MFA graduate redefines ceramic medium with light, atmosphere

Headshot of Dylan Fitzgibbons

Dylan Fitzgibbons

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2023 graduates.

Dylan Fitzgibbons will graduate from the School of Art with an MFA in ceramics this December and plans to continue his journey of learning, teaching, traveling, exploring, questioning the art world, and, of course, making art.

Fitzgibbons said he chose ceramics for its versatility. 

“Ceramics offers boundless opportunities that can traverse every medium practice and offer a taste of it all while still having its own flavor,” he said. “You can draw, screen print, install, perform, dance, digitize, integrate with other materials, etc., all with or on ceramic mediums. It seemed like the most logical choice. Not to mention, it is an extremely satisfying material to manipulate … in most cases.”

Fitzgibbons said he was able to experiment in ceramics and with his work thanks to the scholarships he received while at ASU, including the Arizona Artists Guild Scholarship, Ed Moulthrop Scholarship, B. Wong Scholarship and K Herberger Art Scholarship.  

“Without the financial support from these scholarships,” he said, “I would have been extremely limited in my ability to experiment with materials and forms and sculptures. The final body of work that was presented during my MFA thesis show was reliant on all the previous experiments and research that was afforded to me by the scholarships. I am truly grateful for the support that was presented to me during my time here.”

His thesis exhibition, “Traces Between,” used light and atmosphere to redefine the medium of ceramics. The exhibition describes the work as examining ideas of reality and what it means to be created through the collaboration of the physical world and imagined spaces. The curated environment was filled with superimposed black-sand sculptures that teetered between the light and shadows. Informed by folklore, the natural world, thin spaces and ideas of "traces," the exhibition walked the line between what is seen and what is felt and questions how this line is used to influence our navigation of the world around us, as individuals and groups. Sharpened contours, foreign glows, fading clarity and implacable sounds all culminate to develop an atmosphere of uncertainty. 

Fitzgibbons already has plans to continue his experimentation and work after graduation as well as keep learning and teaching. 

“My goals after graduation mainly revolve around artist residencies,” he said. “I want to be able to travel the world as much as possible while I'm in my younger years and learn as much as possible about various cultures, folklore, perspectives, etc.”

He said he also loves his job teaching ceramic wheel throwing at the Edna Vihel Arts Center, where he has learned just as much as he has taught.  

“Future dream goals and plans include creating a home/studio space a bit removed from the cities where I can enjoy the natural world but still have modern amenities within reach,” he said.  

And he wants to continue his participation in the Moldy Lemon Collective, which is run by himself and four other artists from Minnesota. 

“Our goal with the collective is to host additional opportunities for artists to speak about their work, concepts and experiences as an artist and help break down typical expectations/generalizations about art and artists.”

Fitzgibbons shared about his time at ASU before he is let loose on the art world to redefine and reinvigorate the medium of ceramic. Here's what he had to say.

Note: Answers may have been edited for length or clarity.

Question: What's something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

Answer: I feel like there were many things — so much so that it became a normal and expected experience. I could not list the vast many things that surprised me or changed my perspectives because it was always in flux and changing, and at first, it was really difficult to feel grounded, but eventually, you adapt and go with the flow a lot easier.  

Q: Why did you choose ASU? 

A: The professors, the opportunity for cross-medium interaction, and the facilities/studio spaces. ASU has a great setup in all of the desired areas to really help engage the grads in whatever they want to research and provides the tools so that the research is not barebones but can be developed as much as wanted/necessary. 

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU? 

A: Oh, this definitely is not a question that will fly with me. There are too many wonderful professors at ASU who have taught me so many important lessons. I refuse to select one. Instead, I will list many: 

Meredith Hoy for boundless conceptual insight and perspective, always finding the links that I am blind to.   

Sam Chung for great design and experiential advice, keeping me aware of perspective and a relation to the work/objects. 

Susan Beiner for immaculate material mastery and sharing that knowledge with her students. 

Shawn Lawson for his vast patience and understanding when a ceramics graduate student is reaching way outside of his experience and into a digital realm. 

Damon Mcintyre for his philosophical expression and love of craftsmanship, and for helping to instill those ideas into me.

Honestly, there are so many more, but I don't want to make this wall of gratitude text a problem for the interview format, haha. 

Q: What's the best advice you'd give to those still in school? 

A: Perseverance and patience. Learn to have vast amounts of both, and you will always find a way toward your goal. It can get really difficult to keep going and work through some of the problems you will come across, but that will make it all the more worth it in the end when you finally figure out a solution. That solution could take hundreds of hours to find, but you will find it.  

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends, or just thinking about life? 

A: Well, honestly, I was never on campus. As an art MFA, we have our studios all in a single building at a place called Grant Street Studios, and I was there consistently for the entire time I was in the program. Monday to Monday, I, along with all the other art grads, were working our tails off, having some brilliant conversations and helping each other with all things art related. It was spectacular and a great experience to meet other kinds of artists and form a really tight bond as a community.  

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle? 

A: Oh man, it is really weird to have this question because I am certainly an optimistic person, but frankly, I don't know enough about any particular problem that $40 million would solve. So, from my very uneducated stance, I would say something like material efficiency research/alternative material investment. If we could really nail down our processes so that we mitigate as much waste as possible, then we can be more efficient in production and have less problems with waste placement/space management. Plus, if we can be more efficient, then we would not feel the need to use/acquire so much material at such a rapid pace, and that would — maybe — afford us the time to produce the material we have used and create a more sustainable system.

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