The College of Fine Arts welcomes three Early Career Fellows for the next two years as part of its Expanding Approaches to American Arts initiative: Henry Castillo, Dylan McLaughlin and Bella Maria Varela.
“We are thrilled to welcome Bella, Dylan and Henry into our community of artists and scholars,” said Raquel Monroe, Associate Dean of Graduate Education and Academic Affairs in the College of Fine Arts. “Their curiosity and transdisciplinary methodologies are inspiring. It is a joy to meet with each of them to see how they are connecting with faculty, students and staff in COFA, UT and throughout Austin.”
The Office of the Provost created the Early Career Fellows Program to increase the number of faculty who will further our university’s critical goals of diversity, equity and inclusiveness by attracting and hiring candidates with outstanding scholarly records, as well as knowledge and experience in the issues and practices of diversity, equity, and/or inclusion. The selected fellows receive researching funding, an office or studio space and robust mentorship to help prepare them for careers in academia.
Henry Castillo is an artist and former member of the Colombian avant-garde theatre collective Teatro Experimental de Cali with whom he toured around the world performing and facilitating workshops on Latinx theatre. He is also an interdisciplinary scholar of performance studies whose research and teaching interests span the relationship between the underrepresented archives and repertoires of Afro-diasporic communities in the Americas as modern forms of marronage, as well as the construction of cultural heritage discourses within Latin American societies. His work explores how Blackness embodies and/or resists these challenges in “multicultural” societies; and how Black performance signals a new form of democratization that manifests itself in the liberation and emancipation of people of African descent in the Americas. In addition to his professional theatre training, Henry holds a Ph.D. and an M.A. in Performance Studies from New York University, as well as a B.A. in Applied Linguistics from the University of California Los Angeles.
How you can connect with Henry: Connect via email.
Dylan McLaughlin (b. Navajo Nation) is a sound and video artist looking critically to ecologies of extraction. His work often weaves Diné mythology, ecological data and environmental histories while holding space for complexity. What transpires is the sonification of relationships to land through experimental music composition, improvised performance and meditations of new forms of cartography and viewing land. In his multimedia installation and performative works, McLaughlin looks to engage the poetics and politics of human relations to place. He is a current recipient of the NACF LIFT award and the Fulcrum Fund award, and he has held residencies at Mass MoCA, Slow Research Lab and BOXO projects. He received his B.F.A. in New Media Art from the Institute of American Indian Arts, and he completed his M.F.A. in Art & Ecology at the University of New Mexico in 2021.
Bella Maria Varela is an artist based in El Paso and Austin whose research uses video and cultural objects to explore the intersections of immigration, sexuality and gender identity through the lens of contemporary pop culture and mass media. Varela was born and raised in inner-city Washington, D.C and is the daughter of Guatemalan immigrants. She is the proud owner/parent of two dachshund mixes named Darla and Ifwe.
In 2022, Varela moved to El Paso to attend the Border Art Residency (BAR), and during her time there, she also served as an arts facilitator with the Philosophic Systems Institute (PSI). With the PSI team, she helped establish a new arts and philosophy program, Transformative Learning Communities, in el Chamizal — a barrio on the U.S./Mexico Border. Her teaching focuses on combining found objects, digital, photography, green screen performances and experimental video into non-traditional and virtual classroom environments to guide students to explore their relationship with identity, culture and community.
Varela graduated from the Photo, Video and Imaging Master’s program at the University of Arizona School of Art. In 2020, she received first place in the 5 Minute Film Festival at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Tucson for her work, Triathlon. During spring 2021, she was accepted into the Mellon-Fronteridades Graduate Fellowship Program and exhibited her work @border_becky at the University of Arizona Museum of Art. In 2022, she exhibited @border_becky at the Cristian Anthony Vallejo (CAV) Memorial Gallery in Las Cruces and other galleries in the El Paso area. This fall, Varela served as stage manager for the play Conchita and Rosita at the Scottish Rite Theater and will be an exhibiting artist at Soy de Tejas at the Centro de Artes Gallery in San Antonio opening in February 2023 and running through July 2023.
How you can connect with Bella: Engage with her through Instagram, and she says, “Feel free to respond to my stories and feed!”