Millersville university is home to many artists. Here, we chat with some of them about what inspires them
SOPHIA CAMACHO ‘22
Art student Sophia Camacho says that for many years, she didn’t realize that having a career in art was possible. “Throughout my entire life, I knew that art was going to be a nonnegotiable part of who I am and what I do,” explains Camacho. “All four years of high school I took various classes with an art teacher, Mr. Pinguli. He was the first adult in my life who made art seem like a realistic and viable option.”
Thanks to his encouragement, Camacho took more art classes and decided to pursue art as a career at Millersville. She graduated in May 2022 with her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, with a concentration in drawing. Today, she is pursuing a graduate degree in art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia.
Camacho honed her craft over the years at Millersville and often explores themes of feminism and the female experience in her work. “The overarching theme and subject matter of my art has always been figures,” she says. “I am largely inspired by women’s rights, feminism and the female body.” She says she also takes inspiration from “all things whimsical, occult-ish and creepy,” as well as from movies, television shows and animation, like Wes Anderson Films, Pixar movies, Studio Ghibli films and ‘80s cult classics. “It’s nice to find compositional elements in the movie and take inspiration from them,” Camacho shares.
During her time at MU, Camacho took part in several exhibitions, including juried student exhibitions. If you’d like to view some of her work in person, she has several paintings on display at the Pop of Color Art location in Lancaster.
“I have a specific memory during Sophia’s junior year when she asked me question after question about the path I took after graduation,” shares Dorothy Frey, assistant professor of painting and drawing. “We talked about art-related jobs, non-art-related jobs, graduate schools, exhibitions and being a professor. It appeared that goals and plans were solidifying as she interviewed me.” Frey says she feels privileged to have watched her achieve many of those goals. “While working towards graduation and her BFA exhibition, she was accepted into her top-choice MFA program, and I look forward to what she will do next.”
The connections Camacho made at Millersville are, she explains, the most important part of her experience on campus. “My closest friends and roommates are the strongest, most intelligent, powerful and hilarious women I have ever met,” she says. “I’ve had multiple incredibly independent female professors who have opened up my range of what is possible in the art field.” To keep up with Camacho’s artwork, visit sophiacamachoart.squarespace.com.
AARON CHU ‘11
Aaron Chu is a 2011 art history and graphic, web and interactive design graduate of Millersville. Considering his educational background in the arts, you might be surprised to learn that today Chu is a software engineer and spends his days writing code and writing about design, disability and inclusive design.
Chu, however, doesn’t view these interests as in opposition in any way. In fact, he sees a real intersection between art and tech. “I have always seen them as two sides of the same coin,” he explains. Art and design, in his view, work hand in hand.
Chu already holds a master’s degree in design research, writing and criticism, with a research focus in disability, technology and design from the School of Visual Arts. He is also working toward a second master’s degree in integrated design and media at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering. He says his time at Millersville taught him some very important skills. “My ability to think critically came from Dr. Christine Filippone,” he shares. “She helped me develop important skills, like critical thinking and learning to have healthy skepticism.” Filippone, an associate professor of art history, also helped Chu to develop a love for feminist art, especially Frida Kahlo. “Art for me is a reminder of strength.”
While Chu is not a full-time artist now – it is something he plans to return to in the future – he’s using his unique skill set to infuse art into technology and vice versa. “My preferred medium lately has been code and microcontrollers,” he shares. For one project in his master’s program at NYU, Chu created a magic 8 ball—inspired doll. You shake the doll to ask her a question. Chu crafted an algorithm that allows the doll to respond to questions in various ways depending on how “annoyed” she is.
Chu is also researching and writing about the good and the bad of inclusive design, including a recent piece published by Fast Company. “I hope to use my knowledge in art/tech to stress the importance of disability rights, especially disability employment. I’d also like to continue to write about design and disability issues that would otherwise be unnoticed.” Chu’s website is at aaron-chu.com. You can also follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @aaron_chu_.
BOB WAGNER ‘75
Congratulations are in order for 1975 Millersville art graduate and Landisville artist G. Robert Wagner. Several of his original pieces of art will be featured in exhibits and published both in the U.S. and internationally.
