Katherine Mickle, a nationally acclaimed photographer, gave a speech, titled “Explorations,” on Thursday in Willard Hall as part of the Visiting Artist series hosted by the department of art. Mickle is well known for her provocative photos as well as her collaboration with science students.
The Visiting Artist series invites artists from around the country to speak with art students about their work and the work of the students themselves.
Mickle is currently an associate professor of art at Slippery Rock University, and talked about her various art projects from graduate school as well as her trips with geology students.
“I’m here to learn, so whenever I get a chance to hear other people I wouldn’t normally, I go,” said Jolynn Reigeluth, graduate student in printmaking.
In the lecture, Mickle shared various photos of her artwork that incorporated art mediums such as photos, text and 3-D design. In most of her photos, Mickle tackled particularly tough or taboo subjects, such as domestic violence.
“It’s such a multi-faceted topic,” Mickle said. “It’s important to discuss it so it becomes less taboo and we can talk about it.”
Her unusual photography was not what students were expecting. Many of Mickle’s photos contained hidden text within that gave the photos a darker meaning.
In one 3-D construction, Mickle used transparency sheets with words and pictures printed on them to make a house that represented the theme of sexual abuse.
“It was interesting to see all the stuff she put with her photos,” said Sarika Brinkman, junior in art. “They made you think about the topic in ways you normally wouldn’t.”
In addition to her own artwork, Mickle shared photos and drawings by students who went on a summer geology trip to the Grand Canyon.
“When people think of the collaboration, they ask ‘Why collaborate with science students?’” Mickle said. “They think of the differences, but they’re really the same. You try out different hypotheses and techniques and then look at the results.”
Mickle first joined the trip when co-worker Patrick Burkhart asked her to help his students draw scenes from the Grand Canyon and the Badlands. Soon enough, Mickle invited other art students to join the group, to gain more experience and to travel.
Mickle said that geology and art fit together well, as some geologists cannot draw and have to hire artists to draw their landscapes.
On the trip, students were expected to help each other and learn valuable survival skills since the group camped out for each trip.
There was also no cell reception, which was a shock for some students, she said. At the end, the group hosted an exhibition that showcased the various photos and drawings by all the students, even the geology majors.
“It’s interesting looking at the field notes of geology students compared to art students,” Mickle said. “The art students drew connections to their artwork while geology students drew graphs.”
Some students were encouraged to attend the lecture for class credit while others came because of an interest in photography.
“I’ve been interested in photography since my photography class in high school,” said Mollie Bieber, sophomore in art. “I always liked how you can frame your perspective and show people who you see.”