Postcards From Afar
School of Visual Arts
From Afar information
Fashion, High Art
on the Sidelines
Faircloth’s work is held in private collections around the
nation and hangs in the Smithsonian.
It’s a fact the 43-year-old couturier is proud of. But Faircloth
(’83) says he’s happiest when his work is out and about,
on show and alive.
“When I create a gown or a piece of clothing, it’s not
perfectly finished until it’s on the body it was created for,”
Faircloth says. “A beautiful dress may look nice on the hanger
or a mannequin, but when it’s worn by the person it was built
for, it’s stunning.”
And stunning, yet undeniably classic, is the best description for
While his work is in fashion, it is definitely art. And it’s
art as his training intended.
Faircloth left his hometown of Yoakum at the insistence of his mother
to pursue the visual arts and fashion design at North Texas.
In Denton, he found a program that was dedicated to a broad definition
of the visual arts and had always housed its fashion design, interior
design and graphic design programs under the same roof as the traditional
studio programs of drawing, painting and sculpture.
Art classes have been taught at North Texas since 1894 — making
it an integral part of the university’s identity and history.
But with the appointment in the 1920s of Cora Stafford to head the
art programs, North Texas’ visual arts legacy was born.
“Dr. Stafford created a dynamic program that reflected her
unique, comprehensive notion that the visual arts encompass all
aspects of life,” says D. Jack Davis, dean of the School of
In addition, Stafford hired young innovators to keep the program
aligned with new ideas. James Prestini and Gyorgy Kepes, two early
proponents in the United States of the Bauhaus design system, joined
the faculty along with Carlos Merida, the internationally known
Guatemalan painter and muralist, and Octavio Medellin, the celebrated
Mexican sculptor and painter. Students included Ray Gough (’40,
’41 M.A.), noted interior designer, and O’Neil Ford,
who became one of Texas’ most famous architects.
Stafford led the program until 1964, but long after her departure
the values she outlined guided North Texas’ dedication to
the arts. And in 1992, the university created a school dedicated
to its art programs.
as the School of Visual Arts celebrates its 10th anniversary, Davis
says Stafford’s vision is still clearly in place.
“Today, we are far more than a fine arts program, just as
she wanted, and we still have a faculty of successful artists who
are dedicated to teaching,” Davis says.
The faculty is accentuated by the school’s strong visiting
artist and lecturer programs, which bring top artists from all media
to Denton to talk to or work with the students.
Over the years, the likes of avant-garde photographer and sculptor
Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and Bauhaus painter and designer Herbert Bayer
had a presence on campus.
More recently, sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz, painter Whitfield
Lovell and art critic Matthew Collings have served as lecturers
and visiting teachers. This spring, students will have a chance
to work with artist Wenda Gu as he creates an installation on campus
focusing on the relationship of China with the West.
With more than 2,000 undergraduate students majoring in the visual
arts this year, the school today is a vibrant, strong tapestry created
from threads woven more than 70 years ago.
The studio and design divisions put students through rigorous qualifying
reviews at every phase of their education. Similar reviews will
soon be put in place for the art history and art education divisions.
With such high standards, UNT’s art programs have turned out
high-quality alumni who work all over the world in every medium.
Some of those alumni include well-known painter Jean Andrews (’76
Ph.D.), multimedia artist Celia Munoz (’82 M.F.A.) and sculptors
Jesús Bautista Moroles (’78) and Bill Worrell (’74
M.F.A.). Recent graduates include Brian Fridge (’94), whose
film work was in the 2000 Whitney Biennial.
However, a host of alumni also create art for the everyday world
through their work with ad agencies and design firms.
They direct the collections and education programs at museums across
the nation. And, they teach. They also design clothing, like Faircloth.
fashion business has been on a steady rise since he took up shop
in Dallas’ Lily Dodson boutique after graduation.
“I actually wanted to be a lawyer when I was in high school,
because I am a very black-and-white type of person who loves structure
and rules,” he says.
“But my mother seemed to know that I’d be happiest in
a creative environment.”
At North Texas, Faircloth’s appreciation for structure and
his dedication were rewarded with an introduction to haute couture.
Betty Marzan Mattil saw early on that I had an appreciation for
things done right, and she made sure I really understood how fine
clothing was made from the inside out.”
For nearly 20 years Faircloth toiled to grow his dream to the fully
fledged house of design it is today, complete with famous customers
and a ready-to-wear collection that debuted in New York last fall.
In fact, it was one of his famous customers — first lady Laura
Bush — who landed his work in the Smithsonian.
“I loved designing Mrs. Bush’s inaugural gown, and I
felt so proud that night when I helped her with the gown and saw
how happy and beautiful she felt — it epitomized why I do
what I do,” he says.
celebration of the 10th anniversary of the School of Visual
Arts, the first comprehensive exhibition of works from Jean
Andrews’ collection of folk art, textiles and items
of ethnic dress from around the world opened in the UNT Art
Gallery Sept. 12 and will run through Oct. 18.
A UNT Distinguished Alumna and well-known Texas artist in
her own right, Andrews (’76 Ph.D.) has traveled extensively
since 1965 retracing ancient silk trading routes, looking
for vanishing examples of folk art and amassing a unique collection
of valuable cultural art.
Gallery hours are Monday and Tuesday from noon to 8 p.m. and
Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m.
For more information, call (940) 565-4005.