During his studies at MU, Wagner was the recipient of the prestigious Workman Memorial Award. He also worked closely with the late professor Robert Lyons, who he considered a mentor, a friend and someone who shaped him as an artist. “Professor Lyons was a mentor, motivator and an inspiration to delve deeper and work harder. Creating art meant becoming involved and connected personally. His encouragement and knowledge were invaluable.”
It was thanks in part to Lyons that Wagner pursued his career in the arts. Being a part of these exhibits, according to Wagner, is a dream come true. “Being in exhibits online, in galleries, and published expands the chances for artwork to be seen and peaceful reactions to happen.”
The pieces, “Lest We Forget” and “Covid Not Over,” are featured in the international exhibit called Art in the Time of Corona, presented by Dab Art Co., and are available to view online at artsy.net. This three-year project includes an online art gallery, a book, an artist video and a documentary and will culminate with an eight-week exhibition to be held simultaneously in three cities at Dab Art Co. Galleries in Los Angeles, Ventura and Mexico City.
Other pieces include “Listen to Reason,” which was selected and featured in ICON: A National Exhibition of Artworks Inspired by Momentous Artists & Movements Exhibit. “It’s A Mad World” will be part of an exhibit called Extinction, Save the Planet. “Covid Not Over” was also published in the magazine Artistonish in November 2021.
Wagner explained the inspiration for his selected works of art. He says it was to spread a message. “Art that has meaning and purpose is very important. Creating a message and evoking thought and awareness is part of that. My lofty goal is for peaceful reactions that lead to a better world.”
Outside of his work as a fine artist, Wagner owns and operates the Lancaster Shirt Company with an art studio and gallery in Manheim, Pennsylvania. His work in commercial art, he explains, allowed him to pursue his real passion. “Choosing a path in commercial art afforded me early financial security. Having a college degree and being a veteran were beneficial for acquiring years of government and corporate commercial art positions, giving me knowledge before starting my own business,” says Wagner. “Commercial and fine art do not have to be oil and water; the two can mix very well. My love and passion has always been fine art.” His final piece of advice for blossoming artists? “Take time to create and dream.”
His work is also on exhibit locally at the Discover Lancaster Gallery in Lancaster and his gallery in Manheim, Pennsylvania.
Want to learn more about the art programs offered at MU? Visit millersville.edu/art.
Millersville is home to many talented artists, including faculty member Brant Schuller. He first came to the University in 1998, hoping to use the position as a stepping-stone to go on and teach graduate students elsewhere. “But instead,” he shares, “I found an opportunity that merited a greater investment and offered me a number of advantages that fit my goals and aspirations. In other words, MU was a good fit.” Art, says Schuller, is something that always came naturally to him. “I saw it as an extension of how I thought through concepts and problems as they presented themselves,” he explains.
Schuller is a multidisciplinary artist and is a trained printmaker, though he says his ideas dictate the medium that is most appropriate. “The mediums that I tend to gravitate towards are one of the print processes for the flexibility and the multiples that they offer,” shares Schuller. Multiples, he explains are original pieces of art that are editioned, a term used in printmaking and sculpture for works that are made that have more than one impression or cast. “The process I am using most recently is relief printmaking in which a woodblock is cut to leave raised and recessed surfaces that can be inked up and printed. Then I take the images and work back into them with acrylic paint, making each of the impressions unique.”
As an established artist teaching aspiring artists, Schuller says he loves seeing the moment when students finally make a breakthrough in the classroom. “My favorite part about teaching at MU is when I see the spark go off in a student’s eyes when they finally get what it means to be an artist,” he explains. “It is the point when they are making their own work, not just executing an assignment.”
Schuller’s work can be found in various locations around Lancaster County, including Elizabethtown College and the Demuth Museum. Internationally, he will have work featured in 40 venues around the world. He was a participant in an exchange portfolio, International Print Exchange Programme, that was organized in India and juried by an American artist. “Each selected participant made a print based on the idea of “Threshold” in an edition of 44 impressions that were collated into 44 portfolios. 40 of the portfolios were shipped back to each artist to be exhibited in their part of the world. I will be organizing an exhibition of the work here at Millersville in the Swift Gallery, located in Breidenstine Hall. The remaining portfolios are part of an archive and permanent collection of the IPEP, India,” he shares. The portfolio will be available to view in the Swift Gallery at Millersville later this year. To view more of Schuller’s work, visit brantschuller.net.
