Art, Art History and Design, School of


Date of this Version



Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska

In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Fine Arts

Major: Art

Under the Supervision of Professor Karen Kunc


I love a good story. To me, it is part of living an interesting life ... the more you experience, the more stories you collect. These stories are only worthwhile if they're shared, and if they 're told well. My work has always had a narrative component that is sensational, graphic and saturated, like the films and images that inspire it. Unlike a comic book, the story I am presenting for my thesis is not written out for you. It asks the viewer to piece this thing together to make sense of it. Like a poster, each image could stand-alone and hold your attention, yet each piece relates to another image outside of itself. Seen separately, the context is lost. I arrived at this series of sequential works as a result of paring down and clarifying parts that already existed (mark making, drawing style, interests, etc). My intention is to communicate with more concise imagery, that is more authentic, more focused. It is the result of two intense years of rummaging through piles of ideas and approaches. I was aiming for work that was more understandable, relevant and personal; comprised more of my own hand, my gesture, my aesthetic. The skeleton of this story is plucked from history. Akhnaten, the 'heretic' pharaoh, changed the religious conventions from polytheistic beliefs to monotheistic ones, built a new capital city, and radically altered the art of the day. The end of his reign is shrouded in mystery because his successors erased him from history. But this is not simply a retelling of the story of Akhnaten. It is a story about the power struggle between those in command and Akhnaten, the bringer of change. I intend this print series to be a universal story about ambition, about having a driving force to conquer something, and what happens when you get what you were looking for. Akhnaten is one of many historical characters with grand visions that failed to consider the consequences of change. I chose him because his life is peppered with unknowns. He has been reduced to a name and an idea. I saw great potential and opportunity in projecting my ideas onto this character. Similarly, I have chosen the Cowboy as a metaphoric symbol of the advancement of Western ideals. This imagery has a history of being used as a container for a creator's ideas, whether in films, books or visual art. My work follows in the tradition of blending different cultures into a Western storyline, which is nearly as old as the genre itself. By changing the setting and iconography from ancient Egyptian to the Wild West, I am making the point that this struggle transcends specific people and speaks more about the human condition than any individual. There is a dubious, uncertainty to the Wild West. Cowboys boldly plunge forward, consequences be damned. The distinction between good guys and bad guys is unclear and often we see the story from both points of view. Akhnaten is the heroic character, but his actions are not necessarily good and through my visual storytelling suggest that this innate human flaw runs deeper than good and evil or right and wrong. Such iconographic characters reside in the ambiguous grey area. This work is more about the forces that drive us, rather than a judgment of the actions and intentions. The 27 woodcuts and a=mpanying drawings/paintings in boxes were conceived as one sprawling cinematic work. As a way of extending the work's reach, I have also published the series in paperback book form. The book is designed to be cheap and accessible and provides an alternative to traditional gallery viewing. It is at once complement and contrast to the exhibit. While the print series requires a large space, the book is intimate, more of a personal experience, and records the ·creative process with the inclusion of preparatory drawings. The two forms begin to act almost as advertisements for the other, creating a dialogue between mass culture and fine art.