Virginia Commonwealth University

Craft / Material Studies

Fountainhead Fellow | Heather MacKenzie

Lecture | Thursday, November 19th at 12:30pm

609 Bowe Street, RM 535 


BIO Heather MacKenzie is an artist, writer, and educator currently living in Richmond, Virginia, as the Fountainhead Fellow in Craft and Material Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. In her work, Heather looks to the textile as a foundational piece of human technology that is sensual and material while simultaneously embedded with complex mathematical information. In two- and three-dimensional work, as well as performance, she examines other, equally foundational systems that span the material world and the abstract one: platonic mathematics, Euclidean geometry, and standardized measurement. For the academic year of 2014-15, Heather was a Fulbright Fellow in Paris, France, where she produced work and had a solo installation as artist-in-residence at l’École des Arts Décoratifs. She has studied traditional textiles in Ecuador, Ghana, India, Zimbabwe, as well as in Europe, and she has exhibited work recently at venues including the Mission Gallery and Rhona Hoffman Gallery in Chicago, and PointDom in Toulouse, France. Heather received her BA from Brown University and her MFA in Fiber and Material Studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Website.



Visiting Artist | Saya Woolfalk

Lecture | Wednesday, November 18th at 12pm

609 Bowe Street, RM 535


BIO Saya Woolfalk was born in Gifu City, Japan, to a Japanese mother and a mixed-race African American and white father. She grew up in Scarsdale, NY, and has an art studio in Manhattan. Woolfalk was educated at Brown University (B.A. Visual Art and Economics 2001) and earned her M.F.A. in Sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2004. Woolfalk moved to New York in the 2006, to participate in the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program, and was an artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem from 2007-2008. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband, the anthropologist, Sean T. Mitchell, and their daughter.

Woolfalk’s work has exhibited at galleries and museums around the United States and abroad, including PS1/MoMA in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Studio Museum in Harlem, Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, NC, and the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. And she participated in PERFORMA09.

She has received a number of prestigious awards including a Fulbright for research in Maranhão, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil a Joan Mitchell Foundation MFA Grant, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, an Art Matters Grant and has been an artist-in-residence at the Newark Museum, University at Buffalo, Yaddo, Sculpture Space and Dieu Donne Papermill.

With funding from the NEA, her solo exhibition, “The Institute of Empathy,” ran at Real Art Ways Hartford, CT from the fall of 2010 to the Spring of 2011. Her first major solo exhibition at a North American museum opened at the Montclair Art Museum in October 2012. Website.



Visiting Artist | Holly Hanessian


Sense Sensation

Tuesday, November 10th at 2:30pm

609 Bowe Street, RM 535



BIO | Holly Hanessian is a studio artist, educator and scholar. She creates artworks that inhabit the overlapping worlds of craft, design and contemporary art. Her most recent project involves ideas based on neuroscience and the senses, in particular the sensation of touch. She has taught, lectured, and exhibited projects and sculptural books internationally and extensively in the United States. In addition to her ceramic art practice, she has written articles and reviews on other studio artists who work in ceramics and most recently investigated contemporary ideas using digital applications in the field of contemporary ceramics.

Holly Hanessian is the area head of ceramics and a Professor of Art at Florida State University. For more information on her artwork, articles and ideas, please visit the following websites:, ,, or at



Visiting Artist | Bob Trotman


Business as Usual: Project and Process

Tuesday, November 3rd at 12pm

609 Bowe Street, RM 535


Image: Slow Drip, 2014. 51x43x40. Carved wood, IV stand and bag, stool, motors, arduino micro-controller, paint.


BIO | Bob Trotman is a sculptor working in western North Carolina.  He has received fellowship support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the North Carolina Arts Council. Trotman’s work is also in many private and public collections including the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian, The Mint Museum of Art, The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Art at the Rhode Island School of Design, and the Museum of Art and Design in New York. website


Visiting Artist | Lori Talcott

Lecture “Homeopathic Objects”

Thursday, October 22nd at 12pm

609 Bowe Street, RM 535



BIO | Lori Talcott is a Seattle-based studio jeweler. She is the recipient of two Washington Artist Trust fellowships and an Arts Fellowship from the American-Scandinavian Foundation. Her work is in numerous private collections, the permanent collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery, and the Tacoma Art Museum. After studying art history at Lund University (Sweden) and Metal Design at the University of Washington, she worked as an apprentice to a master silversmith in Norway. She is currently a Guest Lecturer at Rhode Island School of Design.

