialogical, fluid, and contiguous narratives derived from the memories, knowledge, and experiences of each audience.


Jeremy DennisJeremy Dennis. M.F.A. (Photography)
My work combines the use of narrative, portraiture, and identity. As a Native American, I share my enthusiastic interest and curiosity in my own individual identity and culture through my photographs, even if I'm not in the photograph itself. Much of my influence, inspiration, and sources of commentary for my work are from popular culture depictions of indigenous people, Native oral traditions, and my own experience living on an Indian reservation.



Min GuMin Gu Ph.D. Art Education
Listen to the pictures. Teaching is an interpretive dance and an ongoing dialogue between student and teacher. My teaching is shaped by the process of listening and learning from the children. Art teaching can channel students’ emotion and cultivate the capacity of self-recognition. I imagine my art works provide relational spaces for the experience of otherness. The idea of an experience is always contingent on the perception of it as an “experience” by an audience, and a moment only becomes a “moment” in retrospect, after it has been processed by individual perception. My artwork engages with this principle through an examination of otherness.


Wen Hsia-HsiaoWen Hsia-Hsiao. Ph.D. Art Education
By teaching art to children, attending art training programs, and engaging in discussions with curators, I rediscovered my passion for art and was motivated to persevere in establishing a career in art education. During my time as a co-curator, I realized that curators not only interpret the meaning of artworks and reproduce artistic ideas, but they also create significant interactions between museum-goers and relevant materials. I believe that exhibitions are not merely venues for the presentation of artworks; they are also an extension of art and cultural education. Building a bridge between artists and viewers is essential and serves many purposes among museums, artists, and viewers.


Henley KimHenley Kim. M.F.A. (New Media)
My artistic practice starts with my personal experiences. Now it relies on concrete scientific results from research. The focus of my research is mainly on the possibility of psychotherapy that re-enactment images have I DON’T UNDERSTAND THIS. Through processes of recalling, analyzing, and finding, I begin to understand people’s emotions and feelings and, in turn, realize their relationships to the past. ‘Crying not to cry’ is the theme that runs through my artistic practice. I wish I could open people’s minds towards sensitivity, self-reflection, and critical thinking, so they can be integrated into the work and become aware of their strengths and responsibilities to impact themselves, others, and the environment.


Nicole LauNicole Lau. M.F.A. (Ceramics)
dis*o*ri*ent*ed (adj). having lost your bearings; confused as to time or place or personal identity.
I have no strong or definite answers about life. Ceramics is my centering point. When I touch clay, the connection between my mind and hands takes over and it feels like all the knowledge, ambiguity, and uncertainty culminates, and flows out of my body. As I examine the contradictions and ambiguity of my life, the larger social structures, multiple viewpoints, and stories aid in my search for truth. Clay is both fast and slow in process, solid yet fragile, malleable yet rigid. These physical contradictions reinforce and coincide with my conceptual art practice of exploring ambiguity. Ceramics has allowed me to find my voice.


Roberto LugoRoberto Lugo. Ph.D. Art Education
I am a composite of my experiences; on the wheel in my studio you will find a variation of a Woody Guthrie quotation, “This Machine kills Hate.” There I play hip-hop music, burn sticks of Indian incense, sip Puerto Rican Malta, and thumb through books on historic Royal porcelain. With my education in critical research, art education, art history, and studio art, I have developed a studio practice that fluidly communicates with diverse audiences. I bring art to those that don’t believe they need it and help them to see it and engage in deeper ways of knowing, learning, and thinking.



Sidney mullisSidney Mullis. M.F.A. (Sculpture)
My work investigates the convergence of coming-of-age and learning how to be woman. During female development, curiosity and queries arise often without the proper knowledge to understand. By combining adult content with materials suitable for children’s crafts and other common, female items, I explore unabashedly what it means to be woman, including sexuality, desire, appearance, and intimacy. It is within this liminal space between playful adolescence and susceptible adulthood that I examine the construct of femininity. Currently focusing on questions such as “what is sexy,” I create “attractive” behaviors to be tested in the gallery.



Hayon ParkHayon Park. M.S. Art Education
I believe teaching art encourages students to ‘see the unseen.’ Having a background in studio art, the best challenge and joy of my art experience was discovering new ideas, images, concepts, and possibilities that I never encountered in my life. This is what I expect to introduce to students, providing opportunities to see the possibilities not only in the subject of art, but also in themselves. My teaching philosophy is based on my interwoven interest in people and visual arts. Alongside the desire to express my thoughts as an artist, I desire to communicate with others.



Felix RodriquezFelix Rodriguez. Ph.D. Art Education
The first place to exercise democracy is the classroom. Therefore, I strive to create an educational environment in which students become aware that their ideas are heard and appreciated. I see the construction of knowledge as a process of negotiation in which both teacher and students are in constant process of surrendering to others’ ideas. In addition, I think that this process of transformation requires a mandatory internal disposition that implies that unpredictability will always be present in the learning process, and that individuals construct their reality differently depending on what they value, what they give up, what they take, and what they reserve.


Paul SloanPaul Sloan. Ph.D. Art Education
Art making is a process of thinking that art exists for each of us as a place of discovery. Students, working with art, allow themselves to learn and discover the many different ways that we begin to think about problems that affect them in their lives. Engaging in art making allows students to explore problems in a physical and malleable space; it is a new way of seeing. I hold these beliefs in the understanding that, as an educator, it is my job not only to show students how to make artwork, but more importantly to consider adopting an artistic way of thinking.



Leslie SotomayorLeslie Sotomayor. M.S. Art Education and Women’s Studies
As an artist and educator, my pedagogical lens is embedded in feminist theory and lived experiences. It is important for students to find and work through the creative process for their voice. Awakening consciousness supports a holistic education as individualized, resourceful, and mindful of the student and working environment. My work revolves around themes of identity, memories, nostalgia, and how the culminations of these experiences build up to our heritage, families, and identity. Art, as a vehicle of documentation, becomes a valid form of representing history, consequently its impact on modern-day society.



Sarah ThompsonSarah Thompson. Ph.D. Art Education
I began my journey into the field of art as a studio major at the University of Kansas, studying both illustration and graphic design. I am captivated by art that focuses on the human element: communicating universal truths, while empowering both the artist and audience. The ability to continue my own artistic practices has always been important to me, and improves my chances of becoming an effective instructor and researcher within the field. Through my teaching, I hope to foster deep and constructive learning; to generate enthusiasm for the arts and other interrelated disciplines; and to encourage continuing pedagogical investigations, thus supporting lifelong learners.



Kree WiedeKree Wiede. M.F.A. (Drawing and Painting)
My work is primarily urban landscapes with the goal of transmitting familiarity to viewers. I spend time in environments that translate to the painted images created on canvas, so that viewers share the experience of familiarity. The impetus behind my work was to inspire viewers to look at their surroundings with renewed awe and wonder. I want my work to reflect my interest in portraying raw, urban environments. The artistic concern of the paintings is not to portray quaint, idealized, or fantasy worlds, but worn, socially neglected areas with interesting but forgotten history.