ATEC Alumnus Gabriel Dawe Creates Colorful Illusions for Exhibit

When visitors first step into the atrium of Fort Worth’s Amon Carter Museum of American Art, they’re met with two massive rays of iridescent light seemingly emanating from the walls. Upon closer inspection, the light dissipates and thousands of strands of colored thread reveal themselves.

The installation, Plexus no. 34, is the work of Dallas-based artist and UT Dallas alumnus Gabriel Dawe MFA’11, who has crafted different iterations of his Plexus series throughout the country. Displayed in the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C., to Denmark and New York, the works make use of the contrast between the size of the thread and large, open spaces.

“The intent of the Plexus series is to materialize light, to give it density, so that I can offer the viewer an approximation of things otherwise inaccessible to us — a glimmer of hope that brings us closer to the transcendent,” he said. “That difference in scale makes the thread disappear, in a way, leaving the color behind. You end up with these very ethereal structures.”

Gabriel Dawe
Gabriel Dawe installs Plexus no. 34, which will be on display at the Amon Carter through July 25, 2018. (Courtesy the Amon Carter Museum of American Art)

Plexus no. 34, which will be on display at the Amon Carter through July 25, 2018, uses 18 different colors of thread in large swaths spanning the walls of the atrium.

The series is a natural transition from Dawe’s previous embroidery work, which holds special meaning for him. As a child, Dawe remembers stealing little pieces of thread in attempts to make his own designs, in part because his grandmother refused to teach him.

“My mother’s family in Mexico was very conservative in a way, and I would spend a lot of my time with my grandmother,” Dawe said. “There was a lot of macho culture in the household that got passed down to us, and there was a strong dichotomy between boys and girls. So, when I started trying to find my voice as an artist, as a grown man, I revisited that frustration. That’s really what ignited the desire to work with textiles — to challenge those notions, in a way.”

Still, growing up in Mexico City had a positive influence on Dawe, who recalls going to art classes and museums constantly. Fascinated with poster design and photography, Dawe chose to study graphic design at the University of the Americas in Puebla, Mexico.

In 2000, he moved to Montreal and worked as a graphic designer for several years.

“I had a big burnout, and that’s when I decided to quit design,” he said. “That’s basically when I really plunged into making art, trying to show my art, and trying to make it as an artist.”

Dawe first conceived of the Plexus series during his residency at CentralTrak: The UT Dallas Artists Residency, while completing his MFA in arts and technology at UT Dallas. He said he owes his success in part to the residency program, which provides space for eight artists (four visiting and four graduate students) to live and work in downtown Dallas.

“While my experiences as a graphic designer have had an influence on what I do, it was the 3-D work I started exploring in grad school that really took me by surprise,” Dawe said. “I hadn’t really done that, and it was a departure from the 2-D nature of graphic design.”

Dr. Charissa Terranova, associate professor of aesthetic studies and former director of CentralTrak, oversaw Dawe’s residency as a graduate student. She said his current, site-specific, thread-based installations grew out of his deconstructions and reconstructions of everyday pieces of clothing.

“The powder-pink, ruffled silk cuff covered in stick pins, which he gave me years ago, sits atop the jewelry box in my bedroom,” she said. “If I am not thinking about Gabriel when seeing one of his installations while traveling — as I did at the Renwick in Washington, D.C., I think of him for a moment each day when I see this work in my home. It has been wonderful to witness his evolution and the development of his experimentation with fabric, thread and sewing into full-fledged public space.”

For now, Dawe is focusing on his thread work. He most recently completed a 90-mile weaving of thread that will be on display for three years at the San Antonio International Airport. But Dawe said he doesn’t discount the use of other mediums in the future.

“I think there’s an organic evolution of the work. I’ve always had this vision of working with gold leaf for years, for example. I don’t know when, but I’m sure it will come up in the future,” he said.

UT Dallas Magazine: Alumna Brings Games of the Past Back to Life

Editor’s Note: The following is an Alumni Perspective feature written by April Pruitt BA’14. This article first appeared in UT Dallas Magazine.

April Pruitt and family
April Pruitt BA’14 shares a passion for video games with her son Jake and husband Jeremy. The family is shown in the National Videogame Museum in Frisco, Texas.

VIDEO GAMES: Before they were in our pockets, they were on our televisions and before that, they were in a dark arcade room filled with sights and sounds that are still part of our culture. They are the media that combine art with technology.

In 2014, I completed a degree in interdisciplinary studies with a focus on art and technology and business management. I was an older student, getting my education and raising a family at the same time.

I felt a little out of sync with some of my younger classmates. For instance, the games of my youth were “Galaga” and “Pac-Man” — often played in arcades where I tried to progress through the various levels while getting the most play from a 25-cent investment on a console without a pause button. Many who grew up with modern games like “Portal” and “Halo” just didn’t understand the attraction to the arcade games. Fortunately there were enough fellow classic game enthusiasts at UTD to found a club for those with similar interests.

My goal after graduation was to work in the animation and video game industry. Little did I expect that I would be re-creating an arcade from the 1980s, an adventure that began when I read that the National Videogame Museum would be established in Frisco, Texas.

When I reached out to museum founders Joe Santulli, John Hardie and Sean Kelly to offer my help, it turned out that they were just as excited to hear from me since they needed help getting more than 40 different games ready for regular play.

Joe, John and Sean provided a storage locker full of classic arcade games (some of which are more than 50 years old) including “Computer Space,” the original dedicated “Pong,” “Galaga,” “Centipede” and “Q-bert.” Most were in rough shape and would need work both inside and out.

