Melissa Huang (M.F.A. ’21) and Drew Tetz (M.F.A. ’21)
Married Master of Fine Arts Candidates, Collaborative Artists and Instructors
Melissa Huang and Drew Tetz are both in their third year of the Master of Fine Arts program. Married for two years, the couple is adjusting to life working in their home studios and discovering ways for people to experience their art online.
HUANG: Quarantine has been hard for me. I’m a person who likes to stay busy to keep my mind off stress. I took at least a week where I just kind of slumped around.
TETZ: I think I’m more of a hermit than most of my friends. I’m actually pretty happy to stay in with my cat and my wife and design all day. I have the kind of brain that goes nuts if I stop making stuff. About four years ago, I started teaching myself how to animate, and I have found a niche with animations for vinyl records that create an illusion of motion when a record spins. I am really interested in how things come together and how to push techniques. I love playing with new equipment whenever I can, and I definitely miss having access to the large-format printers at Georgia State.
HUANG: I’m a painter, printmaker and video artist, and my current work is about the fragmentation of self and the different versions of a person that can exist in the minds of friends and family, and now more than ever, online and with digital audiences. Many of us have social media personas, and there are ways people can curate a specific version of themselves.
TETZ: We both taught undergrads this year — it was our first year teaching — and we learned a lot about how to teach online. But, as a freelance designer, I feel like I have been working in a virtual studio with some of my design peers for some time now. I have people I work with who do similar things, and I’m always giving and getting feedback.
HUANG: Our apartment is pretty small, and we both moved our studios into this little space. I brought home my easel and painting supplies. Drew has two 3D printers in our closet — I’ve been calling it his office — and then I took up most of the living room. For my practice, I am mostly painting on smaller panels. It’s better for quarantine setup.
TETZ: We have our own lighting setup in the corner and we finally bought a desk, so we’d have a place to work. We rearranged and we divided up space for us each.
HUANG: We are always checking in with each other on the projects we are working on, “What do you think about this? What direction should I go with this?” That’s ramped up because it’s easier to get quick feedback. Before, we were working in different studios and had to send each other photos or walk across campus. Now, he’s in the next room.
TETZ: It’s possible that we are going to come out on the other side of this and be making exactly the same art as each other.
HUANG: Drew and I started our new collaborative project early on during the shutdown, and that gave me something to paint and work on. We were doing video work together before the shutdown, but we’ve been working together more now. Our painted 3D print objects are definitely new.
TETZ: I do the computer design and 3D print of the works, and then Melissa paints them. They are heavily based on source material she used for some of her paintings, so she inspired them. It’s a back-and-forth.
HUANG: Another project I worked on that was born out of quarantine was an online exhibition called “Me:IRL.” It grew from being a small thing on my personal Instagram account to a really large show that coordinated with five local art organizations. It was hosted on Instagram, and it featured artists whose work explores public versus private personas. In the age of social distancing, our social media presentation makes up a larger part of our identity more than ever before. This juried exhibition took a critical look at what having a digital identity means for us as individuals now that we are connecting so much on social media. I had the idea in the shower one day, and an hour later, I put out the first call for art. Within a week I had a much larger show on my hands, with 200 artist submissions and 57 exhibited artists.
TETZ: I do think that one slightly positive angle about all of this is that because more people are going online to experience art, it has leveled the playing field a bit. Over the past 20 years, certain barriers have been removed. You don’t have to go to the number one art school to get your degree or live in a big city to get noticed. Hopefully, we will see more bright, young artists rise to the top simply by being talented and savvy enough to get their work out there. They will be able to break out into the public consciousness without needing the patron saint of a gallery or a commission to help them market themselves. It’s decentralizing the art world.
HUANG: I think galleries and artists will increasingly work online to promote and sell art, though a lot already do. This will only increase in the future. It’s hard to say how galleries are going to weather the storm. The blue-chip galleries will probably be fine. The do-it-yourself spaces, maybe less so, but a lot of them know how to fundraise through grassroots means. We’ll have to see how long that support can last while everyone is strapped for money. The arts are always the first thing to go.
Photo by Steven Thackston
Below, check out a video on the process for the Huang and Tetz’s mixed media series titled “Glitched Venus.”