Graduate Students

Meet our graduate students!

Ryan Akers, “Rabies”

Ryan Akers is a graduate student in painting. He organized and curated the online exhibition What You Unlearn.

Riley Balzer is a graduate teaching assistant in art history. Balzer received the BA in art history with a minor in French and Francophone studies from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 2017. As a senior, she presented at UA’s 22nd Annual Graduate Student Symposium in Art History (March 2017) in the undergraduate poster session. She worked as a curatorial intern under the current assistant director of the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture during 2016-2017 academic year. In 2013, she served as an intern for the East Tennessee Historical Society, Knoxville. Balzer was also a professional ballroom dance instructor. Balzer’s interests in art history lie primarily in the Renaissance/Baroque period. Her senior research paper, “Artemisia Gentileschi: Criticisms of the Feminist Perspective,” looked at the ways early feminist scholars may have done more harm to Gentileschi’s artistic reputation than they intended. Balzer sought to show changes in feminist scholarship since that time. At the end of her senior year, she was recognized as the top graduating art history major at UT-Knoxville.

Zoe Fitch holds a BFA in painting from the University of Mississippi. In her work, Fitch experiments with large-scale figurative pieces in mixed media including acrylic paint, paper, pattern and text. Fitch presented her master of arts thesis exhibition, It’s Canning Season, in the Sarah Moody Gallery of Art in Garland Hall on UA campus in April and May of 2021. In April 2021, Fitch’s painting Domestic Female on View won Best of Show in  The In Art Gallery’s Non-Traditional Exhibition, juried in along with her painting, Extension of Her Hand. Fitch’s paintings Mississippi Migrant Mother and Bless Your Heart were juried into The In Art Gallery’s Painting Exhibition.

Molly Greene Lay is a graduate student in sculpture. Lay received a BA in studio art from Samford University and studied a semester at the Burren College of Art in Ireland. She held an internship at the Birmingham Museum of Art in Education and Community Engagement and worked as a curator for the Great Explorations Children’s Museum in Saint Petersburg, Fla.

William Henry, “Ebony”

William Henry is a graduate student in printmaking.

Parker Hunt is a graduate student in ceramics.

Art history grad student Meghan Johnson presents her MA Capstone Project via Zoom.
Meghan Johnson presents her MA Capstone Project via Zoom.

Ashleigh McCool Junkin is a graduate teaching assistant in art history and her areas of concentration are 19th- and 20th-century American photography. She received the BA from UA in 2021 where she majored in art history and minored in the Blount Scholars Program. Junkin will present her research paper, “Picturing Oppression: Spectacle and the African American Body in Turn of the Century Medical Photography,” at the 2021 SECAC conference in Lexington, Kentucky, in the session, Dark Amusements: Turn-of-the-Century American Spectacles and Race.

Rebecca Lowery (2021 BA, art history) is in the Accelerated Master’s Program in art history at UA. In May 2021 Lowery received her BA in art history from UA, with minors in Italian and anthropology. Her area of interest is Early Modern Italian art and in 2019 she studied abroad in Florence, Italy, at the Lorenzo de Medici Institute where she served as a tour guide at churches, including Santa Maria del Fiore, San Miniato al Monte and Santa Croce. Lowery worked to conserve various Etruscan ceramics through the Center for Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Studies in Florence, Italy.

Juan López-Bautista, "Transient Landscape," Acrylic and Paper on Linen, 2018, 18 x 24 inches. Image courtesy of the artist.Juan Lopez-Bautista is a professor of biology, working toward the MFA in painting.

Upneet Kaur Mair (printmaking) holds a BFA in painting from Central India School of Fine Arts, Nagpur, India. Mair has exhibited her work in China, India and the United States. She will present her MA thesis show in the spring of 2021.

Sarah Murphree is a graduate teaching assistant in art history. They received the BA from UA in 2020 with a double major in art history and studio art with a minor in the Blount Scholars Program. They did their undergrad academic work within the University Honors Program. Their research projects included “Reclaiming the Black Female Body in Art,” and research on the history and gentrification of the banjo for the class Art of the African Diaspora (ARH 378). Murphree has also created three cast bronze sculptures for the Tuscaloosa Monster Makeover Project and assisted Professor Craig Wedderspoon with the construction of the Tuscaloosa and Alabama Bicentennial sculpture projects.

Viscosity print of robot men in a bar in a heated discussion.
Upneet Kaur Mair, “Brawl”

Kole Nichols is a graduate student in printmaking. He holds a BFA from the University of Alabama in Birmingham.

Art history grad student Lizzie OrlofskyLizzie Orlofsky is a graduate teaching assistant in art history. Her interests include twentieth-century American art, specifically the artwork of Zelda Fitzgerald, as well as gender studies and the semiotic relationship between text and image. In June 2021, she presented her research at the virtual Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MEMS) Festival hosted by the University of Kent in Canterbury, England. Her presentation, “The Soul’s Sensational Journey Through the Portal at Kilpeck Church,” stems from her research during a graduate seminar on medieval portal sculpture taught by Dr. Jennifer Feltman. Orlofsky graduated summa cum laude from Troy University with a BS in studio art and a minor in cultural studies. Before coming to UA, she served as a curatorial intern at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts where she helped curate the exhibition Zelda (canceled due to Covid-19). She is a recipient of The University of Alabama Graduate Council Fellowship and recently won second place in the Harrison Award for Excellence in Research for her presentation at the UA-UAB 26th Annual Graduate Student Symposium.

Relief print of two men by Shivam Pawar
Shivam Pawar, “Porters at the Station,” 2018, relief print (reduction process), 20 x 28 inches.

Shivam Pawar (printmaking) a graduate student in printmaking working toward the MFA. Pawar teaches 2D Design (ART 130) and assists in Drawing I courses. He holds a BFA in painting from Central India School of Fine Arts in Nagpur, India. Pawar has exhibited his work in exhibitions around the world, from India to New York and Alabama. His collagraph with chine-collé Hardwork was selected by juror Alison Saar for the International Print Center’s exhibition Umbra: New Prints for a Dark Age in 2019. His print was recently juried into the Fourth International Printmaking Biennial in Čačak, Serbia.

René Thompson is a graduate student in painting. She held her MA thesis exhibition in March 2021, Synaptic Transmission. Her work has been selected for the Tennessee Valley Museum of Art’s new national juried exhibition, Emergence (June 2021) and the online In Art Gallery, among other exhibitions. Thompson holds an MA in general studies and a BA in art with a minor in art history from Auburn University Montgomery, where she also serves as an adjunct instructor.

Olivia Turner

Sandra Vega (printmaking) holds a BFA from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, Odessa. Vega assisted in the NEA-funded program Pots-n-Prints mobile studio (featured in the Washington Post) that traveled to rural areas in southwest and west Texas, teaching students silkscreen printing, etching and ceramics. She presented her MA thesis exhibition, Caminos de Identidad, in the spring of 2021.

Tom Wegrzynowski, "The Scientist," 2014, oil on canvas, 48 x 36 inches
Tom Wegrzynowski, “The Scientist,” 2014, oil on canvas, 48 x 36 inches

Tom Wegrzynowski is a graduate student in art history. He holds an MFA in painting and has been a full-time instructor in studio and art history at UA since 2006.

Allison Wood is a grad student in art history. She holds a BFA in photography from Jacksonville State University.

Read news articles about our graduate and undergrad students here.

Go to this page for more information about our graduate programs.