UT alumnus receives Cranbrook art award for photography

October 14, 2011 | Arts, UToday
By Josh Martin


Even though his art concerns the “defected-self” and “remediation,” Brian Carpenter has much to be proud of in his work and himself. The University of Toledo alumnus recently won the Cranbrook Academy of Art Merit Scholarship for his photography.

Carpenter, who graduated from UT in 2010 with a bachelor of arts degree in interdisciplinary studies, is a second-year student pursuing a master of fine arts degree in photography at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., where he won the award.

“It’s a great honor to be recognized by some of the most eminent artists-in-residence in the country,” he said. “It gives you some confidence to move forward in the development of conceptual ideas that you are presently constructing in your work and ultimately will present as your thesis.”

The award is granted to first-year students from each of the 10 academy departments whose academic records and submitted works during that year display their talent. Students competing for the award submit their best 10 pieces produced during that year, and the faculty review the pieces individually. A majority vote determines the recipients.

"deface," digital print, by Brian Carpenter

Carpenter described Cranbrook as an institution with a “long history of excellence and innovation” where the “caliber of faculty, visiting critics, visiting artists and alumni is very impressive.”

He talked about his current art that he is working on.

“Currently, I am interested in defects, prototyping, remediation, relationships and the male gaze,” he said. “I explore these interests through solo performances and calculated interactions with the people around me. Using photography, sculpture or design, I hope to convey a sense of tension that comes from the constant attempt to correct something perceived, accurately or not, as undesirable or defective.

“I, but also most of humankind, feel fundamentally defective and search for remediation, validation or support,” Carpenter added. “In the company of others, perceived as similarly defective, we feel camaraderie and support and thus not defective. The direct gaze is a kind of validation, when directed at you, because the ‘other’ finds you of interest and therefore of value; when directed generally, the gaze signals that the ‘other’ is perhaps sharing your thoughts — both negative and positive.”

To make these pieces, Carpenter uses digital images of portraits and embeds them with muzzles or masks created from other images of intimate or violent moments between men. To create the muzzles, he takes a two-dimensional image of a person and creates a three-dimensional vector mesh out of it, then manipulates the perspective of this vector image. He embeds it onto the main portrait image as a muzzle.

“Brian is one of the most passionate and talented artists I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with,” said Deborah Orloff, UT professor of art. “His artwork is thought-provoking, original and sophisticated. He has an amazing eye for photography and consistently produces work that is both stunning and smart.”

She added, “In addition to being one of the brightest students we’ve had in the program, his work ethic is equally outstanding, and he was a remarkable role model for other students.”

Carpenter attributed his success in large part to Orloff and the UT Art Department, as well as the opportunity to spend time with curators in the Toledo Museum of Art.

“All of them were constantly critically challenging and cultivating my artistic skills; in effect, they were preparing me for a pre-eminent MFA program,” he said.

The Cranbrook award is attached to a stipend that Carpenter will use to help cover the cost of tuition and expenses.

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