Art education major Blake Showers is already a published manga illustrator. Showers, who says he’s loved art since he was a child, finds inspiration in many different places. “Right now, rap, anime, manga and older cartoons have really been my inspirations,” he shares, also citing the popular video game Animal Crossing as a current influence on his works.
Outside of his homework, Showers spends time working on his original shonen manga (a comic aimed at a young, male audience) series called 4strikes, which debuted in 2016. The series is a collaborative effort with his cocreator, cowriter and editor, Daniel Williams. The story follows Meleak Williams, a demon hunter who finds himself in the afterlife prematurely following a mysterious alleyway incident with a demon masquerading as a talking weasel. The series is available to read in the Saturday AM app, and the pair are working on getting the series published. “Daniel and I have been working so long on 4strikes, we are very hype to get a physical book in stores,” explains Showers.
He’s also trying his hand at animation for the first time. “Right now, my focus is on 4strikes and animation work,” he says. “I have [wanted] to put out an animation short for a while, and I think this [is the] year.” The short, shares Showers, is called Entraillio. “It is about a prince that gets a talking magical sword that gives him this disgusting armor made of blood, guts and bones.” He describes it as an adult comedy that’s “like ‘Craig of The Creek’ meets ‘Berserk.’ ”
Manga and anime have always had a strong influence on Showers. “I think that the types of stories and heroes are so bizarre in those genres,” he explains. “That really caught my attention as a kid. I am still really surprised and amazed at all the different kinds of stories being told through anime and manga.”
Showers is set to graduate from Millersville in the spring of 2023. Postgraduation, he hopes to secure a teaching job and pass on his love of art to the next generation of aspiring artists while continuing work on his own projects. “I hope that I can get hired by a school,” he says, “I am very excited and scared to finally be teaching art officially.”
To keep up with his work online, you can follow him on Instagram at @BlakeOBK, check out 4strikes in the PM section of the Saturday AM app, or visit his website at blakeshowers.art.
Becky McDonah is a talented metalsmith artist who began teaching at Millersville in the fall of 2012. She says she first discovered her love for art as a child. “Growing up, I spent my summers at a cabin on a lake with no phone and no television. Much to my mother’s disappointment, I did not want to fish 24 hours a day, so I started drawing and making things to entertain myself,” she explains. “I have always been attracted to the creativity and problem-solving that goes along with being a maker.”
Much of McDonah’s work includes metals like silver, copper, brass, bronze or nickel silver. She incorporates other materials into the work, such as fiber, glass, stone and even found objects. “There are so many metalsmithing techniques to be learned that you can never get bored of it; there is always something new to explore.” That curiosity about her craft helped McDonah clinch first place in craft award at the Art of the State 2021, hosted by The State Museum of Pennsylvania. Winners were chosen from 104 works selected from over 2,200 entries. She was also chosen as the Purchase Award winner, and her COVID-19-inspired piece, Particulate Protection, will become a part of the permanent collection at The State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg.
When she’s not making her own artwork, you can find her in the classroom, teaching Millersville students the finer points of metalworking techniques. “Working with the students to help them bring their ideas to fruition is the most rewarding part of teaching,” she shares. “I love seeing their excitement when things go well and helping build their confidence with a material that many of them have never worked with before, not to mention using tools and torches. Each student designs and creates original pieces, so no two projects are the same, meaning that every day will pose a different challenge, and the troubleshooting, problem-solving, and the eureka moments never end!”
McDonah’s work was also included in a number of other exhibitions in 2022, including a juried exhibit in the 43rd Annual Contemporary Crafts Exhibition at Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum in Mesa, Arizona – which also featured art by a Millersville student – and a solo show at the Metal Museum, located in Nashville, Tennessee. To see more of McDonah’s work, visit beckymcdonah.com.