Four University of Texas at Austin faculty members have been awarded prestigious Guggenheim Fellowships by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Read more about the recipients below.
Ricardo Ainslie has studied a lot of communities in chaos, but his latest project is the first one that’s put him in serious physical danger and involved his hometown.
For the past few years, Ainslie, a professor in the Department of Educational Psychology in the College of Education, has spent much of his time in Mexico City, up close and personal with drug traffickers, corrupt law enforcement officials and crime victims. His on-the-scene interviews and observations in Mexico City and beyond resulted in a film documentary called “Ya Basta!,” which made the national film festival circuit, and now he’s working on a book about the growing tension and bloodshed in Ciudad Juárez, the drug war’s highly volatile epicenter. Watch a YouTube video of Ciudad Juárez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz discuss the realities of violence, crime and corruption in the border city.
Not one to shy away from conflict or touchy topics, Ainslie has produced three works about towns turned upside down by racial and ethnic turmoil. In his book “No Dancin In Anson,” Ainslie explored the anger and fear simmering in a small West Texas town transformed by the Civil Rights era. In his film documentary “Crossover: A Story of Desegregation,” he explored the reluctant acceptance of school desegregation in Hempstead, Texas, and in his book “The Long, Dark Road: The Story of Bill King and Jasper’s Murder” he tackled the brutal, racially motivated murder of James Byrd in Jasper, Texas.
Ainslie describes his approach to research as a mix of “psychoanalysis, ethnography and documentary forms of inquiry,” and feels most comfortable at “the intersection of psychology and culture” when he sets out to explain the behavior of individuals and groups.
— By Kay Randall
Tandy Warnow‘s purpose in taking a year away from her normal academic routine is simple: She wants to continue to improve her algorithms for estimating the evolutionary relationships between species. They are already among the best in the world — capable of sifting through galaxies of genetic data in tiny amounts of time — but she wants them to be better. And to do that, she has to go wherever in the world the brightest minds are working with the freshest data.
“Sure, you can always read what someone publishes online,” said Warnow, a professor of computer science, “but if you really want to be intimately involved in the problem, you need to be there when it is developing, when the data are being generated. You need to be with the people who understand it most deeply, and have them explain to you what they are seeing, what they are experiencing, what their impressions are. There is no online substitute for that.”
In pursuit of improvement, Warnow will go to Switzerland to meet with the minds who are working on improving methods in phylogenetic estimation, an area in which Warnow has been a pioneer. She’ll go to research institutes in Maryland and Massachusetts to delve into metagenomics, a field that arose when new gene sequencing technologies, combined with the kinds of analytical methods Warnow has been essential in developing, made it possible to extract meaningful genetic data from the complex soup of environmental samples.
She’ll spend a big chunk of time in Lausanne, Switzerland, where she’ll temporarily join the lab of her longtime collaborator, Bernard Moret. The two of them will work on the broad spectrum of problems, and hope that advances in one area will drive development in the others.
What’s most important, Warnow said, is simply the opportunity to shake things up, recharge her batteries, and spend time as a student rather than as a teacher or a lab supervisor.
“Maybe I’ll get lucky and get some breakthroughs very quickly, but that’s not the goal,” she said. “The goal is to start learning while I’m on this leave. It’s a learning phase.”
— By Daniel Oppenheimer
Lawrence McFarland, the William and Bettye Nowlin Endowed Professorship in Photography, has taught in the Department of Art and Art History since 1985. He’s taught courses in Italy as part of the department’s Learning Tuscany study abroad program. McFarland is an artists whose body of work has spanned several decades, including thousands of photographs chronicling the American West.
During McFarland’s numerous photography trips, he has been fascinated with the history of the western states, particularly from 1804 to 1890, because of its significance opening the west to American culture. He has received numerous awards and honors, including three National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artists Fellowships and the Ferguson Grant from the Friends of Photography in Carmel, Calif.
McFarland’s images show “the optimism of the journey, the wonder of discovery and the revealing of events within the mythical landscape.” Recently, he produced a series of panoramic images in the American West and in Italy that have been published in a book by Blue Sky Gallery in Portland, Ore.
— By Rachel Cook
Troy Brauntuch, associate professor in studio art, has taught in the Department of Art and Art History since 1998. Considered a member of the Pictures Generation, Brauntuch first exhibited with such contemporaries as Jack Goldstein, Robert Longo, Philip Smith and Sherrie Levine in the pivotal Pictures exhibition at Artists Space in 1977. He was also included in the seminal exhibition, The Pictures Generation (1974-1984) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Brauntuch’s conté crayon works on black cotton appear at first to be a monochromatic canvas, but slowly reveal a photo-derived image of everyday objects. Described as an investigation of “the space between a thing and our idea of it,” Brauntuch enacts a “slow burn” with the work and sometimes it literally takes time to acclimate one’s eyes to see the objects that rise to the surface.
Brauntuch — whose career spans more than three decades — was also featured in the 2006 Whitney Biennial exhibition, Day for Night. Currently he is exhibiting at Capitain Petzel in Berlin, where more than 30 years worth of sketches, paintings, notes, original objects, photographs and source materials are being presented.
— By Rachel Cook