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New Faculty Focus: Michael Velliquette

September 13, 2022
Michael Velliquette stands in an art studio at an elevated table with paper cutting supplies. He holds a small, white bottle of glue in one hand and a piece of paper in the other.

Mixed media sculptor Michael Velliquette joins the Art Department faculty with more than 20 years experience as a studio artist. Nikki Hanson Photography

Michael Velliquette: Assistant professor of foundations, Art Department, School of Education


Instagram: @michaelvelliquette

Hometown: Bradenton, Florida

Educational/professional background: MFA UW–Madison, 2000; BFA Florida State University, 1993

What is your field of research, and how did you get into it? I’m a mixed media sculptor and have been working as a studio artist for over twenty years. The focus of my recent research has been in the paper arts, which includes techniques and processes where artists create a range of things with various paper stocks and types. Folks may recognize some of the art forms such as origami, quilling, papier mâché and paper cutting. In my own work, I construct elaborate sculptures akin to three-dimensional mandalas. Folks have also remarked that they look like fantastic machines or models for imaginary architecture. The core of this research is developing innovative ways to push this humble and ubiquitous material.

Blue paper sculpture with intricate architectural details by Michael Velliquette

“Let your hand rest on the rim of heaven,” a paper sculpture by Michael Velliquette. Jim Escalante

What attracted you to UW–Madison? I first came to Madison as a graduate student in the late 90s and sought out the Art Department for the variety of art media and areas they offered, as well as for the opportunity to work inter-disciplinarily. I later returned to Madison in the early aughts to teach a summer course and met my husband, Tehshik Yoon, who is a professor in the Chemistry Department. So, I’ve had the opportunity to teach at the university for several years already. What keeps me excited to be here is the stellar research being done by my colleagues in the Art Department as well as by our graduate students.

What’s your favorite place on campus? The Chazen Museum is my campus refuge. The Lane Collection of drawings and sculptures is one of my favorite galleries. I also love the conceptual public art piece in front of the Elvehjem Wing on University Avenue by the artist Richard Artschwager. It’s a progression of aluminum columns, light globes and both live and bronze trees. It’s very easy to miss but is one of the more interesting moments on campus. It asks viewers to pause and contemplate its logic.

The pandemic forced us all to reconsider many things we took for granted. Is there something you’ve learned that has helped you through these challenging times, personally or professionally? Physically interacting with other live human beings has never felt more important to me. The sense of isolation and introspection we were all forced into has changed the tenor of how we encounter each other, I think, for better or for worse. Both personally and professionally, I try to arrive with presence as well as gratitude for the fact that we can be together again.

Do you feel your work relates in any way to the Wisconsin Idea? If so, please describe how. I teach a large undergraduate course about art, creativity and visual literacy. I imagine over the years there being ripple effects beyond the university to the broader community, where the arts become more accessible, valued and central to individuals’ lives.

What’s something interesting about your area of expertise you can share that will make us sound smarter at parties? Well, I have several paper-cutting techniques that will dazzle your party guests and that I would happily demonstrate if anyone would like to invite me over for a cocktail.

Hobbies/other interests: I’m into yoga and meditation and have found a rich variety of spaces and communities in Madison to practice both disciplines. Currently, I attend classes at Inner Fire Yoga, and I’ve been active with the Madison Insight Meditation Group for a number of years.