Judy Pfaff joins UW faculty as Eminent Artist-in-Residence
Judy Pfaff spent her holiday season packing and taping boxes.
But these boxes weren’t filled with gifts for family and friends. They were replete with everything she needed to take with her to Wyoming.
“This,” she says, “is not just a week’s visit.”
A pioneer of installation art and one of the world’s most renowned creators of paintings, prints and sculpture, the British-born Pfaff will join the University of Wyoming faculty for the spring semester as the university’s latest Eminent Artist-in-Residence.
The endowed professorship, established by the Wyoming State Legislature and funded by the Excellence in Higher Education Endowment, rotates annually among the departments of art, music, and theatre and dance.
“I’ve had people asking me, ‘When is she coming?’” says Mark Ritchie, a professor of printmaking in UW's Department of Art. “When I tell them that she’ll be here for the whole semester, they’re like, ‘How did you do that?”
He cracks a smile and adds, “All we did was ask.”
During her four-month residency, Pfaff will teach two classes in the Department of Art, design and install an exhibition for the UW Art Museum that will show from April 13-May 11 and assist the university’s outreach mission through community talks and other activities with Wyoming’s seven community colleges. She will maintain an office and a studio inside UW’s sparkling Visual Arts Building, one of the campus’ newest facilities.
“I was looking for a temporary escape from the east coast—I’ve lived on the east coast for basically my whole life—and I wanted to have an opportunity to learn a new place,” says Pfaff, whose list of accolades includes a MacArthur Foundation Award and fellowships from the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. “At this point in my life, if I don’t learn new things, I might never learn them.”
Although she has twice visited Wyoming in preparation for her residency, Pfaff says she is excited to explore the Cowboy State’s distinct landscapes, including national parks and forests, to meet new people and to experience a different culture.
But Pfaff will arrive with a sense of nervousness, too. “I don’t ride horses, I have never skied, I don’t shoot guns or hunt and I’m a fierce Democrat,” she says with a laugh.
“But when I visited, I was just so impressed with the people and the environment. It was so much more than I thought it would be,” the artist says. “I know I’m going to learn a lot there.”
But, of course, Pfaff has plenty to teach, too. The primary benefactors will be UW students in a department where instruction is concentrated around 10 courses: art history, ceramics, drawing, foundations, graphic design, metalsmithing, painting, photography, printmaking and sculpture.
“She teaches across the board,” says Ricki Klages, head of the art department. “She trained initially as a painter, then she moved into printmaking and drawing, and then to sculpture and installation. She really does cover the gamut of the disciplines that we offer to our students.”
Pfaff is just the latest in a string of decorated eminent artists to visit UW. She follows Bill T. Jones, one of the United States’ most influential and popular dance artists; Bill Bowers, a professional director, acclaimed Broadway actor and international mime sensation; David Carson, a graphic designer whose remarkable list of clients includes Quicksilver, MTV, Budweiser and Giorgio Armani; and Jennifer Higdon, a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer.