Penn State alumna Christina Dietz (‘17 B.F.A. Sculpture) was one of only ten graduating seniors nationwide to receive a Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design (CCCD) Windgate Fellowship, a $15,000 award that honors exemplary skill in craft. It is one of the largest awards offered nationally to art students. Dietz was chosen from a pool of 110 candidates.
Dietz will use her award to travel and study throughout Europe. “I will learn about lacemaking in Normandy, France, cheese-making in Bagni di Luca, Italy, the silkworm process in Jaipur, India, and glassblowing and pickling processes in Kyoto, Japan,” she explained. “In all of these places, an ingredient accumulates value through the skilled ‘hands’ of the laborer. Thread becomes an intricate, lush pattern, the excretion of a worm is transformed into silk, and raw vegetables are preserved to enable exploration outside of the small village.”
Dietz is the third winner from the Penn State School of Visual Arts in the past four years, and the first SoVA sculpture B.F.A. to receive the fellowship (previous winners include Christine Fashion [2016, ceramics] and Samantha Bachman [2014, ceramics]).
“Christina is not a student of a traditional craft-based medium but instead employs craft-based processes to create sculpture and video work,” explained Shannon Goff, Penn State assistant professor of art. “She explores craft as a verb and reminds us that food production, skill, and ritual also fall under the umbrella of craft. Her multidisciplinary approach examines gendered labor, social interaction, value, and consumption. … I look forward to witnessing how the Windgate award emboldens her already impressive practice.”
Dietz said she is fascinated with how process can change a material’s physical state and its representational value. “Through manipulation and skill, raw materials can come to represent the identity of the maker, the cultural community, or even a spirit of exploration. Why is something considered special or even magical if it is homemade? Skill and labor become obvious in the aesthetics of an object but time and attention are also powerful ingredients. These elements are sometimes secret ingredients that are not visually apparent. I’m interested in the shift in value that happens when a consumer becomes aware of the time and attention that is involved in making.”
According to Tom Lauerman, Penn State assistant professor of art, Dietz resists easy solutions. “She challenges herself by working with an unusually wide range of processes, yet her projects are always guided by powerful narratives and poignant content. From the beginning, she showed a great capability and desire to work collaboratively and utilize the resources of the University community.”
The CCCD Windgate Fellowship, now in its twelfth year, has awarded $1.8 million to 120 emerging craft artists nationwide. Today, Windgate Fellows hold full-time faculty positions, are accepted into nationally renowned residence programs, mount solo shows, and establish successful studios. More than half have gone on to earn master of fine arts degrees. Their work can be seen in nationally traveling exhibitions and galleries, and is published in periodicals such as American Craft. For more information, visit craftcreativitydesign.org/2017-windgate-fellowship-awards/.
For a recent article on Dietz’s work, visit artsandarchitecture.psu.edu/news/visual-arts-undergraduate-researcher-uses-honeybees-probe-societys-gender-roles.
IMAGE: Christina Dietz performs her Sculpture mid-term performance, "Dancing for Your Dessert," in fall 2015. Photo by Tammy Hosterman.