3 Arts and Humanities Faculty Awarded Guggenheims

Annabeth Rosen, Mike Pelo and Archana Venkatesan.
UC Davis’ 2018 Guggenheim Fellowship recipients, from left: Annabeth Rosen, Mike Pelo and Archana Venkatesan, photographed in the UC Davis Arboretum. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Quick Summary

  • Composer, poetry scholar and sculptor all will have more time to develop their craft

A composer, a poetry expert and a sculptor from the University of California, Davis, have been awarded Guggenheim Fellowships.

The awards, announced April 5, go to a diverse group of scholars, artists and scientists and are aimed at providing creative freedom. Fellows may use their awards, which average $40,000 per person, as they wish. The three from UC Davis, all faculty in the College of Letters and Science, are:

  • Mika Pelo, an associate professor in the Department of Music
  • Annabeth Rosen, who holds the Robert Arneson Endowed Chair in the Department of Art and Art History
  • Archana Venkatesan, an associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies and the Department of Comparative Literature

“Faculty are at the heart of the comprehensive excellence that defines UC Davis,” said Elizabeth Spiller, dean of the College of Letters and Science. “Mika Pelo, Annabeth Rosen and Archana Venkatesan exemplify the ongoing pursuit of creative innovation that the Guggenheim represents. We are so pleased to see them joining the 34 Guggenheim Fellows from across the College of Letters and Science.”

Guggenheim Fellowships are awarded by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation to successful candidates in the United States and Canada each April and to Latin American and Caribbean countries in early June. The awardees numbered 173 for 2018.

Pelo working on a new opera

Pelo, who has been at UC Davis since 2008, is a composer who writes for both acoustic instruments and electronics. He is inspired by the French spectral composers and Scandinavian lyricism, and describes his method of composition as “controlled dreaming.” Pelo is director of the Empyrean Ensemble, the professional new music group at UC Davis.

The Guggenheim Fellowship will allow Pelo to work on an opera that is just in its beginning stages that will contrast the lives of Queen Christina of Sweden, who ruled in the 17th century, and a fictional young woman in current-day Afghanistan.

His music has been performed by many ensembles, including the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra, Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, North Bohemian Philharmonic Orchestra, Flux Quartet, Earplay and the Royal Swedish Army Band, and at the Audio Art Festival in Krakow, Poland. He has won awards from the Hellman Foundation, the Swedish Composers Society, and 2011 Royal Academy of Music, Sweden, Swedish Arts Council.

Venkatesan to continue work on Festival of Recitation

Venkatesan’s research interests are at the intersection of text and performance in South India, as well as in the translation of early and medieval Tamil poetry to English.

“The fellowship supports a year of sabbatical and will allow me to continue work on my ongoing project on the annual Festival of Recitation, which celebrates the memorization, recitation, staging and translation of poetry,” said Venkatesan, who is chair of the Department of Religious Studies and has been at UC Davis for 10 years. “I will be traveling to South India to continue my research of the festival and hope to spend time writing and translating.”

Venkatesan is the author of The Secret Garland: Āṇṭāḷ’s Tiruppāvai and Nācciyār Tirumoḻi, A Hundred Measures of Time and In Andal’s Garden: Art, Ornament and Devotion in Srivilliputtur. She founded the Religions of India Initiative at UC Davis, which advocates for the study of India’s diverse religious traditions. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, Fulbright and others.

Rosen to get uninterrupted art-making time

Rosen’s work has been widely exhibited and is in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Denver Art Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and many other public and private collections. She is best known for her large-scale ceramic sculptures that are often an accumulation of dozens of individual tubular and conical forms, misshapen spheres, and truncated vessel-like forms bound together by thick glazes.

The award is for her ongoing work that will include several exhibitions around the country and will provide her with uninterrupted art-making time and travel related to exhibitions.

Rosen, who has been at UC Davis since 1997 and is co-chair of the Department of Art and Art History, has received many awards. In March she was awarded the Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Award in Art, one of the top 10 awards given by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2016 she won a $50,000 award from United States Artists, and has received a Pew Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, and a Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Award. 

Last year Rosen had a 20-year retrospective at the Contemporary Art Museum, Houston. The exhibition, Annabeth Rosen: Fired, Broken, Gathered, Heaped, was widely reviewed, including by Art Forum and Art in America. The exhibition will be at the Cranbrook Art Museum at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where Rosen studied, later this year, and at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco in 2019. Last year she also had a major exhibition at P.P.O.W. Gallery in New York.

She currently has work in Contraption: Rediscovering California Jewish Artists at the Contemporary Jewish Museum through July 12. She is represented by the Anglim Gilbert Gallery in San Francisco.

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