SVA Faculty Members and Alumni Win 2013 Guggenheim Fellowships

April 18, 2013

Seven members of the SVA community were recently named 2013 Josh Simon Guggenheim Fellows in the Creative Arts. Often characterized as “midcareer” awards, Guggenheim Fellowships are unrestricted grants awarded to men and women who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for dynamic scholarship or creative ability. The program is designed to provide Fellows with the time and financial resources to devote themselves to completing their creative and scholarly projects.

Leigh Behnke, a faculty member in the BFA Fine Arts Department and Honors Program, is interested in the formal properties that comprise images and how viewers’ perceptions can be altered if images are re-contextualized. Her work with multiple images allows her to change one element in a work (e.g. size, color, texture), juxtapose it with other elements, and determine how the image is understood in different settings. Behnke will use her fellowship period to create work involving historic houses in New York and New England.

Sharon Harper (MFA 1997 Photography, Video and Related Media) uses photography and video to explore the experience of perception. Her photographs and video pieces draw on scientific and artistic uses of photography to illuminate existential concerns, allowing viewers to embrace the medium’s ability to capture the real while evoking reality’s fantastical possibilities.

Nora Krug’s (MFA 2004 Illustration as Visual Essay) writing and illustrations have appeared in publications including The New York Times and le Monde Diplomatique as well as anthologies published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Chronicle Books. Her work Shadow Atlas, a 42-page-silkscreen-illustrated encyclopedia of ghosts and spirits, won a silver Cube at the 2013 Art Directors Club awards. Krug will use her fellowship year to continue working on a nonfiction graphic memoir about her family, dealing with themes of German identity and guilt.

MFA Photography, Video and Related Media Department faculty member Laura Parnes seeks to blur the lines between conventional storytelling and experimentation in her digital films and installations. She has screened and exhibited her work widely in the U.S. and internationally, including at the Deste Foundation for Contemporary Art, Athens, Greece; LOOP Festival, Barcelona, Spain; Light Industry, Brooklyn; Miami Museum of Contemporary Art, and the 1997 Whitney Biennial.

BFA Fine Arts Department faculty member Elena Sisto uses ideas around abstraction to mine content relating to her interest in how people construct their identities and personas. Her paintings combine figurative content with abstraction, often resulting in stripped-down, cartoon-like imagery. Her work has been shown at institutions including the Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington, DC) and the Wexner Center for the Arts (Columbus, OH).

BFA Illustration Department faculty member Mary Jo Vath is known for her meditative and serene still lifes. Her work has been exhibited at venues including the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN), PPOW Gallery (NYC), and the National Museum of Women in the Arts (Washington, DC).

Maggie Hadleigh-West (MFA 1992 Fine Arts) is an internationally recognized social justice activist, filmmaker, producer, and public speaker. Her work focuses primarily on issues of sexism, sexual harassment, sexual assault, racism, homophobia, trauma, and medical malpractices. Hadleigh-West’s films and presentations have been used around the world in theaters, broadcast television, cable outlets, nonprofit organizations, conferences, corporations, and colleges. Since 2002, the Department of Defense has been using her work to educate all branches of the military on issues of sexism, sexual harassment, and sexual assault.

To view the entire list of 2013 Guggenheim Fellows and for more information, visit

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