Vincent Fecteau ’91 and Maggie Nelson ’94 were among 23 Fellows honored with the annual MacArthur Foundation Fellowships, more commonly known as the “MacArthur Genius Grants.” Those awarded with the grant receive $625,000 with no strings attached.

“The MacArthur Fellows Program celebrates and inspires the creative potential of individuals through no-strings-attached fellowships,” the MacArthur Foundation website says. “There are three criteria for selection of Fellows: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.”

Fecteau, who majored in studio art, was awarded the grant for his work as a sculptor.

“[Fecteau’s] deceptively intricate, abstract pieces provoke thoughtful reflection as their challenging forms make the viewer aware of the act of perception,” the foundation’s website says. “Though modest in scale and constructed from humble, unassuming materials, such as papier-mâché and cardboard, Fecteau’s sculptures reward close and extended looking. The results are both captivating and demanding; as viewers work to understand what they are seeing, they find themselves at the threshold between visual perception and objective knowledge of three-dimensional space.”

Fecteau’s works are displayed at the Matthew Marks Gallery in New York. According to the art gallery’s website, Fecteau often works on groups of pieces simultaneously, taking long periods of time to look at his work and discover a feeling that connects to what he is making.

“When I’m open to things but not fixed on an objective is when I’m most likely to discover a connection that helps a piece feel more resolved,” Fecteau said of his creative process.

Professor of Art Jeffrey Schiff and Professor of Art and Environmental Studies Tula Telfair both taught Fecteau during his time at the University. Fecteau worked with Telfair on his painting thesis while Fecteau was at the University. Schiff commented that his touch is always apparent in the works he creates.

“His small and medium sized sculptures, usually on pedestals or hanging on the wall, wrap form around space in convoluted tangles, sometimes incorporating objects or photographic images in the mix,” Schiff said in the University newsletter. “The work reminds us of the endless potential mobility of space, while composed of simple non-precious materials. In all his work, his touch or hand is in evidence.”

Nelson, an English major during her time at the University, received the grant for her writing.

“[Nelson] is forging a new mode of nonfiction that transcends the divide between the personal and the intellectual and renders pressing issues of our time into portraits of day-to-day lived experience,” the MacArthur Foundation website says. “Through the dynamic interplay between personal experience and critical theory, Nelson is broadening the scope of nonfiction writing while also offering compelling meditations on social and cultural questions.”

Nelson is known to challenge herself in her writing. Dubious of truisms, the writer considers multiple perspectives, always keeping an open mind.

“Her willingness to change her mind and even embrace qualities of two seemingly incompatible positions…offers a powerful example for how very different people can think and live together,” the website reads.

Christina Crosby, Professor of English and Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies, remembers working on Nelson’s thesis with her.

“[Nelson’s] artistic practice makes a space for interactions that undo the known landscape, the one covered by cliché,” she said in the University newsletter. “She is open to exploring the sometimes explosive intimacies of the everyday…and she does not hide, conceal, sidestep, or evade what she finds there.”

President of the University Michael Roth complimented the work of the two and attributed their artistic success to their University education.

“Vincent and Maggie are extraordinarily creative people expanding the boundaries of the fields in which they work,” he wrote in an email to The Argus. “Their work is engaging at multiple levels, and both say that their Wesleyan education had a decisive impact on their artistic practice.”

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