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Art & Art History
University of Mississippi

Q&A with MFA Student Gabrielle Dinger

Introduce yourself and tell us where you are from.
My name is Gabrielle Dinger from Morgan City, Louisiana, and I am a third-year sculpture grad.

What made you come to the University of Mississippi?
I knew a handful of folks here and it seemed like a pretty cool place. It wasn’t far from home and here I am!

What made you pick your area of concentration?
I always enjoyed messing around with a variety of materials and engaging in three-dimensional spaces. I grew up with my dad casting metal and him doing woodwork and my mom being a painter and crafty, so it was fun to bring all those materials together.

What type of artist do you consider yourself?
I am very experimental with what I do. Very process oriented but I enjoy the products that come out of it.

Could you talk about the materials that you use?
Anything that I can get my hands on really. But my recent work has been a lot of wood, metal, paper, and fabric.

What is your process like?
It is very chaotic. I start with an object that I find interesting, and then I change it and rearrange it in the space. Sometimes I’ll introduce another object or material that I think will help enhance it.

Are there any artists that influence your work?
I look at a lot of work by Tracey Deep and Eve Hesse for example. Louise Bourgeois, of course, Marisol, and even Swoon. Really just anyone who has been implemental in influencing that change in how we view material. Durant Thompson has been really influential too, especially on a local level. He always challenges the way I am thinking about my materials. I’m really inspired by everyone I’m surrounded by in the department.

Could you talk about your MFA Thesis?
It is going to be an installation of sorts. I really hope to engage the space and the viewer with my work.

What is the process behind your large paper pieces?
Those are rust prints. I take a sheet of steel, then I pour vinegar on the surface and let it sit until it removes a layer of rust. It’s also a lot of rearranging that material over and over again the paper.

Has your work changed throughout the years?
Yes, it has changed over the years. It’s grown a lot in the way I use materials and the meaning of the work, as well.

How has the art department fostered your growth?
One of the things my artwork is about and something that I’ve always been really interested in is the genuine connections that you make and how that affects you as a person. There are a lot of great and wonderful people here in the department. Their door is open and they are always willing to talk and work out ideas that you have. Honestly, they guide you as a person and an artist.

Which professors inspired you the most?
There are many, but I would say Brooke White and Lauren Cardenas have been very influential. They have helped me grow as an artist and see the world in a different way. And when it comes aesthetic, they’ve helped me challenge how I look at the land and space in general.

What were your favorite classes?
Honestly, I’ve enjoyed them all. Each one has brought something different whether it’s the environment that was fostered with the people in it or the things that I have learned. Even with the sculpture classes, seeing how people use different materials has been influential.

Are you in any student organizations?
I am the president of the University of Mississippi Sculpture Society. We are interested in introducing different processes to the public because a lot of times it seems foreign to individuals. We have done aluminum pours for the public in the past and it’s cool to see young people get interested and involved in conversations.

Have you attended any conferences?
I’m on the steering committee for the National Conference on Contemporary Cast Iron Art and Practices. I’ve also been to the Western Cast Iron Conference and the International Cast Iron Conference. I was on that steering committee for the international conference as well. Usually we have a good group of students and faculty here that attend the conferences, both undergrad and grad students.

Could you describe any good experiences here at the art department?
There’s a lot of them. I enjoy making people laugh, haha! Anytime I’ve been able to do that and just to see a large group come together and have fun has always been really great.

What does the art department mean to you?
It means a lot; the people here have been really wonderful. Looking back on it, it is crazy to think two and half years have gone by and I’ll be graduating in May.

Any plans after graduation?
I really enjoy teaching, so whether I go back to teaching children, working as Mardi Gras prop sculptor, or just working as an artist somewhere else in the world. But, I really want to travel. That’s what a lot of my work is about – experiencing places. I have this idea of hiking the Appalachian Trail but that is totally leftfield, haha! We’ll see!

Going back to being a Mardi Gras sculptor, is that year-round?
It can be. So, after Mardi Gras there is this little lull in it just because everyone is regathering themselves. But it usually picks up in the summertime and then there is that push going into Mardi Gras.

What happens to each piece after Mardi Gras?
A lot of times we save them. There are a couple that I’ve painted and sculpted that have been used more than once. One year we had a fisherman prop and then we changed his hat and he was a soldier the next year. We try to recycle and reuse them.

Any advice for incoming art students?
Don’t be afraid to push the parameter. Reach out to people and make as many genuine strong connections as you can. Also, don’t throw away your stuff, I tend to do that a lot!

Can we find you on social media?
Yes, on Instagram.

What are you listening to right now?
I listen to a lot of audiobooks. I’m listening to some of Rebecca Solnit’s work and some books about observing nature. I’m also listening to a lot of blues, and hip-hop. Actually, my music playlist is pretty eclectic. It ranges from Tool, to Jason Isbell, and a lot folk music.

Your go-to restaurant in Oxford?
El Agave.

Favorite hangout spot in Oxford?
The Blind Pig.

View Gabby’s MFA Thesis Exhibition on our Flickr page!

Interviewer: Frank Estrada | Photographer: Olivia Whittington