Lecture “Homeopathic Objects” | This presentation will consider jewelry from four intersecting points of view: historical, cross-cultural, contemporary, and personal. As a social signifier and ritual object, jewelry has long had a symbiotic and syntagmatic function with dress and the body, and as a performative object it is used to negotiate and circumscribe social, temporal, and spiritual boundaries. Talcott’s recent projects explore jewelry’s function as a performative object, and the ways in which material metaphors having the capacity to affect the embodied experience of the wearer.



Visiting Artist | Megan Biddle

Tuesday, October 6th at 12pm

609 Bowe Street, RM 535

 2015_05_11_JW05 (1)

Image: Megan Biddle, The Weight of Waiting, 2015, window glass, 48″x24″x7″ , image credit: Jason Wierzbicki 


BIO | Megan Biddle received her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2000 and her MFA from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in 2005. She has attended residencies at The Macdowell Colony, The Jentel Foundation, The Creative Glass Center of America, Sculpture Space, The Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Pilchuck Glass School, Northlands Creative Glass in Scotland and most recently Haystack Mountain School of Crafts. In 2006 she was awarded the A.I.R. Gallery Fellowship in NY, which culminated to the first solo show of her work in New York City in 2007. Biddle has exhibited nationally and internationally at venues including XO Projects INC., Side Show, The Islip Art Museum and the Everson Art Museum in New York; the Reynolds Gallery Richmond, VA.; Space 1026 Philadelphia, PA.; Urban Arts Space Columbus OH.; Galerie VSUP in the Czech Republic; and the 700IS Experimental Film Festival in Iceland. Her work has been published in New Glass Review and was recently acquired into the American Embassy’s permanent collection in Riga, Latvia. She currently teaches in the glass program at the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, PA. Website




Visiting Artists |Hlengiwe Dube

Tuesday, March 17 @ 2:30pm

1000 W. Broad Street | RM 239


image from:
BIO | Hlengi was only 12 when she first cemented her love affair with art and the world-renowned African Art Centre in Durban. Hlengi has changed the lives of many black people who would otherwise languish in poverty with artistic talents wasted without expecting any returns. She is an artist who specializes in beadwork and telephone wire baskets and a field worker who travels up hill and down dale, visiting rural and urban artists in Kwa-Zulu Natal travelling by buses or taxes in the good and the bad weather, to fulfil her dream to make sure that all the artist are getting help. She does training on beadwork and telephone wire baskets to local artist and to the disadvantage people in the rural areas.
As a girl, she visited the African Art Centre to sell her mother’s and her grandmother’s craftwork, as her mother needed the money to take care of her ten children. She was only 12 when she first made a beaded love letter and sold it to the African Art Centre, this remains part of the African Art Centre’s collection housed at the Kellie Campbell museum. The love letter was so beautiful and she was so proud of it that she did not want to part with it, but she had to replace her grandmother’s beads that she had used to make the necklace.
Now Hlengi’s life revolves around the artists and crafters from rural and urban areas. She loves her work because it gives her an opportunity to help people understand that as long as they have two functional hands, they can never starve. Hlengi was always encouraged to use her hands profitably. She was motivated by the two most important woman in her life – her late mother Nesta and grandmother MaMbeki Dube who used beans and seeds to make beads.
She also likes what she does because it contributes to the preservation of African cultures, customs and traditions and it also to make you understand more about ubuntu. For the past two decade she has been organizing the amagugu exhibition of traditional artefacts, where she will invite the museums and public gallery to select for their collection to make sure that our treasures stays in the country. She will do research and document the information behind the item to make sure is well presented to the public. She works closely with the museum as well as public galleried to make sure that they have the relevant information for their collection.
Hlengi is an author of the Zulu beadwork –talk with beads where she tells history of beads and messages behind the beadwork. She has been involved in many development projects locally and internationally, passing her skills in beadwork and also in telephone wire weaving. Each time she passes her skill she always adds the traditional technique and designs so that it’s remain unique.
Hlengiwe`s work is very organic. She always been highly aware of the world around her and lately she’s been focusing on the natural environment. She examines leaves, ferns, vines, flowers and seeds very closely. She collects material all the time and comes home from long walk with pockets bulging with specimens. She then experiments with ways to translate the forms into beadwork or designs telephone wire work with plant motifs.
Dube has worked closely with well-known artist Andrew Verster to design bespoke items that caused a clamour of excitement among art fundis. Hlengiwe was given the women of the year 2000 award under art and culture (sponsored by SABC 3 and Shoprite checkers) for the contribution to promoting African art and craft in KwaZulu-Natal. Hlengi is a founder of IFUNDISO TRADING specializes on designing, training, promoting art and craft from South Africa and works directly with the crafters. Ifundiso gives all people a working opportunity to earn a living




Visiting Artists | Joyce Scott

Tuesday, February 24 @ 2:30pm

Lecture | Up to my old tricks, the Visual and Performance Art of Joyce J. Scott.

