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Graduate Students

Brandon McGahey, MFA ‘20

(b.1996, North Richland Hills, Texas) Brandon McGahey is a ceramist, sculptor, and furniture maker. Raised from a lineage of handworkers, McGahey intertwines familial working traditions with dredged-up and ancient material histories derived from his research. Physical properties characterize subjects in stark and contemplative narratives which address themes such as preservation, self-reflection, and material interaction.

Ciara Bryant, MFA ‘20

(b.1990, Miami, Florida) Ciara Elle Bryant is a mixed media artist residing in Dallas, Texas where she received her Bachelor’s degree in Arts and Performance with a concentration in Visual Arts from The University of Texas at Dallas. Ciara’s work addresses areas of social injustice specifically those which evoke emotions drawn from day to day life experiences as a woman of color. Ciara uses a variety of materials and processes to emphasize the relationship between diversity and representation. Each individual work can both exist on its own and as a part of an interdependent unit.

Elizabeth Betzen, MFA ‘20

(b.1994, Oklahoma) Elizabeth Betzen received her BFA from the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in 2017. She works primarily in painting and drawing, but also dabbles in video, performance, and sculpture. Betzen’s subject matter is often commonplace and unassuming, but presented in a dramatic and emotional manner. She utilizes texture, color, and surface in her pieces. Betzen chose SMU because of the diversity in the faculty and the interdisciplinary program. At SMU, Betzen hopes to further her artistic skills and to deepen her knowledge of the contemporary art world.

Leah Flook, MFA ‘20

(b.1993, Houston, Texas) Leah Flook is a Dallas based interdisciplinary artist who primarily works in digital media and sculpture. Her most recent studies explore the relationship between herself and her home. The manipulation of domestic spaces is common throughout her work, using this as a baseline for deeper exploration of self. She draws connections between design and functionality of a space by using furnishing as an extension of the tenant. She holds a BFA in sculpture and painting from University of North Texas.

Nathalie Alfonso, MFA ‘20

(b.1987, Bogota, Colombia) Nathalie Alfonso holds a Bachelor in Fine Arts from Florida International University, and she has been a teaching assistant in drawing and sculpture. Alfonso has received the SUM Award to develop research in Beijing, China at the Central Academy of Fine Arts. Her work has been exhibited and performed in galleries, universities, and in public spaces, such as Marymount University in Washington D.C., Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, Spinello Projects, Miami Beach Urban Studios, The Projects – Fat Village, The Annex – Fordistas, Miami Beach Botanical Gardens, and La Factoria – Ecuador. Alfonso’s practice investigates the value of manual labor, the degeneration of the body, and notions of impermanence through drawing, installation, and video. Her necessity to merge the practice of cleaning and art making is utilized to observe her constant obsession with cleanliness. This is manifested in the impermanent installations completed with repetitive movements of applied and removed charcoal on different surfaces such as walls, rags, and paper.

Travis Lurato, MFA ‘20

(b.1985, Tucson, Arizona) Travis Iurato [pronounced “your-auto”] makes paintings and objects with at least 70% recycled or scavenged materials. His touch-points range from early modernism and dada to American folk and indigenous art, on to the Situationists and contemporary artists such as Jimmie Durham, Richard Tuttle, and Louise Nevelson. After graduating from the Cooper Union in 2009, he lived in New York and Arizona, during which time he exhibited in and curated shows in various venues in the US. At SMU he hopes to gain new skills in printmaking and ceramics, continue to paint, and make a new body of work about the experience and history of life in Texas.

Usama Khalid, MFA '21

(b. 1993, Lahore, Pakistan) Usama Khalid is a custodian of the phonk. His chief concern lies with paintings and drawings but he is always a raring to do a sculpture or two or maybe an instillation if you be so kind. He received a BFA from UTA and has been featured in New American Paintings. His work mostly deals with immigrant identity, alienation, loss, information, and often times explores the connections between his native abode Pakistan and the United States and their similarities and differences. By exploring this relationship he hopes to inform his spectators and patrons of the beauty in the world at large and the closeness between peoples.

Matthew Maher, MFA '21

if you want a revolution

return to your childhood

and kick out the bottom


dont mistake changing

headlines for changes


if you want freedom

dont mistake circles

for revolutions


think in terms of living

and know

you are dying

& wonder why


if you want a revolution

learn to grow in spirals

always being able to return

to your childhood

and kick out the bottom


This is what ive been

trying to say—if you

attack the structure—

the system—the establishment

you attack yourself


& attack if you must

challenge yourself externally


but if you want a revolution

return to your childhood

& kick out the bottom


be able to change

yr own internal chemistry

walk down the street

& flash lights in yr head

at children


this is not a game

your childhood

is the foundation

of the system


walk down the street

flash lights in yr head

at children but be wary

of anyone old enough to kill


learn how to disappear


before they can find you


(that is, if you want to

stay alive)


if you want a revolution

do it "together"

but dont get trapped in

words or systems


people are people

no matter what politics

color or words they use

& they all have children

buried in their head


if you want a revolution

grow a new mind

& do it quietly

if you can


return to your childhood

and kick out the bottom

then become a being

not dependent on words

for seeing


whenever you get bored

change headlines

colors politics words

change women


but if you really want

a revolution

learn how to change

your internal chemistry

then go beyond that


walk down the streets

& flash light at



                       ~D A Levy

Tombstone as a Lonely Charm (Part 3)

Analise Minjarez, MFA '21

(b.1990, El Paso, Texas) Analise Minjarez is an textile artist and arts educator from El Paso, TX. Minjarez received her BFA in Fibers from the University of North Texas in 2013. Tierra Firme was founded by Minjarez and Sarita Westrup in 2014 as a collaborative effort to celebrate the Texas-Mexico border region through original artworks, educational programming, and artist interviews. Tierra Firme was awarded the 2017 Arch and Anne Giles Kimbrough Fund Award from the Dallas Museum of Art. Most recently, Minjarez has exhibited work at the XOLO Gallery in El Paso, TX.

Mylan Ngyuen, MFA '21

(b.1986, Dallas, Texas) Mylan Nguyen is an interdisciplinary artist. Her work explores the dialogue between ceramics, drawing, painting, printmaking, and installation work. The subject matter is often animals and figures interpreted through her illustrations. The work depicts open narratives through visual storytelling in an illustration style that is cute, colorful, and ephemeral. Mylan received her BFA in Illustration at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. She also spent some time studying Ceramics in Shibuya and Mashiko Japan.

Jennifer Wester, MFA '21

(b.1985, Dallas, Texas) Wester is an interdisciplinary artist with a B.A. in Computing and the Arts from Yale University. Formerly a competitive figure skater for TeamUSA, Wester's visual arts practice focuses on movement, feedback systems, and perception through performance, metal sculpture, audio-visual projections, paintings, and printmaking work. Her pieces are often referential to fascinations and sensations from her life on ice as a skater and her personal experiences with injury, ego, and identity.

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