Announcing 2022-2023 MFA Fellow Juan L. Velazquez

Juan L. Velazquez in front of his immersive, large scale installation “Theatrical Window,” as part of the Fall 2021 course Expanded Cinema. The installation is a single-channel site-specific work where one-way mirror sheets scatter light around the room, reframing visions of the outside.

The Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University has welcomed Juan L. Velazquez as the new Master of Fine Arts Fellow for the 2022-2023 academic year.

Kenan’s Graduate Arts Fellowship supports the generation and exhibition of ethics-oriented work at the leading edge of documentary practice. Offered to one student entering their second year of Duke’s MFA|EDA program, the fellowship offers resources, mentorship, and opportunities for engagement with the faculty, fellows, staff, and students at the Kenan Institute for Ethics over the course of an academic year.

As part of the fellowship, Velazquez will produce an exhibit and associated programming during the spring semester, work with undergraduates throughout the academic year and serve as a judge for Team Kenan’s annual “What Is Good Art?” visual art competition in spring.

Velazquez’s career navigates the social ecology of adaptation. His previous work explores the transient human relationship to the natural world, inspired in part by his own childhood. Prior to entering the MFA program, Velazquez worked in post production and videography. He holds a BA in Communication Sciences and a degree in Photography.

His proposed exhibition will explore the orientation and disorientation of being “non-native.”

“As a species, we try to find a way to thrive, and the way that we have done that is through the evolutionary process, but what has sped up this process for humans is technology,” he said. “I want to make that technology more visible, not visible in the sense of being understood but simply perceived or questioned.”

The proposed exhibition will panel the walls of the Keohane-Kenan Gallery with double-exposed mirrored images of major transit routes in Durham. He hopes this perspective identifies the confusion and the redirection of being “new” to a space.

“This idea of using images with double exposures, for me, what I was trying to get to is when you see a multiplicity of images, you stop discerning what is the original image,” he said. “They become like stacks, a stratum of images that constitute a whole new thing, you don’t see a point of beginning.”

His own experience moving to Durham combined with his childhood in transit to inform this project.

“What’s interesting for me is this idea of being non-native. Being here in Durham for the first time, but also being here in the U.S. for the first time for me, you know, each one of us has our own particular experience navigating a place, and I wanted to ground myself.”