609 Bowe Street, RM 535


Image: from Style Curated. The animated Joyce T. Scott pauses to pose for an impromptu portrait; Her handmade necklace pays homage to Venice


BIO | Born in Baltimore, 1948, Joyce J. Scott is arguably the most significant and influential living female artist working in Baltimore. Sculptor, printmaker, installation artist, performer, quilter, storyteller, and educator, Joyce Scott draws from influences as wide ranging as her media: from African and Native American experiences to art history, television, popular American culture, religious traditions, politics, and contemporary urban street customs.

Renowned for her meticulous craftsmanship and biting social commentary relating to issues of racism, violence, sexism, morality, stereotypes, and other forms of social injustice, Scott’s catalytic power for change is supported by her keen application of humor. For more than four decades, this multifaceted and provocative artist has created complex objects of exceptional skill, beauty, and sophistication that double as a social mirror.

The daughter of acclaimed fiber artist Elizabeth Talford Scott, Joyce’s education in object making began at a remarkably young age. Scott received her Bachelors degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art, and her Masters degree from the Institute Allende in Mexico– with further study at Rochester Institute of Technology and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts.

Ms. Scott has exhibited, performed, and lectured across the country and abroad. During the year 2000, Joyce was featured in a major 30 year retrospective at The Baltimore Museum of Art titled Joyce J. Scott: Kickin’ It with the Old Masters. Following the exhibition’s close, Exhibits USA adapted the show into a nine year traveling exhibition under the title Kickin’ It with Joyce J. Scott. The artist is included in most major public collections: the Baltimore Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Corning Museum of Glass, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mint Museum of Art, Mobile Museum of Art, Museum of Glass in Washington, Museum of Art and Design in NY, Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution in D.C., and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She has recorded original music and has performed extensively, including theatrical pieces with Robert Sherman during the 1970’s, the Thunder Thigh Revue of the1980’s, Lorrainne Whittlesey and the notorious Ebony & Irony routine, and her one-woman, 20-year running performance titled Walk a Mile in My Drawers.

Additionally, Scott has been the recipient of myriad commissions, grants, residencies, and prestigious honors from institutions such as the National Endowment for the Arts, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, Anonymous Was a Woman, and the American Craft Council. In 1996, Scott was nominated for a National Living Treasure Award, and in 2010, she will be presented with a lifetime achievement award from the Women’s Caucus for the Arts.




Visiting Artist Contemporary Historian | Jenni Sorkin

Monday, February 23 @ 2:30pm

609 Bowe Street, RM 535


Sorkin.ACLS photo
BIO | Jenni Sorkin is assistant professor of contemporary art history at University of California, Santa Barbara. She writes on the intersection between gender, artistic labor and material culture. She holds a PhD in the History of Art from Yale University and has received fellowships from the ACLS, Luce Foundation, and Getty Research Institute. Her book, Live Form: Women, Ceramics and Community, examines post-war ceramics at Black Mountain College. It will be published by The University of Chicago Press in 2016.




Fountainhead Fellows: Sarah Nance + Heather McCalla

Tuesday, November 25th @ 12:30pm

609 Bowe street, rm 535


Image: (left) Sarah Nance, (right) Heather McCalla


Sarah Nance is an American artist working in installation, drawing and sculpture. Natural light occupies a central role in her work, as it is intimately related to considerations of perception, beauty and ephemerality. In 2013, Nance participated in consecutive artist residencies in Reykjavík and Skagaströnd, Iceland. She completed her MFA at the University of Oregon and is currently a Fountainhead Fellow in Craft & Material Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Heather McCalla is originally from San Diego, California, where she studied furniture design and woodworking while attending San Diego State University. She obtained her BA in Applied Design in 2006, and worked as a finish carpenter and independent designer for three years before moving to Wisconsin in 2010. McCalla received her MFA from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2013, where she subsequently lectured in the furniture design and woodworking department before moving to Richmond, Virginia to become a Fountainhead Fellow. Her work has been exhibited extensively across the US, including exhibitions at both the Neuberger Museum of Art in New York and the Haggerty Museum of Art in Wisconsin. Through the use of recognizable domestic objects, architectural forms, and outmoded construction techniques, her work explores the complex feelings and relationships associated with home and family.