“Invariant Interval” gains inspiration from space


Ethan Oblak

Theater and math senior Ben Matkin assists artist Alyson Shotz in preparation for the Invariant Interval installation Friday afternoon. Shotz’s art piece was shipped from Brooklyn to Austin, where student volunteers can work along side with her.

Eleanor Dearman

Artist-in-residence Alyson Shotz’s “Invariant Interval” exhibit plays on space in more ways than one.

The artist-in-residence program invites a well-established artist to create a piece of art catered to the UT Visual Arts Center. Shotz, this year’s artist, is known for her minimalistic work featured in notable museums such as the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. 

It was this minimalistic aesthetic that drew Jade Walker, gallery director of the center, to Shotz’s work. 

“I loved her work in the studio. We haven’t had anyone who builds so minimally,” Walker said. “We wanted to bring in an artist who worked with very ephemeral objects and [was] minimal in terms of the way the work looked but also multiple in the way they built. “

Shotz toured the Visual Arts Center to gauge the space and create a design suited for it. The result is a suspended sculpture made of glass
beaded wires that is connected to create a three-dimensional grid-like structure. 

“This is a work commissioned especially for the [center] and for this space,” exhibit curator C.C. Marsh said. “That means it has never been created before or installed anywhere else. So just hearing her thought process is fascinating because you get to see how a work of art is made from start to finish.“

Shotz drew inspiration from outer space and the use of items of little mass to fill up large spaces. 

“I was interested in experimenting with expandable structure; also looking for new ways to describe space sculpturally,” Shotz said. 

While on campus, she worked with the McDonald Observatory to gain further inspiration from the sky. 

“Usually when we bring in an artist, they come in for a large period of time,” Walker said. “A week of her residency she spent out at the observatory working with the scientist there. And so that was something totally different that we’d never done before.” 

Shotz began creating her piece in her Brooklyn studio. After building its basic design there, she shipped it to Austin where she and student volunteers assembled it. 

“Students are helping to actually build the pieces that you’ll [see] in the gallery. So it’s hands on,” Walker said. “When [Shotz] first got here they were all on the floor together building and beading, and then right now they are actually raising this huge structure that she has built.” 

This student involvement provides an educational opportunity for aspiring artists to see and experience firsthand the work that goes into creating an installation. 

“I went to visit classrooms early this week and introduced them to [Shotz’s] body of work,” Marsh said. “Each day there have been maybe nine opportunities total for people to come in and work with [Shotz] on the piece, so it’s really volunteer basis. It’s a great opportunity for them to work with a well-known artist and assemble something that might be different than their own craft.” 

Shotz has also enjoyed her time working with the student volunteers.

“I’ve found them to be a highly-motivated group, very competent, and helpful and fun to be around,” Shotz said. 

“Invariant Interval” opens Sept. 27 and will run through Dec. 7. For more information, Shotz will give a talk about the exhibit on Sept. 23.