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Dawn Holder

Associate Professor of Art


Walton Fine Arts Center - 219
Dawn Holder

Professor by day, artist by night, I can often be found in one of the art studios in the Walton Fine Arts building, either preparing for class, helping students, or working on my own art. As an associate professor of art, I teach ceramics, sculpture, and art history classes. In my studio classes, we focus on building technical skills, creating original forms, and digging deep to find meaningful content, while in art history we learn how to interpret, analyze, and write about famous works of art.

I am drawn to making and teaching art because art allows us to translate our experiences of the world creatively, exploring new forms and images that can to convey a range of symbolic, intellectual, and emotional expressions. As we make and view art, we are actively enriching our understanding of the shared human experience.

One of the things I most enjoy about my job is getting to know my students on a personal level and helping them find the best form and material to express their own experiences and perspectives. Each day as I walk into the studio classroom, I am excited by the ever-changing challenges that my students and I face as we work together to problem solve and trouble shoot their artwork.

In my own creative practice, I use sculpture and installation art to investigate various elements of landscape and their social and cultural significance. Although I incorporate a variety of materials into my creative practice, almost all of my artwork has some component made of clay, usually porcelain. Working with ceramics has been my focus and passion since I was in high school, and I went on to earn both of my degrees in this field, a BFA from the University of Georgia and an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. I regularly exhibit my work in museums and galleries throughout the state of Arkansas and the country, including the National Museum for Women in the Arts. My dedication to my creative practice has resulted in winning a number of awards and grants for my art. I hope to be a strong role model for my students, encouraging them to work hard in the studio, to believe in their creative potential, and to find ways to get their own artwork out into the world.

Special Projects / Initiatives

My Suburban Lawn Iteration and Grass Variation series are comprised of obsessive installations that investigate the lawn in its dual function as both “natural” space and cultural signifier. The repetitive labor involved in fabricating the tens of thousands of porcelain grass blades mirrors the suburban obsession with cultivating the perfect lawn. These works speak to the American dream—that through education and hard work one can achieve upward mobility—epitomized by home ownership, perfect landscaping, and participation in consumer culture. The nostalgic childhood connotations of soft and lush grass that may arise from this work are set in opposition to the time, resources, and ecological cost of maintaining a landscape that often functions more as a status symbol than a place of enjoyment.

Recent work uses sculpture and installation to investigate how cultural values are enacted on the landscape around us, with a focus on the creation of monuments. Researching local Confederate monuments has opened up larger questions in my mind about how the landscape has been utilized, altered, and aestheticized to promote racial segregation, reinforce social hierarchy, discourage migration, and reinforce boundaries of ethnic and political zones. Like much of recorded history, monuments reflect more about the perspectives of those who are or were in power than the multiplicity and diversity of actual lived human experience.