Because the average game weighs over 300 pounds, I enlisted the help of my husband, Jeremy, who has some amazing woodworking skills. We began working in the storage locker because the museum’s building wouldn’t be ready for several months. In the hot Texas sun, we pulled games apart, taking out heavy CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors that hold a 10,000-volt charge, whether plugged in or not. It was overwhelming, but I love a great adventure, especially if it involves technology.

The Frisco Discovery Center was eventually ready for the museum to start moving in. The move allowed us to continue making repairs, but in a climate-controlled, powered and safe environment.

After moving the games into the museum, Joe, Jeremy and I visited a local arcade auction and were fortunate to find a number of other games, including the power couple themselves — “Pac-Man” and “Ms. Pac-Man.”

Repairing classic video games is a complicated task. Each game manufacturer has its own way of building arcade games, from the main printed circuit board to the cabinet holding it.

Several main components are included in all the games: the monitor, main game board, power board and power brick. But these items may be presented in completely different ways in each game. For example, “Missile Command” has only one board for the main computer with audio built onto the power board, but “Spy Hunter” has a four-board stack for the main computer and smaller boards mounted all over the cabinet, for a total of 12 different circuit boards.

The technology for game display also varies. Some machines, such as “Asteroids,” are vector-based, meaning that the scene is drawn on the fly rather than having a picture move across the screen. These complex games require a special vector monitor and specific testing equipment for the boards.

The bulk of my job, though, was not patching wires but conducting research — a lot of it. For board repairs, I needed to locate technicians for each manufacturer.  Many of the technicians are engineers whose hobbies include classic video games. Someone who regularly repaired Atari games, such as “Space Duel,” probably wouldn’t have the expertise to repair Taito’s  “Zoo Keeper.”  I was fortunate to have my husband’s help with the sometimes months-long quest for technicians, as well as handling shipping the boards for repairs.

Besides pulling monitors and other support boards that often needed 30-year-old capacitors and other components replaced, I repaired unfortunate wiring configurations made possible by an abundant use of electrical tape or even duct tape. I never knew what I would find in a machine, since many had been on location in bars or stuck in a barn for years.

The new home for these classic games, the National Videogame Museum, is the first of its type in the U.S., dedicated to preserving the history of the video game. The 10,000-square-foot facility includes interactive exhibits for electronic games of all kinds, including handhelds, consoles, and the area where I devote the most time — a replica arcade from the ’80s.

Every time I am at the museum, I experience a feast for the eyes.

A black light responsive theme created by a local artist includes a sculpted foam centipede that appears to come out of the wall, providing an authentic arcade feel. Local artists also created murals throughout the museum depicting video game characters ranging from Mario to Lara Croft. Interactive exhibits about the history of video games include the world’s largest “Pong” and Super Nintendo controllers with buttons that are the size of an adult hand. Little-known gaming systems are displayed throughout. Collectible promotional items— stuffed dolls, hats, keychains, patches and even cereal boxes — fill display cabinets. And thanks to donated furniture from well-known game designer and producer Randy Pitchford of Gearbox Software, visitors can see a replica of his office.

Working in the museum is an amazing experience, one that I will remember for a lifetime. I am grateful for the opportunity to bring these classic games back to life.

UT Dallas Magazine
Spring 2016

UT Dallas Magazine cover Spring 2016

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University Mourns Loss of Library Communications Manager, EMAC Alumna

Misty Hawley
Misty Hawley MA’13

The UT Dallas Eugene McDermott Library and colleagues across campus are mourning the loss of the library’s communications manager, Misty Hawley, who died Saturday of natural causes. She was 39.

Hawley MA’13 had coordinated the library’s communications needs since December 2013. During her tenure, the library expanded its hours and underwent extensive renovations in study and lounge areas.

Dr. Ellen Safley, dean of McDermott Library, said Hawley excelled in planning events that benefited faculty, staff and students.

“Misty’s writing and event-planning skills made everything better, and culminated in the recent Faculty Author Reception, which was widely applauded by those who attended,” Safley said.

Hawley also had served as assistant director of student media from 2010-2013, working with students at Radio UTD and UTD TV.

Chad Thomas, director of student media, said Hawley set high standards for students, who often looked to her for guidance in college, career and even relationship issues.

“She was a firm believer in tough love. And that clicked for so many students, who grew to see her as a mentor and advisor beyond the confines of radio and TV broadcasting,” Thomas said.

Nieves Reyes BA’14, former news director of UTD TV, described Hawley as an “incredible” woman whose door was always open to students.

She would be there for people when they needed help. Not only was she our advisor, but she was like a mother to me as well as everyone else at UTD TV and Radio UTD.

Nieves Reyes BA’14,
former news director of UTD TV

“She would be there for people when they needed help. Not only was she our advisor, but she was like a mother to me as well as everyone else at UTD TV and Radio UTD,” Reyes said. “She put us first, taking care of us in any possible way. She somehow brought us all together. We were family.”

Hawley, a native of Gladewater, Texas, earned bachelor’s degrees in broadcast journalism and political science at the University of North Texas. She worked 12 years as a TV producer before coming to UT Dallas in December 2010.

In fall 2013, she completed a master’s degree in emerging media and communication at UT Dallas.

Services are planned for 2 p.m. Saturday at First Baptist Church, 300 West Upshur Ave., in Gladewater, Texas. Those who plan to attend the service should RSVP by 5 p.m. today, either by calling ext. 4328 or emailing