January 10, 2023

AAP Department of Art Announces Unique New Image Text M.F.A.

The Art Department at Cornell AAP adds a new interdisciplinary, low-residency graduate program and welcomes new faculty integrating critical engagement and creative practices across text and image.

By Edith Fikes

Student examines brightly colored printed poster near a window.

David Legrand (B.F.A. '23) examines prints in the new Risograph studio in the Department of Art at Cornell AAP. Anson Wigner / AAP

The Department of Art in the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (AAP) at Cornell University has launched a unique, low-residency Master of Fine Arts in Image Text. The program brings together text and image which, according to founding faculty directors Nicholas Muellner and Catherine Taylor, creates new possibilities for creative practice and dialogue at the intersection of visual media and the literary arts.

"In the fluid landscape created by digital media platforms and the explosion of small press publishing, it seems only logical that questions of aesthetics, narrative, documentary testimony, and fictional invention be addressed within the language-and-image world we already inhabit," said Muellner (primarily a photographer) and Taylor (primarily a writer), who both join the art department as codirectors of the new program.

Collage of students and faculty exploring image and text projects.

ITI, formerly at Ithaca College, offered experimental workshops, symposia, an M.F.A. program, and the ITI Press. images / provided

Muellner and Taylor's idea for the Image Text Ithaca (ITI) initiative began in 2014 at Ithaca College as a series of artist workshops that brought together artists and scholars working at the intersection of visual media and creative writing, with notable participants such as Lucas Blalock, Bruno Ceschel, LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, Jason Fulford, John Keene, and Claudia Rankine. The initiative grew to include an M.F.A. in Image Text and the ITI Press. When Ithaca College phased out the Image Text M.F.A. in 2021, conversations to establish a comparable program at Cornell were initiated by former Art Department Chair Michael Ashkin who, as a former visiting artist with ITI, saw the value in offering alternatives to conventional creative practice and exhibition to art students. The recent launch is made possible by a generous seed fund gift from alums Deborah Goodman Davis '85 and Gerald Davis (B.Arch. '84) who have been longtime supporters of the college and the arts at Cornell.

The new graduate program in Image Text at Cornell takes place over 25 months. It begins with the first of three intensive summer sessions in Ithaca that offer access to exceptional in-person resources and faculty drawn from ITI's community of internationally recognized artists and writers. Students then pursue independent remote study in close consultation with their faculty advisors throughout the regular academic year and participate in immersive international field courses in locations such as London, Berlin, and Mexico City.

Brightly colored posters stacked on top of a green cutting mat.

A run of prints produced in the new Risograph studio in the Department of Art at Cornell AAP. Anson Wigner / AAP

"With this program, the art department provides more options for how to be an artist in the world," says Art Department Chair Paul Ramírez Jonas, who has led the collaborative effort to establish the new Image Text M.F.A. at Cornell following Ashkin's tenure as chair. "Given its core commitment to both making and thinking alongside highly original artists and robust facilities and technologies, AAP is a perfect setting."

Led by new art faculty Muellner and Taylor, the Image Text M.F.A. is the only program of its kind in its field(s) and is designed to build an inclusive community of working artists and writers at AAP who seek an intellectual, emotional, and political engagement with the world through alternate modes of creative production and exhibition.

Collage of sample Image Text work from previous classes.

ITI, formerly at Ithaca College, offered experimental workshops, symposia, an M.F.A. program, and the ITI Press. images / provided

"In the past two decades, there has been an explosion of books and publications by individual artists, writers, and independent publishers," added Ramírez Jonas. "These interdisciplinary and often experimental publications create a new platform for the circulation of ideas, transforming a section of the art world where participants have a great degree of agency, collaborations abound, and communities are created and supported."

"We are thrilled to join a college and university with such an outstanding reputation, and a department where collaborative scholarship and creative practice in social justice and equity align well with our own interests and commitments, as well as the core values and driving intent of the program," said Muellner and Taylor.

A series of virtual information sessions will be held from January 16–28. All prospective students are invited to register to attend via Zoom. The first-round deadline for program applications is February 15, 2023. The second-round deadline is March 15, 2023. Please visit the M.F.A. in Image Text page to learn more.

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