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Penn State School of Visual Arts alumnus emerging as elite visual artist

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Devan Shimoyama

For Devan Shimoyama, 2011 graduate of the Penn State School of Visual Arts, 2019 is off to a memorable start.

In March, Shimoyama closed his acclaimed solo show “Cry Baby” at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and just a few weeks later he was recognized by Penn State as one the 2019 Alumni Achievement Award winners

Shimoyama’s art often challenges gender stereotypes and confronts racial and cultural injustice with a vibrant, modern edge that employs various media including painting, sculpture and photography. Often through self-portraiture, he examines his experience as a young African-American in a hyper-masculine culture and his work has been described as wholly magical and universally human.

“Devan has had solo exhibitions here and abroad, reviews in the ‘New York Times’ and honors that can prove elusive to more seasoned artists,” Penn State President Eric Barron said during the 2019 Alumni Achievement Award ceremony. “In addition is a coveted position as the Cooper-Siegel Assistant Professor of Art at Carnegie Mellon where, by all accounts, he is also an exceptional teacher.”

Shimoyama’s undergraduate work at Penn State began in 2007 and while he didn’t enroll as an art major, he quickly found his way to the School of Visual Arts.

“Deciding to major in art was a big decision for me and it was made with a lot of support from so many people at Penn State,” Shimoyama said. “That support continued throughout my undergraduate degree work and helped me to discover what I wanted to say as an artist.”

After graduating from Penn State in 2011 with a bachelor of fine arts degree, he completed his graduate work at Yale, where he earned a master of fine arts degree.

In the Warhol show in Pittsburgh, he featured his barber shop paintings to transform the hyper-masculine social space into queer fantasy, where feminine glamour and fashion take over. He has also exhibited in numerous major cities including New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Paris.

He was awarded the Al Held Fellowship at the Yale School of Art in 2013 and a Fire Island Artist Residency in 2015. But when considering the early career success he has enjoyed, Shimoyama is quick to mention his roots at Penn State.

“While I’m still dreaming bigger and bigger by seemingly every fleeting moment, I always think about the incredible foundation that my Penn State education has provided for me,” Shimoyama said. “I’m eternally grateful to the faculty and staff and I’m extremely proud to be an alumnus of the Penn State School of Visual Arts.”

You can visit Shimoyama’s website for more information and a gallery of his work.