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Graduate student’s art influenced by environmental contamination

Spilling black oil across photographs may seem like the perfect way to ruin good art, but for TWU Fine Art Graduate student Tiffany Milow, it is just the beginning of a creative experiment.

While working towards her Master of Fine Arts with a concentration in Photography and a secondary concentration in Intermedia Studies, Milow is creating artwork which focuses on oil spill contamination. “I am taking inkjet prints and pouring traditional darkroom process chemicals on them along with oil itself,” Milow explains. “It is still kind of in it’s experimental phase. No one has done it before, so there is no one way to test what works without physically doing it.”

Milow started making photographic work that focuses on environmental issues while earning her Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in Photography from University of North Texas.

“It was until my BFA exhibition that I really started research on environmental issues,” said Milow. “I started creating something that really had depth and meaning to me. Back then I found the subject matter I was interested in, but now as a grad students, I am actually creating the way I want to.”

Over the last decade, Milow has done research over several different oil spills. This, along with her interest in mass consumerism and its effect on the environment, has inspired her artwork.

“It was just a matter of figuring out how I could enjoy doing this and create something worth looking at,” Milow said.

Milow says that her love of photography stems for her childhood days playing with father’s old cameras. “My dad’s hobby was always photography,” Milow shared. “For holiday pictures he would set up a background and a softbox in my living room while I was growing up. I learned a lot about how to see light at that point when I was a kid.”

Milow said she always knew what she wanted to teach, but it was not until after the summer after she graduated high school that she knew she wanted to teach photography. “I took my first photography course in a summer camp up in Michigan at the Interlochen Center for The Arts,” Milow said. “I was taught Barry Underwood who is Associate Professor at Cleveland College Art Institute. His drive pushed me to notice what I was interested in and from there on I always wanted to provide that drive in other students.”

This spring semester is Milow’s fourth semester teaching an Introduction to Photography class, which she says had influenced her as an artist.

“As an artist, teaching has helped me become more precise and when I’m discussing my process,” said Milow. “It has also pushed me in a direction to learn more about where the processes I am using actually came from.”

Milow says she learns more about the field with every course she teaches. “Encouraging students helps me figure out different ways to encourage myself and know the steps I need to take to get something done because I am able to emphasis that to them,” Milow stated.

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