Name: Travis Phillips
Hometown: Bryan, Texas
Major: Art, with a sculpture focus
BS: How did you make your way to the University of Dallas?
TP: I’m actually a transfer student. I did one year at Texas A&M, which is in my hometown. I was there for architecture. I did not like it there. It was a huge school, like 60,000 undergraduates, so it was overwhelming.
That summer after that year, I was still planning on going back to A&M. But one month before going back to school, I decided I wanted to go somewhere else, and at the last minute, I called UD to let me in the fall and begged for scholarships. And I love it.
I went to a Catholic high school, and a lot of faculty there graduated from here. My principal was from UD, [I had] three English teachers from UD, and a religion teacher, too. I knew a lot of people who had gone to UD as well. They prepared me well for UD. When I took my first Lit Trad, I felt a few steps ahead of everyone, because they taught me in the way that they were taught. So I got a little foretaste of UD.
BS: What was your path in declaring a sculpture concentration like?
TP: I did architecture at A&M, and it was great. I actually loved the education. We were building little maquettes, and designing our own buildings. And then, at the very end of the year, I was talking to one of the professors, and I asked her why she decided to teach architecture instead of doing it herself. And she said that being an architect is much different than the education. The education is really fun and creative, but once you’re in the real world, it’s you at a computer, crunching numbers. Someone else designs it, and you have to do all the grunt work. And I told her I was creative and asked if I should be an architect. And she said no. So then, I hightailed it out of there and became a sculpture major.
BS: Tell us about life in the Art Village and the process of making art.
TP: I love that question, because no one ever knows about us little artist hermits over in the Art Village. Come visit us, we have snacks and we do bathe!
Assignments are very straightforward. In the first fundamental classes, they give us a still life and they tell us to paint it as real (sic) as possible. In the upper level classes, I make it much more my own. Basically, as long as I am producing [art], my teachers are satisfied.
The basis to coming up with an idea is that it comes out of nothing. You look at things around you, I tend to look at nature, and then I make something mimetic of that. I’m inspired by plants a lot.
A lot of artists want to create super deep, emotional, and philosophic artwork, and that’s great. I really commend that. I’m probably going to be shot with lightning when I say this, but I don’t really think about that when I’m creating art. I just want it to look pretty and be aesthetically pleasing.
With one of my latest pieces, originally I wanted to make a dress. It was supposed to be this giant puppeteer dress. The physics of the dress would not work, because a human body could not hold up this massive dress. So I turned it into something that could hang from the ceiling, and it became an installation piece.
That’s how my experience of art has been. You have an original intention, but … you have to stop making choices and allow the artwork to make choices for you. The art often takes up a mind of its own, and you have to be willing to go along with it. I had to be willing to let go of the idea of it being a dress.
I built it all in the studio, and I had little maquettes, tiny miniature versions of that which I would hang up. Once I made all my big pieces in the studio, I carried them over to the gallery and hung them up, and you just kind of hope that they work. When you do an installation piece, the first time you see it is when you actually install it, and you just hope that you scaled the proportions of your little maquette correctly.
BS: What is your favorite Core class?
TP: One of my favorite classes was probably Philosophy of Being with Professor [Hannah] Venable. She was smart, and beautiful, and I had the biggest crush on her. She taught the class pregnant and in heels. That is a trooper! Up there teaching Aristotle, seven months pregnant, and wearing 3-inch heels and a dress, that’s impressive.
She was always the perfect balance of everything. She would lecture, we would have group discussions, and every once in awhile, she would step back and we would discuss a passage. She let us try to figure it out, and then after a while she would step in and explain the passage more fully. It was a great class.
BS: As a Spromer yourself, do you have any advice for the Spromers before they leave Rome?
TP: If you’re a girl, try and snatch up a Swiss guard as soon as you can. Markayla Johnson did! They apparently make the best husbands, because they’re Catholic, and they’re literally knights in shining armor. Get a date with a Swiss guard.
But for people in general, try and do everything you can to soak up the fact that you’re there. Sometimes, you hear people who have come back from Rome, and they say, “It felt like it never happened. It was so quick, it was such a whirlwind.” Try and realize how cool it is that you’re there while you’re there, and be awe-inspired.