UT alumna turns Google Maps into art at campus exhibition

Felix Kalvesmaki

The UT Department of Art and Art History hosted the opening reception Thursday evening for artist and photographer Anika Steppe’s “View from,” which featured photos of a Google Maps photographer who could be seen taking photos on Google Street View.  

The installation opened at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center on campus. It shows Steppe’s Polaroids and her work with viewfinders, which are small lenses on cameras used to preview photos. 

UT alumna Steppe said she began tracking the Google Maps photographer because she was trying to find the conference center through Google Street View to see the space since she did not live in Austin at the time. She became fascinated by the photographer and checked on her through Google Maps every few months leading up to the showcase.

“I was asked to do this show a while back, and I’ve done a lot of shows that have been in this space in the past,” Steppe said. “It’s such a unique space. It’s essentially a hallway in a hotel. How can I embrace it rather than work against it or try to ignore it?”

 



The exhibition takes place in a single hallway and will remain open to the public until April 18. Steppe said the exhibition’s location in a hallway was important, and the space itself impacted the work she created for it.

“Thinking about what’s around you (and) what you’re viewing in front of you (is) definitely about perception,” Steppe said. “I want people to have a fun time in the space. I want them to enjoy and have this playful look at a place that’s usually just meant to walk through.”

Shanie Tomassini, sculpture lab manager and the maker of the rods that Steppe’s viewfinders sit on, said Steppe’s use of the hallway and Google Maps was creative.

“The photos are quite interesting,” Tomassini said. “I feel like she’s very playful, and using the exhibition room as a medium, Anika is deconstructing this space and our ideas of what image representation is.”

Sarah Canright, an associate professor of practice in studio art, painting and drawing, advised Steppe during her time on the Forty Acres. Canright said she had only praise for Steppe’s project and artistic abilities.

“She’s spectacular,” Canright said. “It’s a continuation and a refinement of what she was doing when she graduated. The show is very much an expression of her voice.”