Kristen Letts Kovak

Senior Associate Dean for Academics and Student Success; Associate Teaching Professor

Kristen Letts Kovak is the Senior Associate Dean for Academics and Student Success and an Associate Teaching Professor in the College of Fine Arts. She teaches undergraduate courses on drawing, painting, and aesthetic philosophy, including the intra-collegiate seminar, “Passport to the Arts.” She studied painting, drawing, and theory at the Maryland Institute College of Art, where she received her MFA in 2010.

Her artworks investigate connections between visual, perceptual and cognitive patterning. Kovak uses surface articulations to explore the interplay of representation and abstraction—estranging the familiar and naturalizing the non-objective. “The complexity push[es] against the boundary where comprehensible becomes confusion. It remind[s] me of swimming in the ocean, where the destructive power of the water is always present in your mind, even when you feel capable of making it back to shore.”- Eric Lidji

Her works have been exhibited widely in museums and galleries. Most recently, she has had solo exhibitions at 707 Penn Gallery, 709 Penn Gallery, the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, St. Michael’s College, Ohio University, Penn State, Baum School of Art, and the Arts Club of Washington. Her paintings and drawings have been featured in more than fifty group exhibitions including the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Wildling Art Museum, Arizona- Sonora Desert Museum, IUPUI, Muskegon Museum of Art, Erie Art Museum, Museum of the Red River, and the Woodson Art Museum.

As a curator, Kovak examines common psychological, aesthetic and theoretical questions underlying seemingly diverse artistic practices. Her recent projects at SPACE gallery (“Cataloguing Pattern,” “Degrees of Separation,” and “Identity Play”) share a characteristic interest in balancing opposing forces to arrive at harmonious states of disequilibrium. She highlights the work of artists who challenge social, political, and material norms.

Her pedagogical research includes cross-disciplinary thinking, representation, perception, and aesthetic philosophy. She was awarded a Wimmer Faculty Fellowship from Carnegie Mellon’s Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation to study research-based methods in teaching creative risk-taking.

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