Long Reads

Long Reads

Delve into insightful essays and profiles about UC Davis artists.

Person in front of digital projection of abstract shapes created by light blurring.

Dream Vortex

By Meredith Tromble

Meredith Tromble, a visiting scholar at UCD’s Feminist Research Institute, reflects on the evolution of her work: 

The Dream Vortex, with related drawings, had a six-month run at BioBAT Art Space in Brooklyn that closed just as New York shut down for the pandemic. Exhibition conditions permitting, a new Vortex series piece will debut at Pratt Manhattan Gallery in 2021. So the work is being seen—but am I practicing as a “demon artist,” as I imagine in this essay from Interalia magazine? That seems too much to claim, something best left to time and others to confirm. But I do know that the UC Davis collaboration at the core of the Dream Vortex, with geobiologist Professor Dawn Sumner and input from physicist Professor Jim Crutchfield and anthropologist Professor Joe Dumit, has kept growing, and drawing others in. And for that, I am very grateful.


Detail of 'The Rose' artwork showing oil paint and other media built up to look like a burst of light.

In the Heat of the Rose

By Bill Berkson

Poet, art critic and San Francisco Art Institute Professor Emeritus Bill Berkson wrote about the seven-plus years Jay DeFeo spent creating her masterwork The Rose for Art in America magazine in March 1996. Read more...


Title of exhibition reading 'Rest is Power' printed in a ring in white vinyl on the window of the museum.

Rest in Power, George Floyd

By Susette Min

This essay introduces a student exhibition that was mounted last quarter right before the call to shelter in place took effect. I wrote the essay on the day after George Floyd’s life was taken away from him by four police officers. In light of what happened, the outcry and wave of global protests over the murder of George Floyd, I thought it fitting to add the following reflection on this new turn of events in relation to the exhibition, Rest is Power. Read more...


Used dictionary with handwriting, tape and finger prints impressed into the side.
Lucy Puls, Notae (Funk and Wagnalls Standard), 2003. Book, glue and steel, 11 x 16 x 6 ½ in. Courtesy of the artist. © Lucy Puls.

Lucy Puls: [just you]

By Dena Beard

In Lucy Puls’ Notae (Funk and Wagnalls Standard), 2003, a dictionary’s pronunciation key is glued open to reveal marginalia inscribed by the book’s previous owner. Words like “Paraplegic, Psychiatric, Vietnam” float over the page like some haunting prose poem. A professor as well as an artist, Puls helps her students detect semantic relations between words. Read more...


Seriograph showing ruins of a palace.

Heghnar Watenpaugh on the Problem with Timelessness and the Power of Memory

By Lindsay Baltus

Professor Heghnar Watenpaugh talks about imagined memories, what it means to call a historical site “timeless” and how places can hold great meaning for people even when they are unable to visit them in person. Read more...


Detail of ceramic sculpture of a house showing the garage with a tan van parked in the driveway.

At Home with Robert Arneson

By Simon Sadler

After a sojourn in storage, Robert Arneson’s monumental, colorful ceramic sculpture The Palace at 9 a.m. (1974) has re-emerged, charming yet enigmatic. What is most striking to me, as an architectural historian, is the artistic investment that Arneson poured into the exceedingly ordinary house the piece depicts, in the regular college town of Davis, in the least feted region of California. Read more...


Ceramic sculpture of a house.

A Walk Through Landscapes Both Real and Imagined

By Dan Nadel

I first saw the Central Valley at dusk about two years ago to this day. My plan was to take a look at the Manetti Shrem Museum’s Fine Arts Collection and try to hatch an exhibition idea. As I approached Davis in the ochre sunset, I was shocked by the patchwork of fields and deltas all around me. Was I in the right place? I had no idea this California existed. Read more...


Detail of painting of white mug with coffee inside.

Reflections on Cup of Coffee, 1961

By Rachel Teagle

Like so many of Wayne Thiebaud’s paintings, Cup of Coffee is unassuming at first look. This small white painting features a ceramic mug of coffee, just like one you’ve held countless times. In fact, it looks a lot like the IKEA mug sitting on my desk right now. And yet, in 1961 Thiebaud took a plain old “cup of joe” as his subject, and made a remarkable painting at a pivotal moment in his career. Read more...



Black and white photo of group of people around a person in a winged chair.

Of Serendipity and a Secret Sauce

By Peter Plagens

On the occasion of the opening of the Manetti Shrem Museum in November 2016, artist, art critic and novelist Peter Plagens wrote this essay illuminating the maverick spirit of the artists and teachers who founded UC Davis’s art department. Read more...



Black and white photo of man sitting on ball chained to pyramid.

Humanly Possible

Dan Nadel on the Art of William T. Wiley

Manetti Shrem Museum Curator at Large Dan Nadel explores the quietly radical nature of William T. Wiley’s holistic artmaking in Artforum magazine. Read more...



Woman in front of bright yellow wall.

Kathy Butterly's Universe in Color

By Squeak Carnwath

Kathy Butterly remembers the aha moment when she saw the political possibilities of ceramics in this wide-ranging conversation with her UC Davis mentor, Squeak Carnwath. Read more...



Painting of elderly man laying down

Stephen Kaltenbach’s Portrait of My Father

By Lawrence Rinder

Renowned curator Lawrence Rinder, who is retiring after 11 years as director and chief curator at the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, delves into how Conceptual artist Stephen Kaltenbach came to create “one of the most powerfully authentic and spiritually moving artworks of our time.” Read more...



Art gallery with art on wall and purple cloth on the floor.

Proof of concept: UC Davis artists’ vital role in California Conceptualism

By Constance Lewallen

Amid the enormous cultural and social changes of the mid to late 1960s, Conceptual art emerged almost simultaneously among groups of young artists in the United States and internationally. The hyper-consumerism of the era extended to the art market and offended idealistically inclined artists for whom art existed on a higher plane. Read more...