Shaking things up at the ASU School of Art faculty show

November 18, 2013

Every two years, the ASU Art Museum hosts an exhibition by faculty members in the prestigious ASU School of Art, one of five schools in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.     

This year, the Faculty Biennial is full of firsts. It is the first time the Biennial has consisted of three shows in three venues – the ASU Art Museum, the Harry Wood Gallery and the Night Gallery – the first time it has included work from professors’ student days and the first time there will be a separate, curated show with larger works by faculty. There will also be presentations of new research by School of Art faculty members throughout November. Anthony Pessler, "Icon with Wolf and Young Hart," 2012, oil and gold on panel. Download Full Image

“When I see the work of the faculty assembled together, I’m humbled by the talent in evidence,” said Adriene Jenik, director of the ASU School of Art. “It is especially exciting to have the opportunity this year to showcase faculty artwork and scholarship in more than one venue and context. From the luncheon research talks through the curated bodies of new work in the Night Gallery, students and community members are sure to be challenged and inspired to pursue their own visions.”

The show at the ASU Art Museum runs through Dec. 1 and features single works from faculty across the School of Art. The biennial show has a long tradition at ASU and is a unique opportunity to become familiar with a broad range of work from a world-class faculty. 

“It is a joy to work with the School of Art faculty,” said Gordon Knox, director of the ASU Art Museum, “and it is always a glorious surprise to see the breadth and depth of the artistic production that this remarkable collection of artists produce.”

New this year is the addition of two shows: one at the Night Gallery and one at the Harry Wood Gallery at the School of Art.

The exhibition at the Night Gallery at Tempe Marketplace – also open through Dec. 1 – provides a more in-depth look at work from a few of the faculty, selected by Julio Cesar Morales, the ­­­­­new curator at the ASU Art Museum.

Morales set out to curate the exhibition by meeting with faculty and responding to the work he saw. “I had excellent conversations about the content of everyone’s work and what really inspires them and how that reflects cultural values that we are questioning,” he said.

Morales, who was a curator in San Francisco before coming to ASU, was not surprised by the great strength he found in the work of ASU’s art faculty. “Part of the reason I decided to take the position at the museum,” he said, “is that when I came to interview and visit, I saw all the amazing energy that is happening here and the great new work that faculty such as Rogelio Gutierrez, Erika Lynne Hanson and Jill Mason are producing."

The exhibition, titled “Mirror People,” features new and previously unseen video, installation, painting, fiber, works on paper and photography by Peter Bugg, Binh Danh, Angela Ellsworth, Rogelio Gutierrez, Erika Lynne Hanson, Mary Hood, Jill Marie Mason, Aaron Rothman, Gregory Sale and Forrest Solis.

The other new addition is a show titled “Back in the Day,” that featured faculty work from their graduate school days. The exhibition was held at the Harry Wood Gallery at the ASU School of Art building, Oct. 16-25.

Betsy Schneider, a professor of photography and a recent recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, was excited about having some of her early work exhibited.

“It’s a chance to see work that is, in my case quite literally, dusty. I’ll dust it off for the show,” Schneider said. “I also think that young artists often have an energy and rawness, and one of the great things about being a professor is that you continue to be exposed to that energy.”             

In addition to the shows, there will also be a series of presentations of new research by some of the School of Art academic faculty as part of the Friday Lunch Talk Series at the ASU Art Museum.

Presentations will be by Nancy Serwint, associate professor of art history, on Nov. 1; Mary Stokrocki, professor of art education, on Nov. 8; and Claudia Mesch, associate professor of art history, on Dec. 6.

The Friday Lunch Talk Series is free and open to the public with lunch provided, although RSVPs are requested. If you plan on attending, RSVP by 5 p.m. on the Wednesday prior to the Friday talk to: or 480.965.2873

All exhibitions, lectures and openings are free and open to the public.

Deborah Sussman

Communications and media specialist, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts


Three new faculty members bring diverse expertise to School of Life Sciences

November 18, 2013

Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences welcomes three new faculty members this academic year, with each conducting research they hope will enrich both the university and their respective fields of study. Along with their research endeavors, the trio will work in the classroom to share their expertise with undergraduate and graduate life sciences students.

Jason Newbern Jason Newbern, Sara Brownell and Xuan Wang Download Full Image

Jason Newbern comes to ASU from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he studied peripheral nervous system development during his postdoctoral research. Now, as an assistant professor in the school, he is refocusing his research to study the formation of the cerebral cortex – a structure that plays a key role in learning, memory and attention.

Through his investigations, Newbern said he hopes to understand why certain gene mutations cause neurological problems. He is particularly interested in syndromes caused by mutations that affect a signaling pathway known as Ras/MAPK. Neurofibromatosis Type 1 and Noonan syndrome are the most common in this family of syndromes. Children with these syndromes often exhibit some impairment of neurological function, which may include developmental delay, learning deficits, neuropsychiatric disorders or seizures.

“Children who have these disorders are typically pretty bad off,” Newbern said. “I think an achievable goal is to map the underlying pathogenesis of the neurological deficits they exhibit.”

This work may also provide some insight into neurodevelopmental changes observed in certain forms of autism or schizophrenia. Doing this, Newbern said, would bring his research team closer to finding ways to reverse neurological problems in those with mutated signaling pathways. 

As for why ASU is the best place to conduct his research, Newbern said President Michael Crow’s vision of the New American University provides an inspiring platform for interdisciplinary research efforts.

“I am very much attracted to the model ASU uses for teaching and collaborative research, and trying to really serve a large proportion of the population,” said Newbern

Newbern added that he is looking forward to teaching neurobiology to undergraduate students, and hopes to develop a new course on nervous system development.

Sara Brownell

Assistant professor Sara Brownell is already brimming with excitement about beginning her work here, even though she will not arrive at ASU until January. With a doctorate in biology and master’s in education from Stanford University, she will study a diverse array of students – including students from ASU – to investigate undergraduate biology education.

“Universities train so many undergraduate students in biology across the country and need to be doing a better job at it,” Brownell said. “I hope my research can help with this.”

Specifically, Brownell wants to investigate the positive impacts of including authentic research in introductory biology lab courses and explore inaccurate ideas students may have about biology topics. She plans to design a programmatic assessment that could track biology majors’ understanding of core concepts as they progress through their college careers.

Brownell said she is delighted to work with the School of Life Sciences, which is already doing great things in biology education, and she really wants to explore the diversity of students on campus. According to her, many studies have not had as large and varied a sample as ASU’s population offers.

Xuan Wang

Xuan Wang joins the school as an assistant professor with a focus in microbiology and metabolic engineering. Specifically, he wants to turn various types of cells into microbiological factories, making biofuels and other valuable chemicals out of waste products.

“The whole world is unsustainably dependent on petroleum,” Wang said. “Our transportation fuels and many chemical products including solvents, fertilizers, pesticides and plastics, are derived from petroleum. To keep our society advancing, we have to find a sustainable supply of energy and chemicals. If we want to decrease the demand for petroleum, I believe renewable chemicals by microbial production will be part of future solutions.”

Ultimately, Wang would like to increase the efficiency of the biological synthesis process so the valuable chemicals created by microbes are cheap enough to compete with petroleum-based chemicals. To reach that point, Wang and his research team will work on manipulating the genomes and metabolism of many microbes to increase the efficiency of these microscopic factories.

Wang shared he is pleased that other faculty members on campus have similar research interests, and excited for the teaching opportunity ASU offers, as he had few chances to improve his teaching skills as a research faculty member at the University of Florida.

“The one thing I realized is that teaching can make a better researcher,” Wang said. “Sometimes when I teach a concept to a student, it’s during that process I am inspired. I can get unexpected ideas from my students, and even unexpected ideas from myself while preparing teaching materials.”

Jason Krell

Communication and events coordinator, Center for Evolution and Medicine